Thursday, May 23, 2024


The twin hills of Nagarjuna and Barabar comprise of seven rock-cut caves, the oldest of it kind in India. Nagarjuna has  three caves wheres Barabar houses four different caves.

These caves were built for the Buddhist monks during Ashoka and Dashrath (Ashoka’s grandson) during 3rd cent BC. Monks of the now extinct Ajivkas sect too were believed to have resided and practiced their religion in these caves.

The hill is named after the Buddhist ascetic Nagarjuna, the founder of the Madhyamaka School of the Mahayana Buddhism.

The Nagarjuna caves are named as under: Gopika (Gopi-ka-Kuba) Vadithika (Vadithi-ka-Kuba) Vapiyaka also known as Mirza Mandi (Vapiya-ka-Kuba) The caves believed to be the oldest rock-cut caves of the country reveal the high standard of art that prevailed during the Mauryan period.

The caves sculpted out of the granite rocks in the hill have been polished to give an extraordinary gloss finish that is seen to be believed.  The perfect semicircles, arcs, spheres, hemispheres and linear edges too are unique.

The glass finish doorways have narrow tops and broadened bottoms and generally open up towards 220 SW of S which could be the direction of Buddha Gaya. This would mean the artisans looked hard to find the boulders whose  sides had such a  bearing in which the caves could be dug in.

The artisans were not only knowledgeable how to create stunning architectures but also how to produce stunning acoustics in these caves, Meaning they created the structural design of the caves in such a way that fascinating echo is generated in here.

The inner sanctum of the Gopika cave. The polished semi circular wall and the hemispherical ceiling is visible.


The Brahmi script on the left wall of the entrance to the cave with a possible Peepul leaf below  is also visible. Note the  precise right-angled edges.

Another view of the “Star Wars” type entrance to the cave. Note the precise edges. The polished doorways narrow at the top and broaden at the bottom.

The inner sanctum of the Vadathika cave. Note the architecture and the gloss shine of the inner sanctum.

The entrance of this cave is on the back wall and not on the side . The shinning side wall of the entrance is also visible. Like all the doorways here this one too is narrowed at its top and is broadened at the bottom.

Karan Chauper cave: Built possibly around 245 BC. Has a floor area of about 10 X 4.2. m. The name seems Hindu in origin is possibly later ordained. The Brahmi script on the doorway wall however names the cave as Supiya cave.
The back wall to the NW has a platform perhaps for the high priest to address the congregated Buddhist bhikshus. The polished entrance to the cave opens to 20 deg NE of N. Great acoustics in this cave.

The glossy surface of the inner walls of the cave like the other ones is fascinating. Notice the  flash of the camera  being reflected by the shinny back wall. The platform was perhaps meant of the Guru to sit and address the resident monks.

The opposite back wall of the Karan Chauper with the door at its side.


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