The Barabar Caves are the oldest surviving rock-cut caves in India, mostly dating from the Maurya Empire (322–185 BCE), some with Ashokan inscriptions, located in the Makhdumpur region of Jehanabad district, Bihar, India. The caves are situated in the Barabar Hills. There are similar caves in the Nagarjuni Hills which are located less than two km away which are also considered as part of the Barabar Caves. Between second century BC and first millennium AD, Rock-cut architecture had become the key feature of Indian architecture. The roots of this architecture are found in Maurya era. Though Buddhists themselves, they allowed various Jain sects to flourish under a policy of religious tolerance. 

The caves were used by ascetics from the Ajivika sect, founded by Makkali Gosala, a contemporary of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, and of Mahavira, the last and 24th Tirthankara of Jainism. Also present at the site are several rock-cut Buddhist and Hindu sculptures. The caves have huge arches and all the caves have two chambers that have been carved completely out of granite. They have an echo effect that is unique to these caves because of the way they have polished interiors.  Most caves at Barabar consist of two chambers, carved entirely out of granite, with a highly polished internal surface and exciting echo effect. The first chamber was meant for worshippers to congregate in a large rectangular hall, and the second, a small, circular, domed chamber for worship. This inner chamber probably had a small stupa-like structure, at some point, though they are now empty. 

Barabar Hill contains four caves, namely, Karan Chaupar, Lomas Rishi, Sudama and Visva Zopri. Sudama and Lomas Rishi Caves are the earliest examples of rock-cut architecture in India, with architectural detailing, made in the Mauryan period, and became a trend the subsequent centuries, like the larger Buddhist Chaitya, that were found in Maharashtra, as in Ajanta and Karla Caves, and greatly influenced the tradition of South Asian rock-cut architecture. Barabar caves have magnanimous arches which are few in ancient history.

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Lomas Rishi cave: 

Lomas Rishi caves are the most beautiful and alluring caves. The caves have been cut out from a huge granite rock.  It has an arch-like shape facade that imitates contemporary timber architecture. On the doorway, a row of elephants proceed towards stupa emblems, along with the curved architrave. 

Sudama cave: 

Sudama Cave was dedicated by emperor Ashoka in 261 BC and consists of a circular vaulted chamber with a rectangular mandapa, Which looks just like a bow and there is a circular chamber. look just like a bow and there is a circular chamber.

Karan Chaupar:

The Karan Chaupar cave consists of a single rectangular room with polished surfaces, contains inscription which could be dated to 245 BCE. 

Visva Zopri: 

Fourth cave – Visva Zopri can be reached by simple steps cut in stone – “Ashoka Steps” 500 – 1000 meters northwest from the other three caves in the south-facing cliff face. There are two rectangular caves over there. There are two rectangular caves over there.

The best time to visit Barabar Caves is between the month of October and March. 

How To Reach: 

By Air: The nearest airport Gaya (31 km)  and Patna (105 km), The Gaya airport is a domestic airport but at the same time is connected to international cities of Colombo and Bangkok.

By Rail: The Nearest Railway station is Gaya (20 km)

By Road: Barabar caves are well connected by roadways to other major places such as Patna(105 km), the state capital of Bihar, Bodh Gaya(12 km). 

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Posted in: Bihar, India

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