Ankai-Tankai Caves

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The steep hills of Satmala Range south from Manmad hide numerous exciting monuments of nature and history. Some of the most impressive and exciting monuments are twin table-mountains – Ankai and Tankai – whose sheer walls rise up to 275 m high above the surrounding landcape.

Plateaus on the top of both hills have served as fortresses in the past – these are the exotic Ankai-Tankai hill forts. But both hills contain also old and sometimes lavishly adorned rock-cut shrines – Ankai-Tankai Caves, made in the dark basalt approximately 700 – 1000 years ago.

Ankai Caves are simple Hindu shrines located on the plateau of Ankai Hill. Tankai Caves in turn are lavishly decorated Jain caves located at the foot of Tankai Hill.

Tankai Caves

Close to Kusur (Ankai) village, at the southern foot of Tankai Hill there is located a group of 7 – 8 Jain rock-cut caves. Caves are located at the popular tourist route leading to summit of both table-mountains.

Tankai Caves are comparatively small but rich with adornment – unfortunately most of sculptures are defaced now.

First cave has two floors. Front of lower floor contains two pillars, adorned with two sculptures facing each other. Portal leading from veranda into the shrine is covered with stone carvings, overloaded with detail if compared to simple and small hall behind it. The hall behind it is roughly square, supported by four columns with fine carved capitals. Space between columns is adorned with lotus. Style of details hints that the chamber has been made around the 11 – 12th century AD. At the rear wall of the hall there is empty shrine with beautiful adorned portal, with five human figures at each side of door.

Second floor has two rather simple pillars at the front of veranda. The floor in upper storey is perfectly plain.

Second cave also has two storeys. Veranda in the first floor is 8 by 2.7 m large, adorned with large sculptures at both side walls. Front part of veranda is not formed with pilasters – it is closed with perforated wall. Inside the veranda to the left is Indra seated on elephant. This sculpture is not cut from live rock but from large blocks carried from elsewhere instead. To the right is shaped Indrani or Amba – villagers have repainted it turning the deity into Bhavani.

Portal leading into hall is lavishly decorated. Hall is roughly shaped, with small vestibule leading to shrine at the rear wall. Portal leading towards the shrine has few decorations – could be mentioned Tirthankara above the door. Shrine seems to be not completed. Second floor is lighted through holes forming ornament. Interior contains figures of lions, hall is only partly excavated.

The front wall of the third cave is formed like a perforated screen as well. The front hall is 7.5 m deep and just some 2.5 m wide. Rear wall contains sculptures of badly defaced Indra and Amba in a group with dwarves and alligators. Follows a 6.5 x 7.5 m large hall with four pillars and beautiful lotus carving between the columns. Portal leading back to veranda is adorned with wonderful sculptures of naked man – Jain saints (possibly – Shantinath and Parshvanath) – standing in group of people and mythical animals. Style hints that this stone carving could be created around the 12th – 13th century AD.

After the hall follows a shrine with a trap hole into smaller room below. This smaller room contains a figure of Thirtankar inside – it is possible that this shelter was created as a response to Muslim raids against other religions.

In the front of verandah of fourth cave there are two massive square pillars. Verandah is 2.5 x 9 m large. Portal leading into the hall is lavishly adorned. Hall is 5.5 m deep and 7 m wide, with two pillars and two pilasters dividing it in front and rear parts. Rear wall has a bench along the whole width – it serves as a step to the shrine. Cell of shrine has been started but is not completed.

One pillar in verandah contains barely legible inscription from the 11th – 12th century AD.

Other caves are incomplete, smaller and partly collapsed and filled with soil. Still visible is the ornate door portal and image of Tirthankar.

Ankai Caves

Ankai Hill contains three Hindu rock-cut caves – all are roughly shaped and unfinished.

First cave is unfinished ling shrine. It is located inside the second gate on the ascent to the fort. The facade of this cave is rich with stone carvings. Entrance is 5 x 2.5 m large. At each side of entrance is located a small group of sculptures – female in the centre with a dwarf and a maid-servant carrying an umbrella. Forepart of the cave is 4 m deep, then follows cell with shrine. Shrine contains base for the ling, rear wall contains sculpted three-headed bust – trimurti. Style of sculptures hints that cave has been created in the 10th – 11th century.

At the base of Ankai summit there are two more rock-cut chambers without ornamentation. One huge chamber is Hindu hermitage with smaller cell inside. Entrance has two simple pillars, it is 9.5 m wide, cave is 14.5 m deep. Inside, in the left wall there have been started three cells. Cave is divided by brick and mud partitions – possibly it has been used as a storehouse in earlier times. Possibly this cave is the same Hindu hermitage – Ashram – described in other sources, devoted to Agastya Muni – Hindu saint, the first Aryan crossing the Vindhya Mountains and maintained as a temple by Hindu baba – ascetic up to this day.

Next to this cave there is one (according to some sources – several) more cave used by devotees coming here during the sacred month of Shravan in late summer. This is irregular excavation, some 10 m wide, with two rough pillars in front and two more deeper inside. At the front of this cave there is rock-cut cistern.

References

  1. Ankai Tankai, Nashik District Gazetteer, accessed in 6 May 2010.
  2. Ankai-Tankai-Gorakshanath, a photoblog by Rohan Rao, accessed in 5 May 2010.
  3. Ankai-Tankai-Gorakshanath, Picasa, photo collection by sameer, accessed in 5 May 2010.

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Ankai-Tankai Caves 20.187519, 74.453567 Ankai-Tankai Caves

Coordinates: 20.1875 N 74.4536 E
Categories: Hindu shrines, Jain shrines, Rock cut temples and monasteries
Values: Art, Architecture, Archaeology, History
Rank: 8
Address: Asia, India, Maharashtra, Nasik district, 7 km south from Manmad, top part of Ankai Hill and southern base of Tankai Hill
Age: 10 – 13 c. AD
Religion: Jain, Hindu

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