Pataleshwar caves: A hidden heritage of Pune

I mentioned in my previous post that I had gone ‘site’-seeing when I was in Pune last week. One of the places I went to was the 8th century, rock-cut Pataleshwar Caves.

Situated on Jungli Maharaj Road, the entrance to the Caves is through a small garden with this magnificent banyan tree.

The beautiful banyan tree

In spite of its size, the banyan tree was homely, if you know what I mean. If the grounds had not been wet from the rain, I would have snuggled up to the tree with a book. I had to be content with just hugging the tree and moving on to the Caves.

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) maintains the entire site, which includes the Pataleshwar Caves and the garden. However, for reasons best known to them, the ASI has not provided any information on the Caves apart from putting up signs at regular intervals to warn people from defacing or destroying the property.

So, I pretty much saw the Pataleshwar Caves without understanding its significance or what it was all about. And this is what I saw:

Entrance to the Pataleshwar Caves. The blue board has been put up by the ASI warning people against defacing or destroying the property.
This circular structure or mandapa houses a Nandi
The one and only cave-like corridor in the Pataleshwar ‘Caves’. This is now a Shiva temple
Wall Relief at the Pataleshwar Caves. Though the details are not very clear, an elephant’s outline can be made out.
An incomplete part
A beautifully sculpted animal. I just loved the white, mineral-filled vein on the back of the sculpture. Somehow, it made the sculpture come alive.
A tree-side shrine at the Pataleshwar Caves

I am really puzzled as to why this is called Pataleshwar ‘Caves’. There are no caves, even though the original intention may have been to create rock-cut caves. And the lack of information available on the Caves is frustrating, to say the least. The Wikipedia page on Pataleshwar Caves is about 8-10 sentences strung together with some photographs. There are some good blog posts on the Pataleshwar Caves, like the ones here and here, but they do not throw any new light on the origins or history of the Caves. 😦

I am deeply ashamed to admit that in spite of having studied in Pune for 7 years, I did not even know about the existence of these Caves. Three of these 7 years were spent in Fergusson College, which is just a little over a kilometre from the Caves ! But a visit to these Caves has made me determined that I will explore lesser known places and share them with you, dear reader, here on this very blog.

7 thoughts on “Pataleshwar caves: A hidden heritage of Pune

  1. Caves are becoming a hot favorite with me too after I recently explored the one’s in Mumbai at Elephanta and Kanheri. I certainly will plan to check out these too on my next stop to Pune. We should do an Ajanta Ellora trip next!

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    1. Do that. The Pataleshwar caves are really nice and the circular mandapa is supposed to be one of its kind. There are other caves to check out in Mumbai itself. Have you been to the Mahakali and Jogeshwari caves? I haven’t seen them and I believe that they are in a pathetic state, but I would still like to see them. Why don’t we go together? Pehle mumbai, phir Aurangabad 🙂

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  2. Since last eight years I am traveling daily to Pune city for college and job. I have been to Pataleshwar caves many times. It is really an awesome tourist spot in city for a complete peace of mind. During my college days I used to visit here to study. I just love your article and images are exploring beauty of cave and temple as well. I also have written a small article about the cave please have a look. I hope you like it.

    http://fortsandcavesinindia.wordpress.com/2014/01/25/pataleshwar-caves-ancient-beauty-surrounded-by-metro-life/

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