The guide informs us “sir, this whole route has been recently done by the government.”
Otherwise, the climb would have been much worse.
As we start climbing we notice a temple atop one of the hills. On enquiring the guide informs us that in the month of Savan, this place see lacs of pilgrims visiting the temple. There is a Shiva temple there and much ancient and revered by the local populace.
We were more interested in the Rock Cut Caves. As we continue climbing, I was surprised (many surprises to follow) with this small plateau among the hills. The land is fertile in this area when compared to the farms around. Rock Cut Caves at Barabar
There are 3 rock cut caves at Barabar hills. These rock cut caves are considered to be one of the oldest specimen of rock cut caves found anywhere in India. They belong to 3rd century BCE and were built by Mauryan king Ashoka. Some of them may have been used by Buddhist monks but were built primarily for Ajivika ascetics on the insistence of Ashoka’s queen. All the three caves are cut out of a single granite rock. These caves are one of the finest example of workmanship of Indian artists belonging to that period. Today we import the famed polishing machines from Italy but the Indian artisans of that time polished the interiors of these caves manually and the quality of polish will put machines to shame.
Some tit bits of architecture in these caves have Egyptian resemblance – like the design of the doorways. This actually indicates the maturity of international collaboration in those times. Of course having a Greek ambassador – Megasthenes in the Mauryan court and his account of Patliputra and Mauryan Empire in general is an important source that gives us a peek into the life during the Mauryan rule in Magadh and the vast Mauryan Empire that stretched from Bengal to Gujarat from east to west and from Kashmir, Pakistan and Afghanistan to most of Karnataka from north to south.
The apathy of Bihar government is visible as soon as one reaches the caves. The board that provides information about the caves was lying in one corner.
Most of the inscriptions of these caves have been deciphered as mentioned in the board above. The inscription at the Karn Chopar cave…
A Shiva Linga and some human figurine inscribed on a adjacent rock.
The entrance; you can see that owing to today’s degenerated human mind, people have scribbled all over the rock.
I doubt if even today’s advanced machines can polish the interior of a cave in this format. And polish, that can survive for 2500 years
We moved to other side of the same rock for the remaining two caves.
The first one is Sudama cave
It contains two chambers and has polished interior. There are some drawings (I can only make out the horse) on one of the walls of the cave. I am not sure if you will also be able to make out the same.
There would have been an idol here that had been stolen and was never found.
If your net connection and time permits, you can look at this short video that takes you inside the cave. The person you see is our guide.
Another video tries to present the brilliant echo that’s created inside the second chamber of the Sudama cave. Please ignore my voice. Unfortunately, by mistake, I deleted the better video in which our guide had presented the same.
The third cave is the Lomas Rishi cave. Historians agree that the work for this cave started during the reign of Ashoka but the work couldn’t be completed. The caves have not been polished from inside and are incomplete. However they have decorative elephant frieze on the doorway which no other cave at Barabar has. This cave might have been used by Jain monks.
If you remeber the news that Lalu created some 4-5 years back when he wanted to host his rally at Barabar hills near the caves. The Central government had to intervene and a Supreme Court order finally detered him. He has left his marks anyways - the incomplete stage that was being contructed for Lalu to host his rally!!!
There’s a well near these caves. The locals believe that water of the well has therapeutic and digestive properties and our guide insisted that we drink that well’s water to quench our thirst. It was almost noon and the sun was blazing at us.
Just next to the well, there was a family picnicking. They were from a village in West Bengal and have come to Bihar to attend a marriage in a near by village. They were eager and happy to get photographed. Actually they wanted me to take down their address and send the pictures to them.
Our guide wanted us to return so that we can visit Nagarjuna caves (again belonging to Mauryan period but have been constructed by Dasaratha, the grandson of Ashoka and were most certainly used by Buddhists monks). However I traded Nagarjuna caves for the Shiva temple on the hill. Our guide, though he was not very keen, decided to accompany us.
It looked to be a tall order to climb more than 600 steps in that scorching sun. But I had 73 year old aunt who was extremely delighted with her visit to the caves and wanted to explore further. To be continued…