By Melissa Fernandes
When you think of Mumbai, the first thing that comes to your mind is pollution, traffic, noise and so on. But have you ever tried exploring the city? The city has a lot more to it besides these negative aspects. One exploring Mumbai city will encounter a large variety of things to see, more than you can imagine! Kanheri caves is one such place I explored and discovered the heritage wealth of Mumbai. The cave is located at Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Borivali. It’s a 15-minute bumpy ride by bus from the park to the caves.
My journey to the cave began early morning with a group of friends. I chose to walk to the cave rather than take the bus and miss a chance to watch the monkeys and capture their silly moves in my camera. I walked 7kms to reach my destination which was worth the effort as I captured many a lot more than I could imagine. The deserted railway tracks, the tree house and the enormous trees standing tall on both sides of the road is what caught my attention.
The monkeys by the roadside amused me by their silly tactics. But once I entered the cave and opened a packet of chips, they went out of hand. The naughty monkeys pounced and grabbed the food from my hand and climbed up the tree. This was a horrifying part of the trip as I was terrified by the monkey’s mischievous behaviour. A few monkeys sat on the tree and watched us take pictures of them. One of them even tried to grab my camera by when I stepped back and didn’t bother shooting those monkeys.
The entrance of the cave had a brief note about the cave inscribed on a stone which had its history and the heritage value of the cave. There were huge dark caves with hefty pillars and carvings of the donors of early centuries in the cave. All the rock-cut caves have elaborately carved sculptures and also the seal of Buddhist monks.
The most intriguing feature of the cave was the variety of inscriptions on the walls of the cave. The caves have more than 100 inscriptions revealing names of donors and patrons of the cave. Besides this, there is a prayer hall for worshippers known as ‘vihara’ and is supported by huge pillars and contains a Buddhist shrine. The huge caves are easy to reach as there are steps leading to another cave. It is also fascinating to watch unusual inscriptions in every cave which are mostly written in Brahmi, Devanagari and Pallavi scripts. Every cave is numbered and has a different story to tell on the art and culture of the Buddhist monks. Most of the caves are the Buddhist viharas meant for meditation which is something Buddhist monks are known for.
After a lot of research and after asking the guide, I got to know that Kanheri caves is perhaps the only clue to Buddhism and its existence in western India. It was an incredible experience to visit the cave and explore facts on Buddhist monks and their style of prayer and life. Now I have less to complain about Mumbai and would love to set out and explore different parts of the city which need more acknowledgements as our city has a lot more to it than what is written in books or papers.