Another ancient piece of history with a splendid architecture, Thanale Caves are eighteen ancient rock-cut Buddhist Caves situated in a stunning high altitude mountainous setting in the Raigad district of Maharashtra. The most commonly taken path starts from Thanale village and goes through a lush forest covering gushing waterfalls and mountain scenery. Thanale Caves are also known as Nadsur Caves as they are also approachable from Nadsur Village in Maharashtra.
Thanale caves are believed to have been built during the 3rd century BC to 2nd century AD and are an important archaeological site in Maharashtra.The caves are located on a small hill and consist of 18 rock-cut caves, most of which are viharas (monasteries) with cells for monks. The caves have a simple design with a verandah, a pillared hall, and cells for meditation and living. Some of the caves also have chaitya (prayer halls) with a stupa, and intricate carvings on the walls and pillars.
These caves have several interesting features such as an inscription in Brahmi script, which suggests that the caves were built by the Satavahana dynasty. The caves also have several water tanks and a stepwell that were used for water storage and irrigation.Thanale Caves are an important site for the study of Buddhist architecture and art in Maharashtra. The caves are also a popular tourist destination and are visited by many history enthusiasts, photographers, and nature lovers.
Timing and Entry Fee
Timing – 6am to 5:30pm
Entry Fee – No fee
The caves are believed to have been excavated during the 2nd century BCE to the 6th century CE and were used by Buddhist monks as monasteries and meditation retreats.The caves are divided into two groups: the first group consists of 11 caves, while the second group consists of six caves.These were first discovered in the 19th century by British archaeologists, who noted the fine architectural and sculptural details of the caves. The caves were carved out of the basalt rock using simple tools and exhibit a high level of skill and craftsmanship.
Thanalecaves contain a range of Buddhist iconography, including stupas, chaityas, and viharas. The chaitya cave is the largest and most impressive cave in the complex, with a magnificent facade that features a horseshoe-shaped arch and intricate carvings of elephants and lions. These caves are some of the most ancient rock-cut caves not only in Maharashtra but in all India. In addition to the Buddhist iconography, the caves also feature some early Hindu iconography, including figures of Shiva and Ganesha. This suggests that the caves may have been used by both Buddhist and Hindu monks during different periods in history.
Architecture and Cave Structure
The caves are nestled on a hill cliff and are cut on a long line of trap cliff facing west and are eighteen in number. The caves with more significance are the third, seventh, eight, and fifteenth from the south end. The façade of the caves has mostly been disappeared and the interior has been ruined as well from the test of time. Now, one will find heaps of fallen debris before the caves and on the hillside. The caves have two chaityas, two stupas, and multiple viharas.
Chaityas are huge halls comprising shrines that are used for praying. Stupas are dome shaped cells containing relics that are usually used for meditation. Viharas are the monastery for Buddhist enunciates. Though in a dilapidated state, these magnificent rock structures still hold a sense of appeal to them. The structure of the caves is as follows -
- Cave 1,2,4,5,9,10,12– These are mostly chaitya-griha/prayer hall or viharas for the monks with little to no carvings and sculptures or have benches or a shrine along the back wall.
- Cave 3 - This cave is a chaitya-griha or a prayer hall, which has a stupa at the far end. The cave hasbeautiful carvings of Buddha and other deities, and the ceiling has a pattern of concentric circles.
- Cave 6: This cave is a chaitya-griha or a prayer hall, which has a stupa at the far end. The cave has beautiful carvings of Buddha and other deities, and the ceiling has a pattern of concentric circles.
- Cave 7 – This is the most important cave in the group and the largest. There are cells with benches on three sides of the cave with lattice windows. The south wall has three cells, the west wall has four, and the north wall has one cell. The walls are decorated with carvings of men, women, and animals and above the doorways have two little chaitya arches with a Stupa, another door has a big structure of Mahamaya while other door has a smaller representation of a smaller mahamaya.
