Kanheri caves are the best kept secret of the metropolis of Mumbai. I found it very surprising that many people (including the Mumbaikars) have not heard about, or bothered to visit these caves. Kanheri caves are inside the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, which itself is bang in the middle of the crowded, noisy and sprawling suburb of Mumbai — Borivali.
Sanjay Gandhi National Park is a welcome breathing space nestled between the eastern and the western suburbs towards Mumbai’s northern side. Kanheri caves is a 10 minutes drive from the Borivali entrance of the national park on the Western Express Highway. The caves are centuries old and provide a welcome change from the hustle and bustle of the city.
I had to purchase a Rs 36 ticket to get inside the park which is a negligible amount to explore this natural paradise. When I got to the checkpoint, which is right next to the main door, they charged me Rs 50 for one plastic bottle which I was carrying. Well, they refunded the money when I came back with the bottle. They had actually kept it as a security money: just in case someone tries to pollute the forest by throwing the bottle, they won’t give the money back. That is a good initiative by the forest department and I was pretty much impressed by it.
My expectations grew after this as I had read that it’s a world heritage site. It was a herculean task to get inside the caves which are situated almost around seven kms from the check post. I took a local taxi service on the shared basis and, they took Rs 33 as the fare.
When I reached the caves, I had to pay Rs 25 for the entry again. To my sheer surprise, that money was nothing against something which I was going to experience. Yes, what I saw was nothing less than a marvel. I saw an alley full of caves one after another which was exactly like the ones I have experienced in Mahalaxmi and Elephenta. Even these caves were carved out of black salt.
There were remains of Buddhist relics along with a stupa in the first cave. The wall carvings were also there. Some of them clearly looked like they were depicting some scenes from Ramayana while the others were pretty hard to identify. But, even those carvings were telling some kind of story.
As I moved forward, I came across a large hall which was guarded by two long statues of Lord Buddha on either side. It was not an ordinary hall. It seemed to be some kind of room where monks used to worship in the past. I sat down there in solitude reciting “Aum namah Shivaya “. Believe me or not, these words healed my inner self with all those echoes acting as a music to my ears.
As I moved forward, I saw that not only was this structure carved out of rocks, but it had a very good drainage system as well as tanks to store water into. The creators of these caves would have been really good artists, indeed!.
Kanheri caves include something near to 100 caves ( impossible to explore within a day ) and with a nearby waterfall (seasonal) , it becomes my favourite hot spot for photography. One more thing, when here, do walk to the top side of the caves and try to get as high as possible. You might be able to see the Tulsi or Vihar lakes from the highest elevation points on a good day.
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