Kaheri / Kanheri Buddhist Caves


The Kanheri Caves are located north of Borivli on the western outskirts of Mumbai, India, deep within the green forests of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. The word 'Kanheri', which literally means the black mountain, proves its name as it lies in form of black caves in Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Borivali, 40 kilometers from Mumbai - the city of dreams. These caves, situated at a height of 1500 feet above the sea level, give a panoramic distant view of the vast Arabian Sea and Vasai Creek as well.The Kanheri caves, which have been dated from the 2nd century BCE to the 9th century CE, were built during the reign of the Mauryan and the Kushana emperors.

Originally constructed as a place of rest for the travellers on the way of Sopara-Kalyan, the Kanheri caves, 109 in numbers, soon turned into the Buddhist viharas, used by the Buddhist monks as their residential and meditation purposes. Its location in the midst of a dense forest en route of the ancient cities of Kalyan, Nasik, Sopara and Ujjain further made the place more popular among the Buddhists all around, and soon became famous as the 'Buddhist caves'.Initially, the Kanheri caves were used by the Buddhist monks in their natural form itself, and the monks used stone beds to sleep and cisterns to store water without harnessing the originality of these natural substances. But in due course of time, everything started changing.

The monks started carving halls, temples and images of the Buddha and other Bodhisattvas out of huge rocks, so much so that the Kanheri caves turned into an important Buddhist settlement on the Konkan coast by the 3rd century CE.It is 6km from the National Park Main Gate & 7km from Borivali Station. Tourists can go in after 7.30 a.m. Kanheri Caves are signs of Buddhist influence on art and culture in India. Kanheri comes from the Sanskrit word Krishnagiri generally meaning black in colour. They were chiseled out of a massive basaltic rock outcropping.

Caves date from 1st century BCE to 9th century CE The earliest are 109 tiny rock-cut cells, carved into the side of a hill. Unlike the elegant splendor of Elephanta Caves nearby, these are spartan and unadorned. Each cave has a stone plinth for a bed. A congregation hall with huge stone pillars contains the stupa, a Buddhist shrine. Farther up the hill are the remains of an ancient water system, canals and cisterns that collected and channeled the rainwater into huge tanks. Once the caves became permanent monasteries, they began to be carved out of the rock with intricate reliefs of Buddha and the Bodhisattvas carved into the walls. Kanheri had become an important Buddhist settlement on the Konkan coast by the 3rd century A.D.Most of the caves are the Buddhist viharas meant for living, study, and meditation.

The larger caves were chaityas, or halls for congregational worship, are lined with intricately carved Buddhist sculptures, reliefs and pillars, and contain rock-cut stupas for congregational worship. The Avalokiteshwara is the most distinctive figure. One hundred inscriptions carved in Brahmi, Devanagari and Pahlaviscripts have been found. The large number of viharas obviously prove a well-organized existence of Buddhist monks' establishment, which was also connected with many trade centers such as the ports of Sopara, Kalyan, Nasik, Paithan and Ujjain. Kanheri was a University center by the time the area was under the rule of the Maurayan and Kushan

The Kanheri caves, alike other Buddhist shrines, symbolises the austerity of the ancient and early medieval Indian architectural style. All the 109 caves, carved into a hill, depicts the Buddha into numerous forms.Kanheri Caves, MaharashtraThe most important of all these caves is cave number 3 belonging to the 6th century CE, which comprises a columnar hall(28 x 13 m) with 34 pillars and two standing figures of the Buddha(Both 6.5 feet tall), thereby reflecting the Theravadin sect of Buddhism. Likewise, cave 11, the Durbar hall or the Assembly hall, which includes a statue of the Buddha occupying the central place among the Hindu and other Buddhist monks. Cave number 34 is a dark cell having the Buddha's paintings on its ceilings. Cave 41, which besides other structures, also constitute an image of 11-headed Avalokiteshvara, is a large cell. The Cave 67 is a also a huge cell and comprises the figure of Avalokiteswara in the form of a saviour flanked by two female figures in the verandah. Some images of the Buddha have also been carved depicting His miracles in Sravasti.

