Pandav Caves, Pachmarhi
The picturesque Satpura ranges around Panchmarhi town hide countless natural and historical marvels. One of them is right inside the town – five rock-cut temples known as Pandav Caves.
Map of the site
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These rock-cut caves have been made on the low hill and in front of this exciting monument, there has been developed a wonderful garden. Such garden is a rather common sight of many Indian landmarks – a beautiful tradition which would not harm visitor attractions in other countries as well.
Caves have been hewn by Buddhist monks. Different sources mention a different time of their creation – some name that caves have been created as early as in the 1st century AD, others – that caves were shaped in the 6th – 7th century AD or in the 9th – 10th century AD. When looking at the architecture of the facades, one of the later times seems more credible.
The facade of each cave is adorned with several columns and pilasters with simple adornments.
Caves are roughly carved but they are attractive. One of the caves served for meditation – it has got a beautiful echo effect. One more cave was devoted to the Buddhist god of wealth often named Kubera.
In earlier times caves were adorned with paintings but this adornment, unfortunately, is gone now.
On the top of the hill there have been found remnants of brick structure – Buddhist stupa. Here was found a statue of Buddha which is in Bhopal now.
Adventures of Pandavas
Temples though have been named after Pandavas – adventurous brothers from the Hindu epic Mahābhārata.
Caves have even given the name to the town – "Panchmarhi" can be translated like "five caves" or also "five huts".
According to the local mythology Pandavas were living in these caves for 12 – 13 years while hiding away from their enemy relatives. There are several more Pandava Caves in India where reportedly have been hiding these same Pandavas – like Pandav Leni Caves in Nashik, Maharashtra.
One of the brothers, Arjuna, taught music to Nagpati, he wedded the daughter of Nagraj Vasu who lived in Nagdwari some 15 km from Panchmarhi.
According to the legend five caves were made for each of the brothers – Yudhishthira, Arjuna, Nakul, Sahdeo, Bhima, and for their wife – Draupadi.
Draupadi Cave (Draupadi Kuti) is the most spacious and best ventilated one. Bhima’s Cave (Bhim Kothari) is the darkest of them all – Bhima was the toughest of all five brothers.
Sometimes it is mentioned that Pandav Caves in Panchmarhi contain valuable paintings. This is not exactly true – Pandav Caves contained medieval paintings which unfortunately are lost now.
Satpura ranges though contain many other, more ancient rock shelters. Some of these caves contain paintings left by Stone Age people – like Dhuandar Caves, Bharat Neer (Dorothy Deep), Chieftain’s Cave, Hearer’s Cave (Harper’s Cave), shelters in Kites Crag.