Top 12 Cave Temples in India

The diverse land of India has much to explore. While the list is unending as always, we focus on the caves of India in this blog. India is home to a number of rock-cut cave temples, many are still unexplored in the thick forests and untouched valleys of India. The rock-cut cave temples in India truly represent the glorious culture and history of India. There are some of the finest man made cave temples that exhibit the rich cultural heritage and exquisite rock-cut cave architecture in India. Almost all the caves are now maintained under the Archeological Society of India. Nothing can be more exciting than exploring the beautiful caves of India. Go explore!

Elephanta Caves, Mumbai

Elephanta CavesEntry fee:

  • INR 10 per person for Indians
  • INR 250 per person for Foreigners

Opening and closing timings:

  • All days of the week except Monday: 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM

Locally known as Gharapurichi Leni, the Elephanta Caves are a complex and one of the finest specimen of rock-cut cave temples in India located on the Elephanta Island, 10 km from the city of Mumbai. The island houses two groups of caves—the first one has five Hindu caves and the second one has two Buddhist caves. The first one is the larger group that contains rock cut stone sculptures. The group depicts the Shaiva Hindu sect, which is dedicated to Lord Shiva. These sculptures date back to the 5th and 8th centuries.

An hour-long ferry ride from Mumbai takes you to this UNESCO World Heritage Site. The entrance to the cave is through a large hall that is supported by large pillars. The hall has a 6.3m (18 ft.) Mahesamurti statue that depicts Lord Shiva in his three-headed form: as the creator, the protector and the destroyer. Other than this main sculpture of Lord Shiva, there are many more sculptures of Lord Shiva that can be found on the doorways and pillars.

A dance festival is organized every year in the month of February at Elephanta Island by Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC). Read more

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Badami Caves, Karnataka

Badami CavesEntry fee:

  • No entry fee for children up to 15 years
  • INR 10 per person For Indian Nationals
  • INR 100 per person For Foreign Nationals

The beautiful complex of the Badami Caves is located at Badami in Karnataka. The temples feature Badami Chalukya architecture which was initiated during the 6th century. The caves were built back in the 6th century during the regime of the Chalukya Empire. There are a total of five caves in the complex. While Cave I is dedicated to Lord Shiva, Cave II and III are dedicated to Lord Vishnu and cave IV is dedicated to the Jain saints. The fifth cave used to be a Buddhist shrine. To enter the cave, one needs to crawl down because of its small dimensions. The popular Badami Cave Temples feature a blend of north Indian Nagara and south Dravidian architectural style.

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Ajanta Caves, Aurangabad

Ajanta CavesEntry fees:

  • INR 10 per person for Indians
  • INR 250 per person for foreign tourists
  • INR 25 per camera for photo camera/ video camera

 Opening and closing timings:

  •  All days of the week except Monday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM

Located in the Aurangabad district of Maharashtra, Ajanta Caves are 30 rock-cut caves that have been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. These rock-cut cave temples were built back 2000 years ago and till now, preserve the cultural heritage of the country. The caves take religious influence from Buddha and the Jatakas that can be seen through the paintings.

All the shrines in the caves are dedicated to Lord Buddha and his monasteries. This is why, the caves hold immense religious importance among the Buddhists. People from all over the world visit the caves to pay homage to Lord Buddha. Ajanta Caves are considered one of the finest examples of Buddhist architecture. Read More

Mawsmai Caves, MeghalayaMawsmai Caves

Located at a distance of 6 km from Cherrapunji, the Mawsmai Caves are one of the most popular caves of India located in the Northeastern state of Meghalaya, the abode of the clouds. The caves are well-known for being the only caves that have much light to enable tourists to explore its natural formations. These limestone caves are very long. However, only 150 meters of it is open for tourists.

The cave houses a number of stalactites and stalagmites caves in different shapes and forms. These are a result of years of natural abrasion and water dripping. Mawsmai cave is a cave that is easily accessible and one of the few caves in the country that be explored without a guide. Read more

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Bhimbetka Caves, Madhya Pradesh

Bhimbetka CavesEntry fee:

  • INR 10 per person for Indians
  • INR 100 per person for foreign tourists

Opening and closing timings:

  • Open all days of the week 7:00 AM – 6:00 PM

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bhimbetka caves and shelters are located in the Raisen district in Madhya Pradesh. The caves take one back to the beginning of mankind through its rock paintings. The place is known to exhibit the earliest traces of human race on the Indian subcontinent.

This is why, the region holds a key position in the history of human race. The caves and shelters some buildings that date back to the Stone Age and are nearly 30,000 years old. The entire Raisen region is dotted with thick green forests which adds to the beauty of this place. Read more

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Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves, Odisha

Udayagiri and Khandagiri CavesEntry Fee:

  • INR 5 per person for Indians
  • INR 250 per person for foreign nationals

 Opening and closing timings:

  • Open all days of the week from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM

For all those history buffs, Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves is the place to be. The caves are well-known for offering an insight of India’s rich past. These multi-tiered rock-cut caves depict the role of Jainism in the history of Orissa. These caves were specially built on the orders of the great Jain king Kharavela for Jain Monks. Though the caves were beautifully designed with carved figures of women, elephant, flowers and athletes, the art is no more present in the caves.

However, whatever is left is enough to speak about those times. As there are no signposts present at the caves, it is best to take a tour guide along with you. Cave 4 or Rani Gufa has damaged structures from those times. The star highlight of the caves is Cave 10, which is the Ganesh Gufa. The Gufa houses a beautiful Ganesha statue.