Location info:

Address:40 kms from Mumbai, in Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Borivali, Approximately 10 km from Borivali
District: Mumbai Suburban
Nearest City: Mumbai
Best time to visit: Any time



These caves are dated from 1st Century B.C. to 9th Century A.D. Most of them are the Buddhist Viharas which was meant for their residence, study, and meditation. A few Chaityas are seen containing rock-cut stupas meant for congregational worship. The large number of Viharas obviously prove a well-organized existence of Buddhist monks' establishment, which was also connected with many trade centers such as the ports of Sopara, Kalyan, Nasik, Paithan and Ujjain. Kanheri was a well-flourished University center at that time. The record of Purna in Sopara (225 B.C.), 20 kms from Kanheri was a prominent seat of literary activity to which Arjuna - one of the greatest epics of Hindu religion (Mahabharata) - had visited while on the way to Somnath in Kathiawar (Gujarat) from the holy place Shurparak or Sopara. The king who ruled this area of Kanheri and Sopara was King Nahapan (78 A.D.), who used the word Krishnagiri on many occasions. Majority of the caves are monasteries, intended for living, study and meditation. All of them have elaborately carved
sculptures, reliefs and pillars and encompass rock-cut stupas for worship.

The unique figure of Avalokiteshwara captures the attention of everyone. No less than a hundred inscriptions have been found here, in Brahmi, Devanagari and Pallavi scripts. One Chaitya cave has some defaced woodwork on its roof.By the time this region was swayed by the Mauryan and Kushan empires, Kanheri became a major center of university in India.
While going further up the hill, you would come across many watercourses that reveal the ancient water system. A trip to
Kanheri Caves would definitely be an interesting one, especially in the company of ancient structures and scenic beauty of
Sanjay Gandhi National Park.

Interesting things to do:

Interesting things to Visit:

Beautiful sculptures, reliefs and carved pillars. Through the meandering paths of Sanjay Gandhi National Park, you can reach the staircase that leads to Kanheri Caves of Maharashtra. Located in the picturesque surroundings of Borivali, Kanheri Caves have a distinctive aura about them. These
caves remind one of the other rock-cut caves, which have been the seat of Buddhist monks at different times. Abode of monks during the 1st to 9th century, these caves are rather simple and partially adorned.

The term Kanheri has been derived from a Sanskrit term 'Krishnagiri', which means 'black in color'. And these caves have been chiseled out of a gigantic basaltic rock. Indeed, Kanheri Caves is an excellent illustration, which portrays rise and fall of Buddhism in India. Most of them are small cells, which are cut into the ends of a hill and each of them has a stone platform to serve as a bed. There is one congregation hall that is supported by massive stone pillars.

The caves are always beautiful, but the most exquisite piece of artistic example lies at the top, where fantastic sculptures of goddess Tara and Goddess Bhrukti with the central structure of Avalokiteswara, with five symbols each in the right and the left is housed.The caves are considered to be in use during the period of 1st century BC to 9th century AD, primarily Buddhist monks, and some of the traders who travelled from the nearby places for religious favors.

However, the most appealing is the Chaitya cave, built sometime during the 4th to 5th Century AD, with signs of decorative woodwork on the roof still present, is definitely a big draw for the tourists.There are many sculptured statues of Buddha, on the outer sides of the wall, mainly in the Avalokiteswara incarnation. There are, nevertheless, difference in the artistic representation, when contrasted with one another, may be due to the difference of time when they were built.

Sanjay Gandhi National Park, with vivid treasury of wildlife, beautifully green landscape, well laid zigzag roads and kind-hearted monkey band is another plus point for making the place such a hotspot for the tourist folk. The caves represent a golden beginning and the end of Buddhism in Northern India.Most interestingly, with the rock cut sculptures, the individual travellers carved some useless graffiti out, and one will be amazed to know from these graffiti that these caves have been in the tourist map from the 16th century.

Mobile range info:

How to reach?

Nearest Railway Station:The city of Mumbai is connected is connected to the rest of India by central and western railway lines.
Nearest Airport: The airports of Mumbai are connected to all major cities of India and the world by numerous international and
domestic airlines.

Road Transport: Mumbai is connected to all major towns and cities of the country by National Highway numbers 3, 4, 6, 8, 9 and 17.From Mumbai, a suburban train can be taken from the Churchgate Station to Borivali, from where an auto-rickshaw or taxi can be taken to reach the Kanheri caves, which is 40 kilometers away from Mumbai.

