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Tulja Lena, Junnar - rock cut Buddhist temples

Main characteristics

Coordinates: 19.2083 N 73.8358 E
No:87        (list of all attractions)
Categories:Buddhist shrines, Hindu shrines, Rock cut architecture, Petroglyphs and rock art
Values:Art, Architecture, History, Archaeology
Rank:8
Address:Asia, India, Maharashtra, Pune district, 4 km west from Junnar, steep eastern cliffs of Tuljabai hill
Alternate names:Tulja Caves, Tulija Lena
Age:the 1st - 3rd century AD
Religion:Buddhism
Tulja Lena, plan of Cave 2, India
Tulja Lena, plan of Cave 2 / Plan by J.Burgess, 1880

There are more than 200 ancient rock-cut temples in area around Junnar. Four main groups of these temples are Tuljalena Caves to the west, Shivneri Caves to the south-west, Manmod Caves to the south-east, and Lenyadri Caves to the north.

11 caves of Tuljabai hill

Junnar was an important trade center in the 1st century AD - this town was located on a trade route leading from Satavahana capital Paithan to the rich ports at Arabian Sea. Route was busy transporting carnelian and textiles to the Middle East and Roman Empire, path was often travelled also by ancient Greek and Middle East traders.

Buddhism was spread by merchants and some of the first Buddhist monasteries were established along the trade routes.

Group of 11 man-made caves was constructed also at the eastern wall of Tuljabai Hill (later name). These are dwellings for Buddhist monks (viharas) with unusual round shrine - chaitya. Caves were hewn in the 1st - 3rd century AD - thus they are approximately 2000 years old. Additional values preserved up to this day are remnants of ancient paintings in the shrine - Cave 2 and the unusual architecture of this cave.

Present name of the hill stems from caves themselves - in Cave 3 there is comparatively recent sculpture of Hindu goddess Tulja.

Caves are located in a compact group in eastern side of the hill and are facing to east-north-east. Caves are numbered from south to north.

Tulja Lena, cross section of Cave 2, India
Tulja Lena, cross section of Cave 2 / Plan by J.Burgess, 1880

Description

  • Cave 1 - vihara, consists of main hall and five cells. Front part has collapsed. Two cells are in the left wall of hall, one in the right wall and two in the rear wall.
  • Cave 2 - very unusual chapel - round in plan and domed. It consists of round room with shrine - dagoba - in the centre. Diameter of this cave is 7.7 m, plinth - 1.3 m high and dome additionaly 1.6 m high - thus the height of cave reaches 2.9 - 3 m. Shrine is surrounded by 12 octagonal pillars some 1.2 m from dagoba. Pillars contain traces of paintings - once they were lavishly covered with bright drawings. In fact whole cave was painted - patches of color still are visible on the aisle roof and lower circle of dome.
  • Cave 3 - small vihara. It had the following parts - open verandah, cell to the right, middle room and two cells in the rear wall of middle room. This cave has been turned into a shrine of Hindu goddess Tulja. Two cells in the rear part have been united into one room. This room now contains some 0.9 m high figure of goddess - she has eight hands and is riding a lion.
  • Cave 4 - row of three cells. Walls diving these cells alter have been blown up by gunpowder.
  • Cave 5 - small cell with narrow passage leding to it.
  • Cave 6 - two cells divided by a wall.
  • Cave 7 - partly united with Cave 6. Entrance is adorned with horse-shoe arch and ornamentation. Front wall and left wall have collapsed.Contains relief sculptures of people coming to shrine and some mythical beings.
  • Cave 8 - two cells divided by a wall.
  • Cave 9 - vihara, contains two cells, each with horseshoe arch over the entrance.
  • Cave 10 - dining hall (bhojanamandapa), without a front wall. Right wall contains cell, at the front - several cisterns.
  • Cave 11 - some 15 m from other caves. Consists of passage and a cell in the left wall of passage.

Map

See Tulja Lena, Junnar on the map of India!

 

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