And to think that all this while I had taken it for a dirty, dingy place. Don’t know how I got this wrong notion. But in all these years of Mumbai living, I had never been too keen to go to Kanheri Caves thinking that it isn’t worth a visit. Boy, was I wrong!!
For, the Kanheri caves are beautiful. They truly are. And they become all the more beautiful during rains. Perched on a hillock about 15 minute drive from the entrance of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (from the Borivali side), there are about 109 caves in all. These had all been cut from a single piece basalt rock way back in the first to tenth century BC. Yes, they are as old as that!!
If you plan to trek it up from the main entrance of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Good Idea!! Go right ahead. Although you may be irritated by speeding cars/bikes, which too are on their way to the caves. In case you prefer to drive up, make sure you do not go all the way up to the foothills of the caves to park your car. It often gets choked there, owing to the heavy rush. Suggest you park a good half a kilometre downhill so that it is easier for you to get out later. If however, you plan to spend an entire afternoon there, you may park at the foothills. For, after 5pm everybody will have to compulsorily leave.
A flight of stairs lead you up to the caves. Not many. So you wouldn’t be out of breath, if that’s what you were thinking!! I was amazed by the cleanliness of the place, despite it being a very very crowded Sunday evening. Thank God they maintain the place. There is a tea/snack stall too in the courtyard. Wet your parched throats here after all that climbing and trekking.
Once at the cave precincts, you will see and marvel at the ‘rooms’ or the viharas that had been chiselled out for prayers, living, studying and meditating by Buddhist monks ages ago. The prayer hall with its high columns still looks magnificent. On either side of its entrance, are giant-like statues of Lord Buddha. Adjacent to it, there is the temple with the stupa.
Climb the stairs adjacent to the temple, cross the bridge and climb the hill on the other side. You will get a good view of the caves from here. Didn’t I say you wouldn’t have known so many existed? And the little waterfall below is good enough to drive every fun-loving Mumbaikar to make a fool of himself. Nobody cares though. And guess what? You quite like the revelry and for once, you feel that perhaps it is this foolishness that helps them drive away the stress they otherwise endure in their everyday lives.
In case you are still game for some more climbing, trek up to the top of the hill. You will be suitably rewarded. Faraway in the distant horizon, you will be able to see the spikes of the Pagoda in Gorai. Look further. There’s a thin line gleaming right at the end. That’s the sea!! Mumbai does look peaceful and content in the greens here. Can’t believe how just beyond the boundary walls of the park, the rat race continue. Sigh!!
Come now, plan for it this weekend. The rains have been good in the last 3-4 days.
Also read about Sanjay Gandhi National Park