Caves, being ages old, talks to us about the history related to the region. The deposits of minerals made over centuries are a sight to behold. Caves can be found anywhere, that brave through centuries of weather and environmental conditions, still standing tall and calling to be explored.
Caves are the natural beauty that lay veiled under darkness. Holding the pasts reserved confined under those darkness, many historians and explorers venture to a hold of answers that lay within. Amongst all the caves that are yet known in India, there are a few that are like the treasure hunts in the wild. Some lay in such remote and offbeat locations. Here are few of the ‘worlds that are under the wraps’ that need to be ventured at least once in lifetime.
Mawsmai Cave, Meghalaya
One of the undisputedly hidden treasures of India lay in the undiscovered region of the entire Northeast. The seven states in the Northeastern region of India, also referred to as Seven Sisters, are abode to the elemental beauties that adorn them. Among which is the Indian state of Meghalaya that houses more than a few caves, some so remote that are yet to be in the radar of the tourists.
Over the years, due to the eyes on the Living Root Bridges in the Cherrapunji area, the Mawsmai Cave has become known to be a part of nearby attractions. Made out of limestone and at an altitude of 1,430m, it is located in the Mawsmai village in the Cherrapunji town of the East Khasi Hills. The Cherrapunji town was previously known as Sohra in Meghalaya. Cherrapunji is about 54kms in distance from the capital city of Meghalaya, Shillong.
The cave is just 6kms far away from Cherrapunji. The Cave of Mawsmai is well illuminated and is made easily accessible for tourists to visit as a part of tourism efforts of Meghalaya. The cave is split up in various passages and has chambers. Surrounded by the forests of the hilly region, it is as if you are on your way to a discovery expedition. The cave is divided into new and old parts. The newest part of the cave is yet to be completely unearthed and illuminated. Cherrapunji being a recipient of abundant rainfall, the caves fill with water in Monsoon. Although the areas are only restricted during the rainy season, it is always best to take precautions.
Kotumsar Cave, Chhattisgarh
Located near the city of Jagdalpur, the Kotumsar Cave is at an height of 560m above mean sea level, and is 200m long consisting of straight and downward passage ways. Previously the cave was referred to as Gopansar Cave, where the term gopan meant hidden. Soon after it was changed to Kotumsar from the nearby village of the same name. Situated to the vicinity of the banks of Kanger River, the cave is formed from the Kanger limestone.
During the months of June till mid of October, the monsoon season lets the cave fill with puddles of water making it inaccessible. Thus it is closed during those few months. The various formations of minerals deposited inside the cave make it look breathtaking. In the Hindu mythology, caves are pious spots for prayers. And so every year, devotees come on a pilgrimage to offer prayers at one of a big stalagmite (mineral) formed inside.
A newly discovered chamber was found in the year 2011. Having difficult routes, it is not accessible for tourists. The biodiversity of the cave is mystical. It is regarded as one of the most live caves present in the Kanger Valley National Park. Kempiola shankari, newly found species of crickets, were found inside. Even, Indoreonectes evezardi, a species of fish that are blind, are found inside the cave.
Naida Caves, Diu, Goa
Encompassing a surface area of 112kms, the island of Daman and Diu borders the Arabian Sea along with the states of Gujarat and Maharashtra. The island is known for its beaches along with historical forts and estates. Coming under one of the least demographic districts in India, Diu has a magnificent fortress that was established by the Portugese in the 16th Century. Right on the outskirts of the Diu Fort, the Naida caves are situated.
The caves are made out of huge tunnels and squarely chopped steps. The caves were likely used by the Portugese in order to transport the necessary items for building. Many claim the caves to be man-made, whereas others believe it to be natural. The elevation of the caves is at a spot which is a lot below than the ground level. The caves are not leveled on the inside and have numerous tunnels connected with one another.
They can be visited at any time of the year. Although, the summers are quite humid and dry, so advised against. The rocks of the caves at a few spots have eroded along the passages marking the age of the caves. The lights that enter the caves dance along the shadows inside creating a panorama of rays of lights in a dark backdrop of the ancient caves.
Saspol Caves, Ladakh
The barren yet picturesque Ladakh is the abode to quite a few caves that are embellished with Buddhist culture. Situated behind the hills of the village of Saspol, the Saspol Caves, are locally known as Gon-Nila-Phuk Cave Temples. It is about 76kms in distance from the capital town of Leh. The caves can be reached via Km371 of the NH1. The route to the caves is only at a 800m trek on the road from there. Although, it is zigzag and not properly paved.
