In the land of Buddha, around 18km north of Gaya lies India’s oldest rock-cut caves known as Barabar caves. The caves were built in 3rd century BCE, during the reign of the Great Mauryan emperor Ashoka. The caves were used by the ascetics from the Ajivika sect(a Jain religious order). Though Ashoka himself followed Buddhism, he allowed other religion to flourish under his rule and Barabar cave is proof to his religious tolerance.
How to reach the caves
The caves are located in the Jehanabad district of Bihar which is well connected by rail and road. Nearest railway station is the Jehanabad railway station. One can also take a short yet a bumpy ride from Gaya(which is extensively connected ) to the Barabar caves.
About the cave
The caves are situated on the Barabar hills and there is a stairway that leads up to the caves.
Barabar hills has 4 caves -Karan Chaupar, Lomas Rishi, Sudama and Visva Zopri. Sudama cave is the oldest of all. The caves also find their mention in E M foster’s book-“A Passage to India”. Though in the book the author refers to the caves as Malabar caves.
According to the inscriptions, the entrance to the caves is crafted in the ancient Egyptian style. The caves are cut from a single granite boulder. The interior of the Sudama caves is simple in nature keeping in view the preferences of the Jain monks who lived here. However, the exterior of the Lomas Rishi caves are exquisitely carved with lattice work and rows of elephants paying homage to the Buddha stupas. The interior of the caves consists of two rectangular halls, a bigger outer hall, and a smaller inner hall. The inner walls of the cave remain highly polished even after thousands of years. The cutting of the cave is razor sharp and it is very difficult to believe that such high level of engineering skills existed in those days. One peculiar feature of the cave is the echo inside the cave which sustains itself for about 3 seconds. So if you add a sound before the previous echo dies, you will hear a combination of two consecutive echoes which is indeed an astounding experience.
If you ever plan to visit India’s magnificent historical monuments, then Barabar caves should definitely be on your list.