Goa is more than beaches, bikinis and Bacardi. It has a rich history far, far beyond the Portuguese rule that people are most familiar with. And a perfect example of this is the Arvalem Caves in Sanquelim. Also called the Pandava Caves or Harvalem Caves, the structure lies near the Arvalem falls. It is said that the caves were carved from rock sometime in the 6th century, but nobody is fully certain about its origins despite decades of debate. Scholars believe that the caves were likely built either by early Buddhists or Brahmin pilgrims. Some say that they were the home of the five Pandavas of the epic Mahabharata, during their exile from Indraprastha. ALSO READ: 10 best beaches in Goa
The architecture and design of the caves, which include a Vihara in the south and a sanctuary in the north, suggest that they were built by traveling Buddhist monks from a single rock. However, the four Shiva Lings in the caves suggest that they were either made by Brahmins or converted into Hindu places of worship. The Shiv Lings continue to be worshiped by locals. Carved out of a single enormous laterite rock, the caves have five compartments supported by pillars. There are no paintings or intricate carvings on the walls or ceilings like the famous Ajanta and Ellora caves, which is what makes the Arvalem caves so unique. The Shivlings, meanwhile, are similar in their carving style to those found in the Elephanta caves. CHECK OUT: 10 best churches of Goa that you must visit on your next trip!
Go a little further from the caves, and you will find a massive statue of Buddha, which is one of the reasons why the Arvalem caves are considered of Buddhist origin by so many. But the Shiva Ling in the second cave, which is dedicated to the sun, dates back to the rule of Kapalivarman, a Bhoja dynasty king. A 4th century Buddha head that was once found here and is now in the Goa Museum add further credence to the theory that these are Buddhist caves. Do not miss out on this historical marvel, and visit the Arvalem falls nearby and the Rudhreshwar temple too.
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