It is said that the chambers of these caves in the region were used as a meditation spot in the 4th Century BC. They were for a long time highly unprotected from the cliff slides prone in the region. The caves of Saspol consist of paintings which date back to the 15th Century CE, and are maintained by the Lekir Monastery.
The paintings in the cave are Buddhist murals from the 10th to 11th century, holding a cultural and historical significance. Cave temples that are painted are a rare sight in Ladakh. Out of the 5 existing painted caves, two are severely damaged and so the Saspol Caves are under the care of World Monuments Watch since the year 2016. The cave with a coat of lime wash and red exterior is identified as the predominant cave among the Saspol Caves.
Barabar Hill Caves, Bihar
One of the earliest and yet still intact India’s rock-cut caves is the Barabar Hill caves in the state of Bihar. The caves date back to the Maurya dynasty as evidence of Ashokan engravings are found. In the Makhdumpur region, the caves are situated in the district of Jehanabad. It is only 24kms at distance from Gaya, Bihar’s second largest city and renowned to be a tourist attraction itself.
The identical looking hills of Barabar and Nagarjuni, have in total seven caves, out of which four are found in the Barabar hills which are referred to as the Barabar Hill Caves. From the inscriptions on the caves, it is believed that they were made during the period of 322BCE to 185BCE. The architectural motifs used in these rock-cut caves inspired other establishments for centuries. It is said that the caves were utilized by ascetics of the Ajivika sect. Since the Ajivika had many resemblances to Jainism and Buddhism, there are also numerous Hindu and Buddhist engravings which were derived later on.
Majority of the caves are carved out granite on the Barabar Hills and they contain two chambers. The every surface in the cave including the sculptures are very carefully polished, which later on was recognized as the architectural signature of the Maurya Empire called Mauryan polish.
Krem Mawkhyrdop or Mawmluh Caves, Meghalaya
Amidst the backdrop of tropical paradise of an ecosystem with various flora and fauna, the Northeast is full of surprises. Spread across the (Khasi, Jaintia and Garo) Hills of Meghalaya, as of the year of 2015, over 1500 caves have been spotted, out of which only 980 caves have been either completely or to a certain extent examined.
Located in the village of Mawmluh, Krem Mawkhyrdop is also known by the name of the village as Krem Mawmluh. The term krem translates to cave. Around the 18th Century, the cave was first reported by the locals of the region. The Mawmluh village is situated in the East Khasi Hills of Meghalaya. It is only about 55kms far away from the state of Meghalaya’s capital city, Shillong.
The main entry to the cave is below the Lum Lawbah. The entrance is easily detectable. As of yet, the 8th longest cave in Meghalaya, is the Krem Mawkhyrdop cave being 7,194m long. The ceiling of the cave is at a height of 2.5ft. The cave is the refuge to the many bats inhabiting it.
Although it is made out of pure limestone called Cherra limestone, the inside of the natural cave is filled with various elements like the rock fossils, stalagmite and stalactite, due to which the rocks look scintillating. This natural cave is paved with surfaces that are slimy, piercing edges of rocks, narrow passageways and puddles of abysmal water. All hidden deep inside and untarnished, waiting for someone valient to recognize it.
Tabo Caves, Himachal Pradesh
On the serene banks of the river Spiti, the town of Tabo lies at an altitude of 3,280m. The legend tied to the town claims that it is more than a thousand years of old. The Tabo Monastery is surrounded by the town of Tabo. It was established in the 996 CE. It is regarded as a national historic treasure of India. Above theis archaic gem of India lay the Tabo Caves. It is believed that these caves protected and sheltered monks during the grinding weather conditions in the Himalayas.
Few of the caves are properly carved and excavated making the inside surfaces of the caves even. The narrow openings of the caves lead to further smaller chambers inside. The ceiling of these caves are void, where you can see the sky from within the caves, for the reasons of ventilation when fire was built inside the cave to keep warm.
Having various rooms connected to one another, historians come to explore these caves in order to make sense of their history and utilization. The caves are visible from the outskirts of the village. They are two storeyed. The rocks surrounding the caves, which are amazingly preserved by the locals, are carved and inscribed.