Friday, 26 February 2010

Pandav Leni



Pandav Leni, (also Pandavleni Caves, Trirashmi Caves and other variations) (Leni is Marathi word for caves), are a group of 24 - 30, 1200-year-old Hinayana Buddhist caves.  These were built by various Buddhist kings as homes for the saints. Most of the caves are Viharas except for the 18th cave which is a Chaitya. The location of the caves is a holy Buddhist site and is located about 8 km south of Nashik, Maharashtra, India. The caves were carved out from the 4th century BC till 12th century CE as abodes for the idols of the local kings. The caves lodge idols of Buddha and Bodhisatva and the icons of Jain Tirthankar Rishabh, Veer Manibhadraji and Ambikadevi. The name of the caves originates from the legend about Pandavas. Some caves are intricately connected by stone-cut ladders that join them to the other caves. Steps lead to the caves from the bottom of the hill. The peak of the Pandavleni is also accessible by trekking of about 20 mins but the path is well built with steps.

Some of the caves are large and contain numerous chambers - these rock-cut caves served as a viharas or monasteries for the disciples to meet and hear sermons. They contain interesting sculptures. One of the vihara caves is older and finer in sculptural detail and is thought to be nearly as old as the Karla Cave near Lonavala. Another cave (cave No. 18) is a Chaitya and is similar in age to the Karla Cave and has a particularly elaborate facade.

The site has an excellent ancient water management system and skillfully chiseled out of solid rock are several attractive water tanks.

The caves can be traced back up to 1st century B.C. There are two main caves. The main cave which is the Chaitya (prayer hall) has a beautiful Stupa. Both the caves have some carvings also. The caves are facing eastwards. So it is recommended to visit the caves early morning as in sunlight the beauty of carvings is enhanced.

A very famous incident is told about the caves. Till around 1861, the carvings on the walls and the Stupas were in proper condition. A British Officer after hearing about this arranged his visit there. When the local officer came to know about this, he urgently employed labour to clean and paint the walls of the caves.

Attractions
Inscriptions in caves 3,11,12,13,14,15,19 & 20 are legible. Cave 15 - 'Sri Yajna Vihar' inscription mentions Sri Yajna Satkarni, the last Satvahan King who ruled over the western Maharashtra. Similar inscription in cave 3 at Kanheri. This means probably the cave was carved during the beginning of 3rd century A.D. Other inscriptions note the names Bhattapalika, Gautamiputra Satkarni, Vashishthiputra Pulumavi of the Satvahanas and two of the Kshatrapas, Dakshamitra and Ushavadant. Cave 10 - 'Nahapan Vihar' is spacious with 16 rooms. During the llth century, Jain influence, idols of Tirthankar Vrushabhadev, Veer Manibhadra and Devi Ambika were installed. Idols of Buddha and Bodhisatva are locally identified as those of Yudhishthir, Bhim, Arjun, Nakul, Sahadev, Shrikrishna, Karna and hence the local name PandavLeni.

The caves were carved out in the 1st and 2nd century as abodes for the idols of the Jain kings. The caves lodge idols of Buddha and Bodhisatva and the icons of Jain Teerthankara Vrishabhdeo, Veer Manibhadraji and Ambikadevi.

How to Reach :
The caves are located high in the mountains of Pandavleni. Some caves are intricately connected by stone-cut ladders that join them to the other caves. Steps lead to the caves from the bottom of the hill. The peak of the Pandavleni is also accessible by trekking of about 20 mins but the path is treacherous and dangerous.

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