The Buddhist caves at Kolvi

It is a little after 10 am on a November morning in 2016 when we arrive at the base of the hillock that houses the Kolvi Caves, one of the three Buddhist rock-cut cave sites in Rajasthan. A board displaying some rather sketchy information about the caves reassure us that we are in the right place.

It says that the Kolvi Caves was a monastic complex of about 50 rock-cut caves, most of which have collapsed today and details have disappeared due to natural weathering. The presence of a big rock-cut stupa in the shape of a structural stupa, as we know it today, is considered to be an important and notable feature of the Kolvi Caves. It has been suggested that the absence of Bodhisattva figures at the site indicates that this was a site of Buddhist monks of the Hinayana (or Theravada) sect. The board doesn’t mention an important detail — the age of the Caves.

Apart from my friend Niti, our car driver and me, there is no one else around at the site. I take a minute to appreciate the surroundings and the location. The blackish red Kolvi hillock, which is entirely composed of laterite, rises quite suddenly and dramatically from a flat landscape.

A flight of steps, probably built over a pre-existing path, leads to the top of the hill where the Caves are located. A short climb later, Niti and I are opening the gate that leads into the cave complex.

Kolvi Caves, Buddhist Caves, Indian Art, Indian Aesthetics, Mahayana, Rajasthan. Travel, Hadoti Trip, Hadoti, Laterite
The approach to the Kolvi Caves – steps and a railing have been provided for easier access.

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Chintamani Lokeshvara , Museum Treasure, Museum Exhibit, Himalayan Art Gallery, CSMVS, Mumbai, Nepal, 19th Century

Museum Treasure: Chintamani Lokeshvara

The Himalayan Art Gallery at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) reopened earlier this year after a period of extensive renovation and restoration. For some reason, I had never entered the gallery in its previous avatar and the re-opening and ensuing write-ups in the newspapers gave me the perfect chance to remedy that.

One rainy afternoon in August this year saw me at the Himalayan Gallery, which has a collection of prayer wheels, a Buddhist shrine, sculptures, jewellery, tangkhas and more, displayed there. The gallery is bright and colourful and the soft Tibetan music played in the gallery transported me to another time and place.

Among all the exhibits on display, what caught my eye was a rectangular wooden plaque, which at first glance seemed to be heavily carved. A second, and closer, glance revealed that not only was the wooden plaque intricately carved, it was studded with gems of all shapes and sizes. The information plaque read: Chintamani Lokeshvara.

Chintamani Lokeshvara , Museum Treasure, Museum Exhibit, Himalayan Art Gallery, CSMVS, Mumbai, Nepal, 19th Century
Chintamani Lokeshvara, Jeweled Plaque, Nepal, 19th Century CE

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