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Pandavleni caves

By Devik Balami at
pandavleni caves

Pandavleni caves, also known as Nasik caves, is located about 8km south of the center of Nashik (or Nasik), Maharashtra, India. These caves are also known as Pandu Lena or Tri Rashmi Leni. Pandavleni caves include 24 caves which are carved between 1st century BCE and 3rd century CE. It is recorded that additional sculptures were also added in these caves during the 6th century reflecting changes in Buddhist devotional practices. These caves are early examples of Indian rock-cut architecture which also represents Hinayana Buddhist tradition. Among these caves, there is only one cave meant for chaitya and others are viharas. The caves served as a vihara contains sculptures of King, farmers, merchants; Buddhist relics and Buddhist arts- images of Buddha and Bodhisattva. The caves served as Chaitya has a particularly elaborated facade.

Features of Pandavleni Caves

The caves were carved in a long line on the north face of a hill called Tri Rasmi. Therefore, it is also known as Tri Rashmi Leni. The visitors in this cave are not only fascinating about the inscriptions belonging to the reign of Satavahana and Kshaharatas or Kshatrapas but also due to the Rock-Cut architecture of the 2nd century CE.

Cave no 1: This cave was planned to use as Vihara with four columns between pilasters in front of a narrow verandah. The cave has no inscriptions and is the uncompleted cave.

Cave no 2: This cave is a small excavation which has two cells at the back. The walls nearly covered with sitting and standing Buddha statue with attendant chauri-bearers.

Cave no. 3: This cave is one of the most important and the largest caves found in the Pandavleni cave complex. It was dedicated and built to Samdha in the 2nd century BE by Queen Gotami Balasiri, mother of deceased Satabashana king Gautamiputra Satakarni, and contains numerous important inscriptions.

Cave no 4: This cave has no inscriptions but frieze is carved with the rail pattern which has a considerable height. The veranda has the octagonal pillars in which an elephant with female riders is carved in.

Cave no. 6: This cave has an inscription which mentions the dedication of a merchant to the Samgha.

Cave no 7: The inscription in this cave explains that the cave was the gift by a female ascetic named Tapasini to the Samgha.

Cave no 8: The inscription in this cave explains that the cave was a gift from a fisherman name Mugudasa.

Cave no 10: This cave is one of the important cave which was built by Indo-Scythian Western Satraps ruler Nahapana in 120 CE. Therefore this cave is also known as Nahapana Vihara. This cave consists of six inscriptions of the family of Nahapana. The cave has five benched cells on each side and six in the back. The back wall of this cave is carved with the figure of Bhairava, a Hindu deity. There is also the same god carved outside of the veranda.

Cave no 11: This cave is at a higher level than that of cave no 10. The front room’s back wall of the cave is carved with a sitting figure and attendants on a lion throne and on the right-end wall a fat figure of Amba on a tiger with attendants, and an Indra on an elephant.

Cave no 12: This cave has an inscription which mentions that the cave is the gift of a merchant named Ramanaka.

Cave no 14: this cave is a group of chambers which consists of three cells. The first has an inscription of a certain Hamanaka, mentioning an endowment of 100 Karshapana for a garment to the ascetic residing in it during the rains. The other two has no inscriptions.

Cave no 15: This cave is the only one which houses inner shrines of a two-storeyed cave. Both floors have on each of the three walls a sitting Buddha image along with other attendants.

Cave no 17: This cave was built by a devotee of Greek descent in around 120 CE. This cave is the third largest cave on this hill. The cave houses standing the image of Buddha on the wall of the back aisle. The height of this image is 18.5 ft long. There are other metallic images also.

Cave no 18: This cave was built in a chaitya design. This chaitya cave is only one in this group of caves which was built in much earlier date. The height of the chaitya in this cave is 6 ft 3 inches and the diameter is 5.5 ft.

Cave no 19: This cave is also known as Krishna vihara and is located at the lower level than the chaitya cave. This cave has an inscription of king Krishna of the Satavahanas which is oldest known inscriptions which dates to 100-70 BCE.

Cave no 20: This cave is one of the large Vihara in this series. The hall has the width of 37.5 feet at the front to 44 ft at the back and 61.5 ft deep. On either side, there is a gigantic dvarapala of height 9.5 ft. The cave houses other deities along with Buddha statues of height 10 ft.

Cave no 23: This cave is a large, irregular cave housing three shrines. The shrines and the compartments on the walls of this cave are filled with Buddha statues along with statues of Padmapani and Vajrapani. Among the Buddha statue, there is also a reclining Buddha statue in the cave.

Cave no 24: This is a small Bhikkhu’s house which consists of the veranda with two small chambers at the back. The friezes are ornamented with a string of animal figures along with conventionalized forms of the symbol of dharma.