For cave men and women

Published: Jul 16, 2019, 07:02 IST | Karishma Kuenzang

If history with a tinge of mythology intrigues you, sign up for this Mahakali caves exploration

For cave men and women
The caves comprise 19 rock-cut monuments

Built between the first century BC and sixth century CE, the Mahakali Caves in Andheri East intrigue the city dweller but are relatively little known due to its location in an industrial neighbourhood. This weekend, you can learn all about its history and how the 19 rock-cut monuments were built as Mumbai-based archaeologist and Indologist Sneha Nagarkar takes you on a trail, organised by India Heritage Walks.

The history student from Ramnarain Ruia College, whose interest in the subject was piqued when she was seven, sa­ys the unique architecture and the Buddhist history of the caves had her hooked to the site after a visit. Having been there enough number of times during self-curated walks and while running her own organisation called Pancajanya Cultural Heritage Initiatives, which promotes ancient Indian history, culture and archaeology, Nagarkar te­lls us some not-so-known fa­cts about the caves. "These are the satellite or subordinate Bu­ddhist settlements of the la­rger Kanheri Caves in Borivali," she says, adding that at first, many might think this is a Hindu temple, though it's actually a Buddhist one. "The caves get their name from the temple of Mahakali near by, and so can be a tad misleading. But, what is worshipped as the goddess Mahakali is actually a Buddhist Kamya Stupa," she says.

The caves comprise 19 rock-cut monuments

As you explore the caves, also called Kondivita Caves, you will learn that the plan of the Chaityagruha (prayer hall) at Mahakali is similar to the Lomas Rishi Cave in the Barabar Hills in Bihar, which was excavated under the patronage of Emperor Ashoka in third century BCE. But what makes this structure in Andheri stand apart is the architectural work.

The caves comprise 19 rock-cut monuments
Sneha Nagarkar

"The caves represent the two major sects of Buddhism — Theravada Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism — which is rare. There are also sculptures of the Buddha and Bodhisattvas that belong to the early sixth century CE, though they are similar to those at Kanheri in style," she explains, in response to why she keeps returning to this space. Safe to say, you will be in well-informed hands.

Sneha Nagarkar (above) conducts a walk through Mahakali Caves
Sneha Nagarkar conducts a walk through Mahakali Caves

On: July 21,9.30 am to 11.30 am
At: Mahakali Caves, Mahakali Caves Road, Andheri East.
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