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Mumbai is undoubtedly the glamour capital of India, but within the city boundary, there are a group of 118 monolithic Buddhist caves that date back to the 1st century BC.

Now a part of the Sanjaya Gandhi National Park of Mumbai’s Borivali locality, the Kanheri Caves were once inhabited by the monks as a refuge from the rains and harsh weather.

The word ‘Kanheri’ has been derived from the Hindi word Krishnagiri or Kanha-Giri, which means Krishna’s home (Krishna implies the dark one). Therefore, these caves have been named so because they have been formed of black basalt rock.

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According to the archaeologists and historians, during their formative phase, they must have served as a temporary residence or ‘vasha vaasa’ (rain shelter) for the monks. The monks lived in these caves to live, study and meditate, and as a policy no woman was allowed to live in Kanheri Caves in the earlier stages and even as more and more time lapsed.

Over a period of time, the Kanheri Caves emerged as a centre of learning just like the famous Ajanta and Ellora Caves.

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The caves were abandoned in the 11th century AD, and afterwards, they were re-discovered by a group of Japanese monks. It is from here an important school of Buddhism, popular in Japan, emanated.

Inside the caves, there is a large Vihara (prayer hall) and stupas, Buddhist shrines featuring Buddhist paintings and carvings on them. There are more than 30 unfinished paintings of Buddha. The Kanheri Caves have a complex system of water harvesting, which leaves the discerning visitor awestruck.

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Noisy visitors fail to disturb the inherent peace of these caves. Plus, the dens are so cool from inside that you won’t mind spending time as a good escape from the Mumbai heat.

How to reach Kanheri Caves

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The Sanjay Gandhi National Park is well-connected to different parts of the city via bus, local trains and taxi. You can easily reach Borivali and reach the park. From the park, you can either take a shuttle or trek a bit to reach the caves. The Kanheri Caves are located at a height, so it is wise to carry a water bottle along and some food too. It is better to either purchase food or water from the shops present at the base of the caves, or get your food from home.