Shivneri Caves

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Shivneri Caves
Shivneri East facing Group 2.jpg
Shivneri, East face, a cave of Group 2. Junnar, India.
Map showing the location of Shivneri Caves
Map showing the location of Shivneri Caves
Coordinates19°11′56″N 73°51′29″E / 19.1990°N 73.8580°E / 19.1990; 73.8580Coordinates: 19°11′56″N 73°51′29″E / 19.1990°N 73.8580°E / 19.1990; 73.8580

The Shivneri Caves (शिवनेरी लेणी) are artificial caves dug for Buddhist monks circa the 1st century CE. These are now famous tourist attractions located on Shivneri Hill, about 2 km Southwest of Junnar, India. Other caves around the city of Junnar are: Manmodi Caves, Lenyadri, and the Tulja Caves.


The Shivneri Buddhist caves are located near Shivneri Fort on the top of the hill, where Shivaji Maharaja was born. It is a group of 60 caves that were dug in the first part of the 1st century CE.[1] At the beginning of the 2nd century CE, these caves were a flourishing center of Buddhist activities.[2] The caves are essentially made of viharas or small cells, but there are also chaityas.[3] The caves are scattered on three sides of the west-east-south triangle formed by Shivneri Mountain.[4]

The caves are scattered around the hill, and categorized into several groups: the East group (1, 2 and 3), the West group, and the South group. Among the most important caves, we can mention:

    • Cave 26 - a two-story Vihara
    • Cave of 45 - Known as "Bara-kotri", it has 12 cells for resident monks.

South Face: Great Chaitya (Cave 47)[edit]

Cave 47 is on the south face of Shivneri (19°11′40″N 73°51′23″E / 19.194535°N 73.856492°E / 19.194535; 73.856492). It is one of the most remarkable Chaityas of the group. Inside are two rounded pillars and tiered capitals, similar to those found in Nasik (Pandavleni Caves). The hall measures 9.9x6.5m, and has a height of 5.8m.[4] The cave contains a very beautiful stūpa with a "rail pattern" at the top. It is surmounted by a parasol.[4] The ceiling is painted in color, consisting of squares in which are concentric circles of color (orange, brown and white).[4]

The chaitya has on its outer face the dedicatory inscription of a merchant:

A pious gift of charity, designed for the sanctuary, for the good and happiness of all, by Virasenaka, distinguished head of the family, confessor of Dharma

— Inscription of the great Chaitya.[5]

Inscriptions by Yavanas[edit]

Portrait of Menander I, a Yavana king.

Two Buddhist inscriptions made by Yavanas (Indo-Greeks) were found in Shivneri.[6] They suggest the involvement of men of Greek descent with Buddhism in India, as well as the continued presence and gradual acculturation of the Greeks in India in the 1st century CE.[6]

Yavana inscription of cave 54
Yavana inscription, Cave 54

SWASTIKA Φ (σχέδιο).jpg Yavanasa Irilasa Gatâna deyadhama be podhiyo

"Donation of two tanks by the Yavana Irila, in the name of the Gatas "[6]

The inscription starts with the Buddhist symbol of the swastika (non-inverted), just before the word "Yavanasa".

Yavana inscription of cave 67
Yavana inscription, Cave 67.

TriratnaSymbol.jpg Yavaṇasa Swastika.svg
Citasa Gatâna
deyadhama saghe

"Gift of a refectory
for the community (Sangha)
from Cita the Yavana,
on behalf of the Gatas."[6]

The word "Ya-va-ṇa-sa" in Brahmi (Brahmi y 2nd century CE.jpg Brahmi v 2nd century CE.gif Brahmi nn.svg Brahmi s.svg). Here the "na" Brahmi n.svg is written "ṇa" Brahmi nn.svg, with the retroflex consonant "ṇ", which is also a common variation of "n".

On this second inscription, the Buddhist symbols of the triratna and of the swastika (reversed) are positioned on both sides of the first word "Yavanasa".

Other similar inscriptions mentioning donations from Yavanas have been found at Karla Caves, Pandavleni Caves, as well as Manmodi Caves.[7]


  1. ^ Ahir, D. C. (2003). Buddhist sites and shrines in India : history, art, and architecture (1. ed.). Delhi: Sri Satguru Publ. p. 192. ISBN 8170307740.
  2. ^ Brancaccio, Pia (2010). The caves at Aurangabad : Buddhist art in transformation. Leiden: Brill. p. 27. ISBN 9004185259.
  3. ^ Te-kʻun, Cheng (1983). Studies in Chinese art. Hong Kong: Chinese University Press. p. 212. ISBN 9622012795.
  4. ^ a b c d Buddhist Cave Temples Of India, by RS Mauchope, 1933 p. 59-60
  5. ^ James Fergusson and James Burgess (1880) The cave temples of India, p. 251
  6. ^ a b c d The Greek-Indians of Western India: A Study of the Yavana and Yonaka Buddhist Cave Temple Inscriptions, 'The Indian International Journal of Buddhist Studies', NS 1 (1999-2000) p. 87-88
  7. ^ The Greek-Indians of Western India: A Study of the Yavana and Yonaka Buddhist Cave Temple Inscriptions, The Indian International Journal of Buddhist Studies, NS 1 (1999-2000) pp83-109