Excavated out of solid rock some 2,100 years ago, Kondana Caves are a group of 16 Buddhist caves situated 33 km north of Lonavala and 16 km northwest of Karla Caves.
The location of these caves is on the same hill as Rajmachi Fort. The easiest point of access is to head south out of Karjat, through Kondivade village and on to Thakurwadi village. Parking is on the left in an open clearing with a single shack/stall that I imagine is in operation during the monsoon season.
Having parked up it’s a 30 minute easy hike up the side of the hill to reach the caves. The pathway is relatively clear, but for a few rupees you may be able to get one of the local children to show you the way.
During my visit in early 2017 it was clear that some work has been undertaken to start renovating the caves and their access. Pillars inside the Chaitya has been reinstated (not from original stonework), and strewn across the floor inside and outside the Chaitya were stone slabs which apparently will be used to create a new floor for the caves and to help repair some of the path.
The local boys told us that nothing much has happened in the last year, so for now all of this masonry acts as a bit of a hazard as you try and explore the caves on foot.
That aside, it’s a wonderfully atmospheric and beautiful setting, and all the better for being less known about compared to the nearby caves of Karla, Bedse, and Bhaja. The chances are if you visit Kondana Caves out of monsoon season you will have the place to yourself.
Right outside the Chaitya is a damaged carving of Yaksha, guardian of Kondana Caves. They are mythical creatures hence the pixie-like ears. There is an inscription to the right of his head mentioning Baluka , disciple of Kanha.
Immediately to the left of Yaksha and the Chaitya, at a higher level, is a very spacious monastery.
If you’re wondering why the caves seem to be so damaged and are being restored, an earthquake in the early 1900s destroyed the floor, many stupas, and the front entrance of the caves. I really hope all this repair and restoration work will be completed soon, although as progress seems to have halted I’m not holding my breath on that one.
My thanks must go to :
- Amar Reddy – for accompanying me on my visit to Kondana Caves
- Saili Palande-Datar – for helping explain the pixie/spock-like ears of Yaksha 🙂
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