Karla Caves & Bhaja Caves – Lonavala – A Trek to Buddha heritage

Lonavala, a very popular tourist destination has lot of popular places and points to visit like Bushi Dam, Tiger point, Wax Museum, Butterfly Garden etc. but very few know that it is a pathway to beautiful treks and one such road heads to Karla Caves and Bhaja Caves.

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Karla Caves one of India’s ancient Buddhist heritages is located in Karli near Lonavala. The carvings and construction are believed to be from 2nd Century BC by the Hinayana sect of Buddhism .The cave is especially admirable for their impeccable use of wooden structures. The Caves are maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

Karla caves is not that tough to trek, but still it has 350-380 total steps in all to climb sometimes testing calves and knees. We were able to cover the climb in 1 – 1.5 hour with good break in between to enjoy the scenic scenery around and selfies. In monsoon the water splashing on foot steps while climbing steps is refreshing , reminding words of Buddha – “The foot feels the foot when it feels the ground.” Also you can see small waterfalls and flowers veins in between.


When we reached at top the view sight was calming. The Cave is huge both in length and breadth build by the Buddhist monks. Carving and structure gives insight of fact that musical instruments were prevalent part of Indian culture for more 2000 years. There are total around 10 caves including the main cave. Certain caves are located on the first level and second level also in premises known as vihara’s which were used by monks to mediate. Outside the Main Cave (Chaitya or prayer hall) is a huge pillar with the four lions of Ashoka. There are horse shoe shaped arch carved on the walls of the Chaitya. Inside the premises is a huge stupa with a wooden umbrella atop it. The parallel pillars leading to the stupa are beautifully carved at the top. Certain symbols on the pillars are in Pali and Sanskrit. The sight of cave takes us back to school days history lessons of Buddha.

“Just as treasures are uncovered from the earth, so virtue appears from good deeds, and wisdom appears from a pure and peaceful mind. To walk safely through the maze of human life, one needs the light of wisdom and the guidance of virtue.”

Also there is one famous Ekvira Devi Temple located outside the main cave – popular among localities and kholi’s. Beside the temple there is a narrow road leading to the top of hill and provides some of the best scenic view of waterfalls and mountains. Now the entry to this lane is restricted as the pathway is very narrow. After climbing down and a short break we headed towards Bhaja Caves


The location of Bhaja caves is not far from location of Karla Caves and these are stylistically similar to the Karla Caves. Bhaja Caves are located in Bhaje village approximately 60km from karla caves. The same route takes you to historic duel forts- Lohagad & Visapur. In Rainy season there is a huge waterfall near the parking. For caves, you have to take stairs. The climb is steep and if you are not regular at exercise it goanna be little troublesome. Bhaja Caves are less crowded and peaceful compared to Karla caves.

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The most impressive cave is right at the entrance, with open, horseshoe-arched entrance part. There is a large prayer hall and several caves that must’ve served as resting rooms for the monks, complete with a water storage area. The main hall is magnificent and hosts a large stone stupa. The best thing is wooden roof which act as support for main vihara (Prayer hall). There are upper levels caves where you can reach using some stairs. Notable part of monument is a group of 14 stupas, five inside and nine outside an irregular excavation. These stupas used to be constructed in the memory of the Buddhist Acharya’s. You can see the name of these Acharya’s carved out on these stupas.


Not many are aware about the fact that earlier in 16 bc  Karli’s location in marks the division between North India and South India a pathway for  major ancient trade route, running eastward from the Arabian Sea into the Deccan, and these Caves as have arisen near a major ancient trade route used to provides the shelter to for travelling traders.  Bhaja caves belong to an early era of Buddhism, the Karla caves are a mixture of Mahasamghika sect of Buddhism as well as Hinduism.

India famous Bushi Dam is also located at a distance of 18 km. It was constructed in 1860s for the Great Indian Peninsular Railway as an energy source for their steam engines over Indrayani River but has slowly turned into a popular tourist spot. We visited while returning from Bhaja Caves, enjoyed the shower while sitting in between steps of Bushi Dam – flowing water along with hot Bhajiya – a perfect Indian monsoon fun. The steps like structure of dam and the overflowing waters of the river during the monsoons lend it a beautiful and surreal view. It’s overcrowded in monsoon, but I will say “It beautiful here. It’s a great place to be. ”

Best time to visit:  July – December

Temperature: 10-23°C

Difficulty level: Easy.

How to reach:

1) From Mumbai : Mumbai – Panvel – Mumbai Pune Expressway – Lonavala – Old Mumbai Pune Highway –  Ekvira Devi Road.

2) From Pune : Pune -> Chadani Chowk -> Old Mumbai-Pune highway (Do not take left turn to join express way) -> Take right at Karle village

Things to carry: Water bottle and Lights snacks, rain coat, Torch, Proper footwear – Rainy wear with good grip or rainy floaters, personal medication (if any), a sweater/warm wear, Camera and one extra pair of clothes (Optional).

Entry Fees for caves: Rs. 5-10 for Indians and 100 for foreigners.

Caution: This trek is not recommended for pregnant women and person having difficulty in climbing staircase.

To know nothing of what happened before you is to forever remain a child.”

“A concerted effort to preserve our heritage is a vital link to our cultural, educational, aesthetic, inspirational and economic legacies – all of the things that quite literally make us who we are.”



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