The Karla caves are example of excellent Buddhist architecture and probably the best example of cave temple art. These are the rock cut caves dating back to the 160 B.C. Karla caves are among the oldest and the largest Buddhist caves in India. They are set in difficult terrain indicating the extent Buddhism had spread during this period. They are marvelous manifestation of devotion, faith, and strong will of those who created them with such mastery in a nearly in assessable terrain. The main cave at Karla group of caves is a Hinayana chaitya (temple), famous for some of the best scientifically preserved Buddhist art forms.
Architecture : The chaitya at the Karla caves is 40 m long and 15m high. The designs, which are carved in the rocks, imitate those of wooden architecture. Its rooftop is built of teakwood and looks like an umbrella. This is a very unique feature not found in other Buddhist caves around the world. To the amazement of all this structure is in a perfectly fine condition .it is the only place in India where 2000-year-old woodwork can be seen.
At the entrance of the main cave towards the right side, one can find the temple of goddess Ekvira. People from distant places come to pay a visit to the local deity during its annual fair in April and during Navratri. The left side of the chaitya has a magnificent pillar 15 meters high with lion capital at its top. The pillar resembles that of the Ashoka pillar at Sarnath. The main hall at the chaitya is 124 by 461/2 ft. its height is 45 ft. the size along with 37 pillars which form the aisles having sculptures rich women and men seated on kneeling elephants give it a grand look. Inside the cave there is a shrine of Buddha. One of the interesting features present inside the cave is the great sun window. It was so constructed that the light falling on the window gets diffused in a unique manner creating a wonderful ambience. The sunlight coming in through the windows present in the walls falls exactly on the shrine, making it an amazing sight to watch out for. The light and shade effect thus produced at the Karla caves has very few parallels.
The Karla caves are beautifully depicted with figures of many animals and humans having important significance. These caves belong to the Hinayana period where Buddha was not given a human form but was represented through different symbols strongly associated with different phases of his life. Some of the significant symbols depicted on the walls of the Karla caves representing Buddha are the lotus, elephant, the Bodhi tree, the wheel of law which he set in motion in Sarnath, and Stupa. The great Karla caves excavated by Buddhist monks were once an important pilgrimage for Buddhist all over the world.
- Air : The caves can be reached from either of the nearest airport which, Pune 55km and Mumbai 120km.
- Rail : Karla is connected to both Mumbai and Pune through rail routes. The local Malavli rail station is in Bhaja village, which is located about 5 km south of Karla town.
- Road : From the city the caves can be reached after a steep climb of 20 minutes. Buses are also available from both Mumbai and Pune.one can also approach the place from Lonavala by taking local buses.