Just off the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, at the foothills of Lonavala, you will find a set of caves cut into the hillside. Here, you will find a grand chaitya griha, which still retains its 2,200-year-old wooden ribbing. Alongside this are carved a series of viharas, each with a number of austere rooms or bunkers for monks and elaborate reliefs.
These caves, known today as the Bhaja Caves, were once a place of Buddhist worship and meditation, overlooking one of the most frequented trade routes in ancient India. These are the oldest rock-cut caves in India after the ones made during the Mauryan period in Bihar, in the Barabar Hills. Here, in an inscription dating back over 2000 years, you will also find a reference to a mysterious dynasty called the ‘Maharathis’, who seem to have ruled the Central Deccan and Northern Konkan region in the 2nd century BCE.
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