Dating back to the Mauryan period, Barabar Caves are the oldest rock-cut caves in India. Located in Jehanabad district in Bihar, about 31 north of Gaya, some of the caves have inscriptions that date back to the Ashokan period.
The caves are situated in the Barabar Hills. There are similar caves in the Nagarjuni Hills which are located less than two km away which are also considered as part of the Barabar Caves.
There are many Hindu and Jain sculptures in the caves that are believed to have been carved out of huge boulders from 273 BC to 232 BC. The caves were used extensively by monks belonging to the Ajivika sect.
The caves have huge arches and all the caves have two chambers that have been carved completely out of granite. They have an echo effect that is unique to these caves because of the way they have polished interiors. Of the two chambers, the first is designated for masses to assemble for worshipping shrines known as stupas that were placed in the inner chamber. The inner chambers are now vacant.
There are four caves that form the Barabar caves – Lomas Rishi, Sudama, Karan Chaupar and Vishwa Zopri. Lomas Rishi caves are the most fascinating caves here which has been cut out of a huge mound of granite in such a way that it resembles the wooden huts that the Buddhist monks used to live in. There is a row of elephants that leads towards the stupas in the Lomas Rishi cave.
The Sudama cave has arches similar to a bow and has a circular chamber with a mandap. The Karan Chaupar cave is a single room with exquisitely polished inner walls with inscriptions that date back to 245 BC. The Vishwa Zopri cave has two rooms of rectangle shape that can be reached by the rock cut stairs.
Of these, Lomas Rishi and Sudama are the oldest examples of rock-cut architecture in the country with the architectural designs from the Mauryan period and they went to influence most rock sculptures in the next few centuries. Similar architectural detailing has been found in Ajanta caves and Karla caves along with many other caves in South Asia.
WHERE TO STAY
There are no places to stay near the caves.
WHERE TO EAT
You need to carry food and water while visiting the caves.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The best time to visit Barabar Caves is between October and March.
The average minimum and maximum temperature of Gaya is as given below. The best time to visit Gaya is also specified.