Ellora Caves, Aurangabad

Ellora Cave

Entry fees:

  • INR 10 per person (Indians and Citizens of SAARC and BIMSTEC Countries)
  • INR 250 per person (Foreigners)
  • INR 25 per camera video photography

Opening and closing timings:

  • All days of the week except Tuesday from Sunrise to Sunset

Located in Aurangabad, Ellora Caves is one of the largest rock-hewn monastic-temple complexes in the whole world. Natively known as ‘Verul Leni’, Ellora Caves is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The complex has 34 caves that include Hindu, Jain and Buddhist cave temples. These cave temples were built back in the 4th and 5th centuries AD. There are 12 Buddhist caves to the south, 17 Hindu caves in the center, and 5 Jain caves to the north. The main attraction of the Ellora caves is the Kailash temple, which is believed to be a replica of Lord Shiva’s celestial abode on Mt. Kailash.

The caves are considered one of the finest examples of Indian rock-cut architecture. Ellora caves are well-known for displaying the skills of Indian craftsmen to the entire world through their architecture. Read more

Karla Caves, Lonavala, Maharashtra

Karla Caves in LonavalaEntry fee:

  • INR 5 per person

Opening and closing timings:

  • Open all days of the week 9:00 AM – 5:30 PM

Karla Caves are popular rock-cut cave temples located on the Pune-Mumbai highway in Maharashtra. The rock-cut cave temples in India are considered one of the oldest caves featuring early Buddhist temple art. The entrance of the caves is grand and has an arch in the shape of a horseshoe. Chaitya, the main cave of Karla has 37 pillars and stands above a water jar. The caves were used as a spiritual retreat by Buddhist monks back in those times.

The caves were built back around 100 A.D. by Buddhist nuns. The Karla Caves house beautifully carved chaityas and viharas. While Chaitya was used as the prayer hall, Viharas was the place where monks used to stay throughout their meditation period. The Chaitya Hall is 45m in length and 14m in height, which makes it one of the largest rock cut Chaityas of India.

The walls of the chaityas and Viharas feature sculptures of animals such as lions and elephants. Metal jewellery and ivory tusks have been used in for decorating these sculptures.

Pataleshwar Cave temple, Maharashtra

Pataleshwar Cave templeEntry fee: No entry fee

Opening and closing timings:

  • Open all days of the week from 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM

Dating back to the 8th century, Pataleshwar cave temple is one of the most popular rock- cut cave temples of India. Located in the heart of Pune, Pataleshwar Cave temple is dedicated to Lord Pataleshwar (God of Underworld) and Lord Shiva. The most striking feature are cave temple is the unique sound of the bells.

The architecture of the temple cave looks similar to that of the Elephanta caves. The shrine of Lord Shiva forms the main attraction of the temple. The pillars of the temples are extremely beautiful and unique. There is a museum in the cave temple that is listed in the Guinness Book of Records. In the museum, there is a grain of rice which is believed to have around 5,000 characters inscribed on it.

Another highlight of the temple is Shiva Linga Pooja that is organized with immense devotion. A number of devotees visit the temple to attend this Pooja and be a part of the grand celebration.

Borra Caves, Andhra Pradesh

Borra CavesEntry fee:

  • INR 40 per person for adults
  • INR 30 per person for children
  • INR 25 per person camera

 Opening and closing timings:

  •  All days of the week 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Located in Anantgiri Hills, Borra Caves are the key highlight of Vishakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh. Borra caves are natural caves that are believed to be originated from the Gosthani River that flows through the caves. Because the river flowing over the limestone area, stalactite and stalagmite formations can be seen in the caves.

On a visit to Vishakhapatnam, you really can’t miss visiting these beautiful caves. Set at a distance of 1400 meters above sea level, Borra Caves is well-known for holding immense archaeological and historical. The place also has historical and religious significance. In the year 1807, William King George from the Geological Survey of India found some Paleolithic implements which were believed to be around a million years old.

The caves also hold religious importance as the cave houses a Shivalinga and the idol of the holy cow Kamadhenu that are considered to be highly sacred by the locals. Read more

Dungeshwari Cave Temples, Bihar

Dungeshwari Cave TemplesPopularly known as the Mahakala Caves, Dungeshwari caves are located around 15 km from Bodhgaya. The caves hold immense religious importance as it is the place where Lord Buddha meditated before reaching Gaya. Today, the caves are one of the most popular caves of India. People who follow Buddhism and are looking for some peace of mind visit the caves for meditation.

Lord Buddha is believed to have spent a number of years at the Dungeshwari caves before moving to Bodhgaya. The caves now have a number of temples and sanctuaries dedicated to Lord Buddha that are visited by pilgrims every day. The ambiance of the caves is unique and forms the main attraction of the caves.

Belum Caves, Andhra Pradesh

Belum CavesEntry fee:

  • 50 per person adult (Indians)
  • 300 per person adult (Foreigners)

Opening and closing timings:

  • Open all days of the week 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM

The second largest caves of India, Belum caves are naturally created caves that were discovered back in the year 1884 by a British surveyor, Robert Bruce Foote. The famous Belum Caves are located in Kurnool District of Andhra Pradesh. In the year 1988, the caves were explored by a team of German archaeologists and the caves were given a protected status. In the year 2002, the caves were opened for the tourists.

With constant flowing water on the limestone deposits of the caves, stalactites and stalagmites were formed. The caves are 3 km long and the depth of the caves is 150 ft. below ground level. The leftovers of the caves date back to the Buddhist era which proves that Buddhist monks once lived in these caves. Some other relics of the caves tell that the caves were inhabited during 4500 BC. There is an entrance chamber and a maze of sixteen paths at the Belum Caves. Read more

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Thinking this world is a gold mine, Tanya Malik believes, the more you travel, the more you discover. Travel Writer one day, shutterbug the other, author in making, she lives for love, food and travel. Expect tons about scenic beauty and food from the write-ups of this nature lover and foodie.

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