The versatile city of Mumbai has a lot to offer. Never disappointing tourists with varied tastes, history enthusiasts can explore the city’s caverns with even more culturally rich narratives. Read on to know more about lesser known caves in Mumbai to plan your next visit.
Year: Between 5th and 8th Centuries B.C
Built By: King Krishnaraja
Location: Elephanta Island
The Elephanta Caves are a great tourist attraction in the vicinity of the large Mumbai. The Portuguese renamed it Elephanta, after they found a large stone elephant near their landing place. These caves have ornate displays of the most important collections of the culture of Shiva. The island on which the caves are built was originally known as Gharapuri. Elephanta Island is quiet and picturesque, with light-green foliage and monkeys scampering. A spectacular dance festival is held at Elephanta Island every February, hosted by the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC).
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Year: 3rd Century B.C
Built by: Pandavas
Situated about 2000 steps above the ground, on a hill that forms a part of the Satpura Range in Virar, this cave has a Goddess who rests in a temple here. The fortifications have some very old looking caves and cisterns and are said to be the work of the Pandavas. They are believed to be used as Vihara-s (residential cells) mainly in the rainy season as ‘Varshavasa’ by Buddhist monks.
Year: 2nd Quarter of 6th Century A.D
The Jogeshwari Caves are some of the earliest Hindus and Buddhist cave temples sculptures located in the Mumbai suburb of Jogeshwari. It is known to be the first and largest Hindu temple cave in India. Caves have a Hanuman temple and a Ganesh temple. The temple also has impressions of foot prints of Goddess Yogeshwari. They are thought to be the work of Buddhist monks and Hindu priests, and they contain ornate sculptures.
Year: 2nd Century B.C
Built by: Buddhist
The Kanheri Caves are also known as the ‘lungs of Mumbai’, because this is the only place in the city with the maximum amount of greenery. The cave gets its name from the Sanskrit word Krishnagiri – where Krishna means “black”. Most of the caves are used as the Buddhist viharas, meant for living, studying, and meditating. Located in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park at Borivali, Kanheri caves offer picnickers a getaway, especially during rainy season with several beautiful waterfalls formed in the Kanheri hills.
Year: 6th Century A.D
Magathane is a small hamlet, about four miles to the south-west of Kanheri, a place well-known for its several archaeological relics, which was carved during 6th century A.D. An existing temple has been built out of the materials from the monastery. Magathane are popularly known as the Poinsar. It is in a soft rock about a mile and half in the outskirts of the Borivali Station. They are hardly discernible from the natural surroundings, as the ground level of these caves is much lower than the surface of the earth.
Year: 1st Century B.C.
Mahakali Caves are 19 rock-cut caves, built between the 1st century BC and 6th century AD. These caves are locally known as Mahakali caves. These were referred as Kondivite or Kondivti caves by J M Campbell as these caves were near Kondivti village. Mahakali caves are a Buddhist monastery. The road leading to the caves is known as Mahakali Gufa Road. There are total of 19 caves, fifteen on southeast face of the hill and four on the northwest face. These are situated on Mahakali hills in Mahakali region of Mumbai. They are cut in black basalt. Unfortunately this material here has not been too persistant and many of caves have collapsed. They are also known as viharas or cells for monks. The Mahakali Caves are one of the finest specimens of rock cut Buddhist monastery. The cave no. 9 is the largest of the caves which have images of Lord Buddha engraved on them but they are not clearly visible as they have become mutilated.
Year: 1st Quarter of the 6th Century A.D
Situated in Mount Poinsur, Borivali, these caves are named Mandapeshwar which means Mandap Pe Eshwar (Hall of painting of Lord). These lesser known caves have ruins of an old Portuguese-built church stand on top of the caves. This cave has seen through time, World war (when the soldiers used it); Initial Portuguese used it as a place of prayer.