Sunday, 29 August 2010

Ancient caves-Panhalekaji

Panhalekaji is a small village about 22 Km south-east of Dapoli (see map given below) in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra.Currently these caves are in ruins .Although the Archaelogical department has put up a notice board at this site, declaring it to be a protected monument.
I approached this place from Ranavi(
Guhagar) and the route was
Ranavi-Weldur-Dhopave jetty-Dabhol-Male-Kelil-Panhalekaji.

The map
(not to scale)

The caves are situated in the hills adjoining the river Kotjai.This group of 29 caves is situated in the pleasant forest adjacent to the river.These caves have sculptures of the Hinyan Buddhist sect, Tantrik Vajrayan sect, and the Nath sect.Apart from these, there are statues of Ganpati,Lakshmi,Saraswati,Shivling etc.It is said that , the work on these rock caves had started in the 2nd or 3rd century and in those times Hinyan Buddhism was in existence.The work was further carried out in 8 to 11 century AD.Works in the later stages indicates the influence of Tantrik Vajrayan sect.During this period some original Hinayan sculptures were modified and made suitable for secret tantrik rituals.Also some new Tantrik deities were established.After the 11th century, King Aapraditya (1127 to 1148 ad) of the Shilahar dynasty captured this area from the Kadambaas and put it under the control of his son Vikramaditya.In those times , these hills nestled a fort called "Pranalak Durg" and it was the capital of Vikramaditya.Some remanants of this fort can still be seen today.
These ancient caves were discovered in around 1970 due the efforts of Shri.Anna Shirgaonkar of Dabhol.He found a engraved copper-plate in the village of Panhalekaji.This gave a clue for the existence of an ancient monument in this area.Later excavations were done with the help of Archaelogical department from Pune.This information is basically from the writings of Dr.N.M.Deshpande.
(Ref. Marathi book- Saad Sagarachi-Dapoli, Bookmark Publication,Pune)
Sceneries on the way to Panhalekaji.

The road from Dabhol to Panhalekaji.

The seasonal monsoon flowers blooming on the rock patches of Konkan soil.

The remanants at Panhalekaji caves.

A Ganesh idol inside one of the caves at Panhalekaji.

Caves detiorating due to monsoon effects.

Currently there is a guard posted at this place.I visited this place in the monsoons and entry in most of the caves was restricted due to moss , bats and waterfalls everywhere.A local villager informed that after the Ganapati festival this area is cleared and the caves are made in a good condition.Now lockable doors are made for some of the caves and many of the artifacts are safely stored inside the caves.This is a very isolated place and no hotels,restaurants, or automobile services are available nearby.The Panhalekaji village has a shop where tea may be available on request.
The surrounding forests, hills, the river and the tranquil atmosphere makes this visit a memorable one.

It can be a nice place for a one day camping/picnic. The caves are just overlooking the beautiful river and thick forest all around.Picnic will not be possible only during monsoons.Also about 8 km from this place is the hot water spring at village Unhavare.

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