2nd May 2008
On the way back from Janjira, we stopped by the 2000 year old Kuda caves (also spelt Kude though always pronounced Koo-day).
The caves are located about 28 KMs (18 miles) from Murud at the head of the Rajapuri Creek (18° 35' N, 73° 50' E to be precise). The road is motorable all but the last 1000 meters. While a tough car can navigate the last kilometer aswell, the hike is not too difficult or steep.
The caves are almost unknown and hence clean. Remember to carry your water and canteen. There is absolutely nothing you can buy there. You probably will stay there for an hour and a half unless you are there for the view which is exhilarating. There are a total of 26 caves with the oldest dating back to 1 century BC. They are build about 150 feet above sea level into the side of the 250 feet hill.
The caves themselves are very simple and follow the typical Buddhist cave style (similar to Ajantha-Ellora, Karla, Kanheri). The 22 "living" caves or lenis have a verandah (covered patio) with a door, opening into a cell with a shelf cutout for the monk to sleep. Each door has hinges showing the presence of a door in ancient times and proves that the caves were lived in. Each cave also has a tank cut into the floor of the rock to store rain water. The caves were funded by rich merchants of the Satvahan rule who made their money in the trade between Konkan and Greece. Each cave has Sanskrit inscription calling out commissioning sponsor.
A few caves have the buddhist Sthupa built into the inner most sanctuary while a other caves have some basic figurines and carvings. The most impressive carving is in cave 6 starting with the 11 foot elephant with the missing trunk and tusks. On the front of the cave, behind the left elephant, is a sculptured figure of Buddha, eighteen inches high, seated on a throne with his feet on a lotus, over a wheel with three deer on each side, and upheld by Naga figures with others below. At each side of Buddha a fly-whisk bearer stands on a lotus, the left bearer being Avalokitesvara, who holds a lotus stem with his left arm. Two demigods or vidyadharas hold a crown over Buddha's head, and above the crown is a segmental arch support-ed by alligators on each side, and two flying figures above it. Beneath, to the left, is a faintly cut and much decayed inscription of a later date than the preceding inscriptions, and in Sanskrit. In the beginning is 'This meritorious gift', and then 'The honorable tranquillizer of the Sangria.' The rest cannot be read. [Click here for more details]
Translation of the Sanskrit inscription: 'This cave is the meritorious gift of Sivabhuti, the son of Sulasadata and Utaradata and writer to Mahabhoja Mandava Khandapalita, son of Mahabhoja Sadagiri Vijaya' together with his wife Nanda'. [Source]
Each of the cave had the up-pointing and a down-pointing crescent or pair of horns separated by a block of stone, a common ornament in the earlier (B. C. 100-A. D. 200) Kanheri and other Western India caves
Like every monument anywhere in the world, the caves have their own share of graffiti. While most declare undying, unreciprocated love for someone, this one caught my eye. It has been written in 1887 and while any graffiti is despicable, is as much part of the history. [Here is my blog about other ancient graffiti I have come across. Coincidentally, the first photograph on that blog also has a 1887 graffiti]
And like a well made film with a deliciously wicked open ending, I saw this sealed opening.
It has a bit of inscription, and does not seem opened. How old is it? What does it hide?