Wonder

Nagarjuni Caves

Megalithic stairs and Gopi Cave, Nagarjuni caves
Megalithic stairs and Gopi Cave, Nagarjuni caves. / Photo Dharma, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

WorldBlue  In short

Often Nagarjuni Caves are joined with the nearby Barabar Caves in one group of monuments. They share many similarities and have several unique peculiarities. Unfortunately the bad criminal situation in the area has not helped to boost the popularity of this mysterious monument.

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GPS coordinates
25.0089 N 85.0785 E
Location, address
Asia, India, Bihar, Jehanabad district, 24 km north of Gaya, 1.6 km east-north-east from Barabar Caves
Ancient shrines, Rock cut temples and monasteries
Alternate names
Nagarjuna Caves, Nāgārjunī
Age
Around 230 BC
Religion
Ajivika

Map of the site

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WorldYellow In detail

Description

Inscription in one of Nagarjuni caves
Inscription in one of Nagarjuni caves. / Photo Dharma, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

Gopi (Gopi-ka-Kubha, milkmaid) is a cave available by stepping up a flight of megalithic steps. It has got the largest chamber in the group. The cave contains several important inscriptions, some of these testify that son of Ashoka – Dasaratha (reigned in 232 – 224 BC) – has devoted these caves to Ajivika – thus these structures might be some 50 years younger than caves at Barabar. It is possible that the cave was used also in the middle of the 19th century by some Islamic eremites. The cave is 12.3 m long and 5.8 m wide, both ends of the chamber are semi-circular. The roof is vaulted, up to 3.2 m high. This cave has polished walls and floor – the famous “Mauryan polish”.

North from Nagarjuna Cave there is the second cave – Mirza Mandi (house of Mirza). Next to it, there is a dry well – this can explain the other name of it – Vahiyaka, Vapuiyaka Kubha, Vapya-ka-Kubha – “cave of the well”. Nearby there are remnants of several buildings – possibly viharas – Buddhist shrines. The cave contains inscription: “The Vahiyaka Cave was assigned by Dasaratha, His Sacred Majesty, immediately after his consecration, to the venerable Ajivikas, for as long as sun and moon endure.” (4) Other caves have similar inscriptions, just the name of the cave is different.

Through an enormous crevice one can reach the third cave – Vedathika Kubha (Vadithi ka Kubha, Vadathi ka Kubha).

Although caves might have been created for Ajivika, it is possible that for some period of time some caves contained Buddhist stupas too.

References
  1. The Barabar Caves. A Passage to India by David Lean – last accessed in 21.03.2010.
  2. Nagarjuni Caves. Indian Travel Portal – last accessed in 22.03.2010.
  3. Adwaita P. Ganguly. India, Mystic, Complex, and Real: A Detailed Study of E.M. Forster’s a Passage to India : His Treatment of India’s Landscape, History, Social Anthropology…. 1990.
  4. Vincent Arthur Smith: Ashoka: The Buddhist Emperor of India. Clarendon, Oxford 1920.

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