How to get there

Kanheri caves is located deep inside the Sanjay Gandhi National Park which is in Borivali East. Once you get there, you need to pay a certain entry fee at the gate (Once at entry of sanjay gandhi national park and another at the entrance of kanheri caves). The caves are quite a distance away from the entrance, about 5 kilometres (3 mi). Transport by bus to the caves is available every hour.

Nearest Visiting places:

Elephanta Caves : Located at a distance of 9 miles from Mumbai, the Elephanta caves are beautiful rock cut cave temples dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva. In the Elephanta caves, Lord Shiva has been shown in three major forms, of being that of constructor, protector and destroyer.

Bhaja Caves : The Bhaja caves, which are 18 in number, are situated at a distance of 12 kilometers from Lonavla in Maharashtra. These caves, which belongs to the 2nd century BCE, are one of the most beautiful caves in India.

Pithalkora Caves : Dating from the 2nd century BCE to the 1st century CE, the Pithalkora caves are located on the Satmala hills, 78 kilometers from Aurangabad in Maharashtra. These caves, including mainly temples, monasteries and viharas, are dedicated to the oldest Theravadin sect of Buddhism.

Junnar Caves : The Junnar caves, located on the Mumbai - Aurangabad way, 177 kilometers from Mumbai, belong to 2nd century BCE to the 3rd century CE. These caves, Buddhist in nature are one of the best well sculptured caves of Maharashtra.

Ajanta Caves : Situated on the Sahyadri hills, around 108 kilometers from Aurangabad in Maharashtra, the Ajanta caves dates back to the ancient period and forms probably one of the earliest Buddhist caves in the world. Dedicated to the Buddha, these caves were basically used by the Buddhist monks as their residence and meditation centres.

Ellora Caves : The Ellora caves, the finest examples of cave-temple architecture, reflects the love and respect for all the religions in India, as it comprises the cave temples related to all three major religions in the ancient India - Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. These caves are located 28 kilometers from Aurangabad and belongs to the period between 5th century CE to the 11th century CE.

Aurangabad Buddhist Caves : These caves dates back to the 4th-8th century CE, built by the Vakatakas and the Chalukyas.
The Aurangabad caves mainly deals with the Mahayana sect of Buddhism.

Sanjay Gandhi National Park:
Sanjay Gandhi National Park, with vivid treasury of wildlife, beautifully green landscape, well laid zigzag roads and kind-hearted monkey band is another plus point for making the place such a hotspot for the tourist folk. The caves represent a golden beginning and the end of Buddhism in Northern India.

Mumbai : Visit the commercial capital of India, 42 km away, the heart of Indian film Industry, Mumbai, is a splendid city for travellers. The Gateway of India, Chwpatty beach, the Haji Ali Mosque, Juhu Beach, Crawford Market, The Bomaby high court, and a vibrant nightlife are all part of this city. Most of the wells known financial institutions are housed in this city that is considered to be the richest in India. Actually one would feel comfortable by not making Mumbai an excursion, rather making the process vice versa.

Matheran : A well-known hill station, Matheran is often visited by people for its pollution free environment, and the beautiful landscape. It is also reachable by a toy train from its foothills.

Thane : Thane is also a nice place to visit, known for its lively atmosphere and boasts of the modern lifestyle. As many as 30 lakes are there in this city, the prominent one being the Masunda. Other important places to visit are Yeoor hills and Mama-Bhanja Hills, Essel World, and the Water Kingdom.

Nearest Petrol Pump:


You can stay in Mumbai which, boasts of its industrial capital image through many luxurious hotels.

Hotel Ramada Palm Grove Mumbai
Juhu Beach, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400049 - 022 26112323

Grand Hyatt Hotel Mumbai
Off Western Express Highway,, Santa Cruz East,, Mumbai (Bombay), Maharashtra 400055 - 022 6693 1234

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Help Line/Phone Number:

Police Station: 100

Nearest Hospital:

S Suburban Hospital
Flat No 8, E Bldg, Khira Nagar, Santacruz (West), Mumbai, Maharashtra 400054‎

Nanavati Hospital
Mumbai, Mumbai suburban, Maharashtra - 022 26118693

Asian Heart Institute
Mumbai, Mumbai suburban, Maharashtra - 022 66986666

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