Mandapeshwar Caves - History


The caves are believed to have been built approximately 1500 to 1600 years ago, nearly around the same time as Jogeshwari caves (which were built between 520-550 AD).

Caves in India were only made by Buddhist Monks. There was a group of monks that stayed in the caves that we today know as Khaneri caves. These monks were interested in Arts. This is very clear by looking at the various caves that are found all over the world. Other cultures also liked art and have created painting and structures of stones but the Buddhist were the ones to dig into stones to create livable caves. Back to history of the caves. During the occupation of the khaneri caves, these monks found another location were they created a hall of paintings. The cave was created by the Buddhist monks and then they hired travelling Persian's to paint. The Buddhist monks asked the Persians to paint the life of Lord Shiva. This makes this cave interesting as the it brings many religions together. Buddhist cave, Persian painters and Hindu God.

The name of the cave Mandapeshwar means Mandap Pe Eshwar. Hall of painting of Lord.

The sculptures in these caves are estimated to have been carved out at the same period as of those seen in the more splendid Jogeshwari Caves. It contained the largest Mandapa and a prominent Garbagriha.

This cave has seen through time, World war (when the soldiers used it), General people used to stay, Initial Portuguese used it as a place of prayer. These caves were witness to a series of invasions in the surrounding areas by different rulers and each time the caves were used for a different reason, sometimes even for things like housing by the armies or sometimes by refugees. During this period the monolithic paintings were badly defaced. After the invasion of the marathas in this area in the year 1739, the entire area was pillaged and burnt. This included the college, church and every other building around. For years this area was deserted.

Some where in time the caves were again discovered, it under the protection of Indian Archaeology Society.

Most of what can be seen on the walls now are just broken down remains which are sad reminders of its glorious past. The church (IC Church) and its graveyard are situated above the cave precincts. There are ruins of an old structure above the caves. These ruins belonged to a much older church built in 1544. This ruins is also under protection of Indian Archaeology Society.

There are four rock-cut shrines in Mumbai: Elephanta Caves, Jogeshwari Caves, Mahakali Caves, Mandapeshwar Caves. All four caves have the same sculptures. The sculptures at Mandapeshwar were created beginning in the late Gupta Empire, or some time after. Elephanta Island was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 to preserve the artwork.

Mandpeshwer caves have sculptures of Nataraja, Sadashiva and a splendid sculpture of Ardhanarishvara. It also has Ganesha, Brahma and Vishnu statuettes. These works depicted the mythical tales of the Hindu gods and goddesses. Even today an elaborate sculpture representing the marriage of Shiva with Parvati may be viewed from the large square window at the south end of these caves. The caves are declared as an archaeological heritage site and therefore are protected under law.

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