- Cave 8 – It is a chaitya cave consisting of a large free-standing Stupa that is 15-feet high and has a short inscription on it.
- Cave 13 and 14 – It is a cluster of cells with two long rooms and contains traces of plaster with paintings mostly done in shades of red and dark blue.
- Cave 15 – It is a neat square cave with large arches over each doorway and in the tympanum of one, above the doorway, is Mahamaya and her elephants.
- Cave 16 – It is an unfinished cave.
- Cave 17 – It is a small cave with benches. Beside this is a dry cistern with a short inscription on it.
- Cave 18: This cave is considered the most significant in the Thanale Caves complex. It is a chaitya-griha or a prayer hall, which has a stupa at the far end and pillars decorated with beautiful carvings. The cave also has a large sculpture of Buddha in the seated position.
Places to Visit Nearby
- Raigad Fort: Raigad Fort is a hill fort located about 25 km from Thanale Caves. It was the capital of the Maratha Empire under the reign of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. The fort has several interesting features such as the Maha Darwaja, Takmak Tok, and the remains of the royal palace.
- Mahad Ganapati Temple: Mahad Ganapati Temple is a popular temple dedicated to Lord Ganesha, located about 20 km from Thanale Caves. The temple is believed to be one of the Ashtavinayaktemples and is an important pilgrimage site for Hindus.
- Pali Ganpati Temple: Pali Ganpati Temple is another popular temple dedicated to Lord Ganesha, located about 30 km from Thanale Caves. The temple is believed to be one of the Ashtavinayak templesand is an important pilgrimage site for Hindus.
- Diveagar Beach: Diveagar Beach is a beautiful beach located about 60 km from Thanale Caves. The beach is known for its clean and pristine waters and is a popular tourist destination.
- MurudJanjira Fort: MurudJanjira Fort is a 16th century fort located about 75 km from Thanale Caves. The fort is located on an island and is known for its impressive architecture and historical significance.
- Mango Huts: Located about 5 km from the caves, Mango Huts offers comfortable accommodation in eco-friendly huts surrounded by lush greenery. The resort also has a restaurant serving delicious local cuisine.
- Aaravi Beach Resort: Located about 25 km from the caves, Aaravi Beach Resort offers comfortable rooms with all modern amenities, and is located close to the beach. The resort also has a swimming pool and a restaurant serving delicious food.
- MTDC Resort: Located about 25 km from the caves, MTDC Resort is a budget-friendly option that offers comfortable rooms and cottages with all basic amenities. The resort also has a restaurant serving local and international cuisine.
How to Reach
- By air: The nearest airport to Thanale Caves is Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport in Mumbai, which is about 130 km away. From the airport, you can hire a taxi or take a bus to reach the caves.
- By train: The nearest railway station to Thanale Caves is Roha Railway Station, which is about 30 km away. Roha is well-connected to Mumbai and other major cities in Maharashtra. From the railway station, you can hire a taxi or take a bus to reach the caves.
- By road: Thanale Caves are located about 120 km from Mumbai and can be easily accessed by road. You can take a bus or hire a taxi from Mumbai to reach the caves. The caves are located about 5 km off the Mumbai-Goa highway and can be accessed via a dirt road.
Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)
Are Thanale Caves easily accessible for tourists?
Yes, Thanale Caves are easily accessible for tourists. They are located about 120 km from Mumbai and can be accessed by road or train. The caves are located about 5 km off the Mumbai-Goa highway and can be accessed via a dirt road.
What is the best time to visit Thanale Caves?
The best time to visit Thanale Caves is from October to February when the weather is pleasant and cool. During this time, the caves are surrounded by lush greenery and the temperature is comfortable for exploring the site.
Are guides available at Thanale Caves?
Yes, guides are available at Thanale Caves for tourists. These guides are usually residents who have in-depth knowledge about the caves and can provide interesting insights into the architecture and art of the site.