Gandharpale Buddhist Cave

The Buddhist Society Of India 
Working President : Dr. Bhimrao Y. Ambedkar 

History: Mahad is one of the important historical towns of the India. It emerged as a big trading port as merchant ships, vessels used to enter the Gandhari River along the Savitri River from Bankot Bay. During Maurya Dynasty it was said that there were 16 janpadas in India. Janapadas had its own significance, it had huge geographical areas. Janpadas enjoys the states level importance of today’s Indian geographical structure. As per references found in Mohopre Buddhist Caves, mahad districts ancient name was “Maharakta Janpada.” So, we can say that there were totally 17 Janpadas in India including mahad janpada. Thus, there are high possibilities that many kings of Satvahans dynasty must have lived in this area.

Being an ancient trade port, in the second half of the 1st century BC, this trade route was connected between the Mahad and the Deccan Plateau due to the significant growth of trade here. The manufactured goods of Konkan like cloth, rice, cashew nut, and coconut were exported. From the 1st century AD to the 12th century, it means there were many Buddhist merchants who were indulge in trading by this port. This Buddhist caves in the “Maharkat Janpada” ie. Mahad District was built for the residence of Buddhist monks. The Tamrapats dated 1094 AD, during the era of king 14th Anantdeva, it was mentioned as “Balipattam or Palaipattamai” to mahad. In the 2nd century, Claudius Ptolemy – The Geography a book by a Greek traveller, Ptolemy, calls Mahad as “Balipattam”, while in the book “Periplus of the Erythraean sea calls it “Palaipattamai”. The references also found wherein, the paley village was mentioned in the research of Forbes (British Officer) in the year 1774 AD. He has written in his notes that “vihara chaityagrihas like Elephanta and Sashti caves are carved in places that are difficult to climb. These caves are located on the ancient trade route of Chaul and ports in Rajpuri Bay, Mahad Varadh hill connected to Ter” (currently in osmanabad district of maharashtra). There is a group of 28 to 30 caves. These caves have three levels structure, it looks like three-storied buildings.


Gandharpale Buddhist Caves and Dr. B. R. Ambedkar: On December 27, 1927, Dr. Ambedkar visited Gandharpale Buddhist Caves. It was surrounded by thick trees like forest. He was deeply engrossed while seeing this ancient treasure of buddhism. After staying at this place for some time, he gave information about the Buddha to his colleagues who came to pay respects to the Buddha. (Source: Bahishkurt Bharat dated 3 February 1928 issue)
Author Dhananjay Keer also writes about Dr. Ambedkar’s visit to the Gandharpale Buddhist caves. He wrote, after the Mahad Satyagraha, Dr. Ambedkar and his colleagues went to see the ancient Buddha caves located at Gandhar-pale village. His eyes were filled with tears when he saw the statues of Buddha, various sculptures, structures, and seating arrangements, from where the Buddhist monks (Arhant bikkhus) delivered the dhamma to the locals. He was so overwhelmed while explaining how Buddhist monks had endured many hardships and served society with selfless wisdom. He exhorted his colleagues not to sit on those seats as those Buddhist preachers would have sat to guide their society properly, so out of respect for them, we should not sit on them.

Architecture: The Gandharpale Caves are located on a hillock adjacent to the village of Gandharpale. These caves are generally at a height of 50-60 meters from the base. The cave group has a total of 28 caves and includes 3 chaityas and 19 viharas. These caves are facing east. In the morning, we get to see a beautiful scene by falling directly on the sun’s rays in the morning. Cave No. 1 is Chaitya Vihar. In the 5th century, a sculpture of Lord Buddha was carved on the site of the stupa. This was the last cave and it is in partial condition. Cave No. 2, 3, 4 and 5 are Bhikkhu Niwas. Cave No. 6 and 7 are partially carved. Cave No. 8 is a bhikkhu niwas. Cave No. 9 is Chaitya Vihara. This place has a stupa and eight bhikkhu niwas. These caves were donated by Kanbhoj Vishnupali. Caves No. 10 to 26 are Bhikkhu Nivas. Cave No. 21 is a chaityagriha and is open from the front. The cave only has a central room for the stupa. On the right wall of the room is an image of a seated Buddha. Cave number 27 is Chaitya Kothi. An inscription at this place mentions that this cave is called Chaitya Kothi. It is mentioned that this cave was donated by Vedasiri, the son of merchant Sangharakshit. Cave No. 28 is a bhikkhu niwas.

Sculpture: In the cave, Uddeshika Stupa was built as a symbol of the Buddha. In Cave No. 1 there is an sculpture of Buddha in Pralambpadasana posture. Enthroned Buddha with Dhamma Chakra Deer image at his feet. On both sides, we can see Padmapani and Vajrapani. At the top are two students. Two human figures hold a crown. Cave No. 21 also has a Buddha image inscribed in a similar manner. 

Inscriptions: There are three inscriptions in the Gandharpala Buddhist Caves, one of which is completely eroded and two are legible. Cave No. 9 has an inscription of Kanbhoj. 

Sidhan kumaras kanbhoas venupalitasaetas
len chetighar overka cha ath 8 vikam niyutan
lenas cha ubhoto pasesu podhio be 2 lensa
aliganke patho cha dato etas kumaras deya
English Translation: In this inscription, Kumar Kanbhoj (Mahabhoja) Venhupalit had donated for the caves, chetiyaghara (chaityagriha), eight ovaraka (Bhikkhu Niwas), one water tank on both sides of the cave and the path to the cave have been donated. This period is generally understood to be the 3rd century AD.

Inscriptions: An inscription in Cave No. 27 mentions a Dhamma donation for the Bhikkhu Sangha by the son of the merchant Sangharakshit. Some parts of the inscription are broken and the letters are lost. 

Siddham gahapatis sethis sangharakhitas putas —–

vadasiriya deyadham lenen chetiya kodhi pa ——

chetani yani lenas petha gorav —- no —-

ti chitehi karo tano chetias gadh —-

ath 8 bhatkamanika ath 8 kodhi pur —-

karasa karane cha lenas savena k—-

English Translation: Vedasiri, the son of Grihapati Shreshti Sangharakshit, has donated the cave, Chaitya kothi. Along with this, the agricultural area below the cave has been donated for the Chaitya Kothi for the noble cause of dhamma. (The reading of the entire inscription is not complete due to the loss of some letters in the inscription.)

Department of Archeology Survey of India: Gandharpale Buddhist Caves are registered as a National Protected Monument under the Mumbai circle of the Department of Archeology of India. 

The Buddhist Society of India: Gandharpale Buddhist Cave is registered as a National Protected Buddhist Monument with the Buddhist Heritage Division of The Buddhist Society of India and Samata Saink Dal, an organization founded by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar. This cave is protected by the SSD Conservation Unit.