After the Shilonda Trail some time back, we felt brave enough to take on the trek to Kanheri Caves. A like-minded mother decides to host her son’s birthday party with a trek and I find myself with 15 kids — the youngest being six and the oldest a nine-year-old —all set to walk and see what the Kanheri Caves are all about.

The Kanheri Caves are a group of rock-cut monuments located deep within the forests of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. Reaching it means climbing uphill through a forest terrain with a forest guide who knows the way. For this we start at 7 am from Khar. We are met by three friendly Jumpstart personnel and one from the Park who show the kids the route planned as well as the rules for the trip.

The sun has risen and the dusty track is full of dead leaves, dry root and stones and the deafening hum of the Cicadas. On the way we hear langurs call out to each other. There is a leopard in the vicinity, we are told by Dhiren our guide from Jumpstart — and a sambar barks in response. After an hour of flat-ish terrain, the trek is uphill and stony. The kids are full of excitement. The uphill trek is tricky and we spot the spoor of a leopard; a day old, Dhiren tells us.
We’ve reached the top of one hill. The view is magnificent. We can see all of SGNP. Upwards we go, walking through stubborn brush and tricky hill terrain, making a meal of chocolate, water and Karonda (Cranberry or Carissa Carandas) that we pluck.

Kanheri Caves

And then, suddenly, there’s a bend and we are at Kanheri Caves. Stark, quiet, the caves force a respectful hush from every child. We are told that the monks carved Kanheri Caves three centuries before Christ. Wow. The first simple caves were meant to shelter wandering monks during the rainy season.

There are paintings, carvings, the vast halls, the inscriptions and viharaas too rivet the children. The guide tells the kids about the natural dyes used to adorn them. The kids are shown underground, secret passages that were made. We are told that the monks used Kanheri Caves as a transit point between port areas of Nallasopara and Borivali. There are 109 caves in all, and I’m impressed by a sense of seclusion and the austere grandeur that pervades.
A perfectly wonderful outdoor, educational must-do.