Bhaja Caves, situated in the Aurangabad district, lie at a distance of 60 km from Pune. The caves are said to be as old as the 2nd century, i.e., the early Theravadin phase of Buddhism, when the Mauryans used to rule over India. The eighteen caves at Bhaja are dedicated to Lord Buddha and have been beautifully carved with His images. Some of the images represent Lord Buddha, in symbolic terms also, and some showcase the incidents surrounding His life. The carved images include that of the lotus or elephant, symbolizing his birth.
Then, we have the carving of the Bodhi Tree under which He attained Nirvana. Other figures include a mound that symbolizes Lord Buddha's death and a throne that serves as a reminder of His life as a prince. The moment you enter the caves, you will come across a temple, which is dedicated to Goddess Ekvira. Standing on the left-hand side of this temple is a soaring pillar, adorned with three lions at its top. Bhaja caves used to serve as the residence of the Buddhist monks and have been ornamented with woodwork-based architectural design.
There are a total of eighteen Bhaja caves near Poona. The twelfth cave is the biggest of all and consists of a prayer hall also. It has been adorned with ancient Buddhist architecture and a tilted vault. One of the popular attractions of the Bhaja Caves is a 'Dancing Couple' structure, situated in the last cave. There are also a number of Viharas at these caves, which are now being used as hostels for the Buddhist monks who are taught here. The incredible stupas adorning the interiors and exteriors of the caves are also worth a mention.
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