Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Dark Hill

Kanheri (kanha = dark and giri = hill) is a high, thickly-wooded hill on the outer edges of Mumbai. From about the 1st to the 9th centuries it was the site of a thriving community of Buddhist monks. It seems from inscriptions on the site that the monks were well supported by merchants who passed the monastery while on their way to and from the ancient ports on Mumbai island and further up the coast. There are about 100 caves cut out of the rocky parts of the hill. I have been there twice and during my first visit I stayed in one of the small caves for a few days. The cistern cut into the rock just outside my cave had crystal-clear water in it even at the height of summer. The silent forest, the birds serenading the dawn and the fabulous view of the city far below all combined to make it a really magical experience. Two jackals that came sniffing around at night and frightened the life out of me were, I must admit, somewhat less magical. My friend Jake Mitra has just come back from India and has been kind enough to send me some of the photos he took at Kanheri. The picture of the elegant little stupas with the cherubs hovering around the pinnacle of one and the banners fluttering in the breeze, is my favorite. Why don’t Buddhists make stupas like that any more? The second picture, of small Buddha image, is testimony to the skill of the artists of the high Gupta. What a masterpiece! If you would like to see more of Jake’s pictures have a look at


desertboot said...

As you can imagine, i was truly delighted to just see your post on the Kanheri caves. How fascinating to think you've actually stayed at them. I once attempted staying overnight at Bedsa and then chickened out at the last minute (actually, a travelling companion of the time did the chickening-out; i am terribly brave), and perhaps sensibly too: the region is rich in leopard sightings! But all that aside, what IS it about these caves that make them such compelling places? A question to ponder at leisure, surely. Db

Justin Choo said...


I often wonder how on earth a continent so large and entrenched with such fervour the influence of the Buddha, could succumb to near complete wipe-out of the "religion" from the pages of history!!??

Perhaps you may want to create a new post on this question.

(your post was done at 4.51 AM?)