Kanheri & Mahakali Caves
The Kanheri caves and the Mahakali caves
figure amongst the ancient Buddhist caves of Mumbai.
The Kanheri Caves
These are rock cut caves dating back to
the first century
They remained of significance right up to the tenth century AD, and
served as a Buddhist monastery. The cave monastery was prominent due
to its proximity to several ports which included Sopara, Kalyan,
Paithan, Nasik, as well as others.
The caves were patronised by several ruling dynasties,
Satvahanas, Rashtrakutas, Silharas, Traikutas, Chalukyas, Kadambas, and Yadavas besides various Maurya, Kushan
and Saka satraps. These caves have borne witness to all these
rulers and also later ones including the Portuguese and the British,
who subsequently assumed control of the islands.
In the late tenth century, the monk Atisha
is said to have studied Buddhist philosophy and meditation at Kanheri
Monastery under the teacher, Rahulagupta.
Kanheri caves are located at Mumbai, in the midst of the Sanjay
Gandhi National Park, Borivli. They were located on what was known
as the island of Salsette, situated near present day Thana.
The word 'Kanheri' is derived from the word
'Kanhegiri' (derived from
Krishnagiri), which means the colour of Lord Krishna (or Kanha);
ie. dark. This is mainly because the caves have been chiselled out of
the 'black' volcanic basalt rock which made up the hillocks on Salsette.
The Kanheri caves comprise 109 caves which were rediscovered by a Dr James Bird.