The ghosts of Pitalkhora Caves. On my descent to the caves I heard some people talk. This made me glad as I was all alone and thought that at least the guard and his companion will give me company. Tourists being there was out of the question since my bike was the only ride parked at the mouth of the stairs. On my reaching the site I was met with emptiness and those voices had ceased too. Perhaps the talkers were present inside some caves. Thinking this I kept an eye out for them while exploring the caves. I did not find anyone and got a bit alarmed not spooked though. Then while exploring the furthest caves on the other side of the cliff I heard humans again coming from the main chaitya hall. I looked up only to see some parrots making merry which uncannily resembled human voices spoken in an unfamiliar language. I quickly fixed my telescopic lens and captured those green goblins, those ghosts of Pitalkhora. Indeed I was the only visitor there, having spent 3 hours alone exploring the caves with not a soul in sight, not even the ASI guard was anywhere to be seen. On my climb back to my ride I met with a man headed towards the caves. He was the two hours tardy ASI personnel, amazing!
The Pitalkhora Caves, in the Satmala Range of the Western Ghats of Maharashtra, India, are an early Buddhist site consisting of 14 rock-cut cave which date back to the third century BCE, making them one of the earliest examples of rock-cut architecture in India. The cliff has fallen away dramatically since antiquity, and most of the carvings that existed on the face of the cliff fell with it. Because of its remoteness, Pitalkhora has few visitors.
The caves are cut in a variety of basalt rock which weathers quickly, so many of them have crumbled and are badly damaged. Out of the 14, four are chaityas (one housing votive stupas, one apsidal and single-cell) and the rest are viharas. All the caves belong to the Hinayana period, but the paintings are of the Mahayana period. The caves are in two groups, one of 10 caves and the second of four. It is believed that Pitalkhora can be identified with Ptolemy’s "Petrigala" as well as the "Pitangalya" of Mahamayuri, a Buddhist chronicle. The inscriptions date from c. 250 BCE to the 3rd and 4th centuries CE. This is all Wikipedia has to say about the Pitalkhora caves. Any idea who built it?
Pictures © Sabya Sachi Ghosh
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