[on day 5 we rested up from our travels for a day]
The Ghorawadi Caves near Pune are estimated to have been excavated around 3rd-4th centuries CE. There are around 17 caves set around one hill not far from the Pune-Mumbai highway, which is now a popular pilgrimage centre for Hindus, who have taken over most of the caves, and established shrines in them to various gods. The place is also known locally as the Ghoravadeshwar Caves.
There is no Chaitya hall, and the settlement seems to have mainly been used for meditation-type caves. The first cave we visited had been a vihāra, with a hall at its centre, that may have housed a small chaitya at one time, but now has a Shiva linga and yoni, and seems to be the central place for the pilgrims.
Around the hill are various other vihāras, a number of which have been turned into Hindu shrines, despite clear signs stating they are protected monuments. On one the cave wall has crude carvings of Hindi deities, which cannot be very old.
One of the most elaborate of the occupied caves has very old carved Asoka-type columns alongside the vihara cell-doors, but this is now quite obscured by tinsel decorations and modern posters stuck to the walls with sellotape.
The view from some of the vihāras was striking, and offered a breathtaking vista over the surrounding countryside, which is now dotted with residential and industrial buildings. Some of the caves remained inaccessible to me, as it was too dangerous to climb, and on the way down I slipped and took the skin off hands and feet.
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