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BEDSE CAVES

ANKITA SALIAN
M.A. III SEM

ARC 301
INTRODUCTION
The Bedse caves also known as Karunj-Bedse islocated at the foot of Supati hills, according to
Fergusson. Currently situated in Maval taluka of Pune district in Maharashtra. These caves are
located 40 km from Pune to the Bedse Village followed by a 30 minutes walk from the village.
The caves are at the height of about 300 ft. above the plain.

In the book ‘ Cave Temples of India’ by Fergusson & Burgess, they have recognized only Chaitya
cave, Vihara, some dagobas, wells & cells. However Prof. Nagaraju has identified 7 caves & 6
water cisterns which even include bathing tanks. Following are types of caves found in Bedse :
chaityagruha, vihara, mandapa & nirvanavithi ( memorial stupa gallery) .

The cave was first described by Prof. Westergaard. Various works have been done on this cave
by many researchers. Some of them are James Fergusson & James Burgess, Debala Mitra, S.
Nagaraju .

IMPORTANCE OF CAVES
The chaitya-cave has a passage which is 12/13 yards long made by cutting rocks. On the
passage of 5 ft width, 2 massive octagonal columns & 2 demi-columns can be seen. The shaft
which rises from the lota shaped bases is slightly tapering & has Persepolitan influence. Animals
like elephants, horses, bullocks & figures of sphinxes, males, females, etc. are found on the
pillars.

Along the base of the walls, the porch walls are covered with the rail pattern flat & curved
surfaces, similar to chaitya window decorations minus human & animal depictions. The absence
of Buddha figures inside the caves signifies the strong hold of Theravada sect of Buddhism in
these caves. As remarked by Mr. Fergusson,”the rail ornamentation becomes less and less used
after the date of the Bhaja and Bedsa Chaitya caves, and disappears wholly in the fourth or fifth
centuries, but during that period its greater or less prevalence in any building is one of the
surest indications we have of the relative age of any two examples”. According to Burgess &
Fergusson, the introduction of rood screen in stone in front made this cave to date slightly later
than that of Kondane & Bhaje.

The door jambs & the pillar inside slat slightly inwards which indicates that the cave belongs to
the early age. Unfortunately all the wood works have been disappeared which Prof.
Westergaard had described in Oriental Christian Spectator. Till 1861, the fragments of timber
were found lying on the floor. Also till 1871, the paintings of Buddha with his attendants were
found. However, the local officials in order to clean the cave had whitewashed the pillars &
destroyed all the paintings. On the pillars, carved Buddhist symbols like lotus, nandyavartha,
streevatsa, chakrastambha, dharmachakra, etc. can be seen.

The monolithic stupa is also carved out of the rock & can be found in its intact state without any
damage. The chatravali in the form of a lotus is made up of Burma Teak which dates up to 1 CE.
The presence of carefully carved out sockets on the stupa signifies the offerings through posting
of wooden planks & garlands.

Close to the Chaityagruha there is an unfinished cave behind the water cistern. Also near this
cave there is a vihara with some unique characteristics like having arched roofs & upsidal plan
like a Chaitya( Cave No.5). The doors are surmounted by Chaitya arches through rail pattern.
There is a presence of pseudo windows or jaalavatayanas. The whole cave has been plastered
& probably painted. There is a carved representation of Yamai, who is folk diety.

On the left of this whole cave, there is a small cell & near the nala, a small open tank with
sockets cut in the rock. Cave no. 1 & 2 is a circular shrine which makes it the oldest caves in this
group due to the structure. According to Prof. Nagaraju, it is the earliest Chaityagruha.

INSCRIPTIONS
Only 3 inscriptions have been found from Bhaje caves. All of them are in Brahmi script. The first
inscription that have been found in cave no. 2 is located above the water system near the door
tells the strategic position of the cave. It tells that the cave was excavated for Gobhuti who was
staying at this cave & was a Aranyavasi( forest dweller). A stupa was made on his name by his
student Andavasi. It is also known from this inscription that the ancient name of bedse caves is
Marakuda Close to another cistern, next inscription was found on the back of its wall. The
inscription states that the cistern is the gift from Maharathini. The third & the last inscription is
found at the main chaityagruha & according to the paleography belongs to the 1st century BCE.
It is the gift of a banker (shreshthin) from Nashik as his name being inscribed on the façade.

CHRONOLOGY
According to Prof. Nagaraju’s Buddhist Architecture of Western India, it is difficult to determine
the chronology of the caves because of the absence data for reconstruction. However, most of
the mandapa & cisterns could have been made only after the main cave & Chaityagruha. The
inscription of cave no. 7 can be dated to as early as 1st century BC which makes it possible that
the excavation of Bedse began during the early part of the same period. There is no evidence of
any architectural activity after 1st century AD.

SIGNIFICANCE
Bedse is located on one of the important trade routes. It is also the first cave to have a spacious
veranda. Also, it is the earliest cave to have cells inside the chaityagruha. The reason given by
the scholars behind this is the increase in population among the monks. Interestingly, it has
been found that the sculptures & motifs found in these caves are exactly similar with the
terracotta art found in Paithan( Maharashtra), Kondapur( Telangana ) & Sannati ( Karnataka ).
The influence of folk deity is also seen in the main vihara maybe to incorporate the local people
into Buddhism.

Thus, Bedse is one of the important cave to understand the architectural development of rock-
cut caves during early historic period.

PLAN