Barabar Caves - Features & Parts

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : May 18, 2022, 4:48

The Barabar Caves are located in Bihar's Jehanabad district in the hills of Barabar. These caves are the oldest examples of India's Mauryan rock-cut building. There are four caverns in Barabar that date back to Ashoka's era (273-232 BC) and his grandson Dasaratha's reign and were originally constructed for the Ajeevika sect.

Features of the Barabar Caves

The Barabar Caves were constructed by Emperor Ashoka for the benefit of Ajivika ascetics and are hence recognised as the Ajivika sect's birthplace. Barabar Hill's caverns are Buddhist caves. There are a few Hindu and Jain statues as well.

Two kilometres away from the Barabar Hills Caverns (which include four caves) are the Nagarjuna Hills (which have three caves). The Barabar Caves include the Lomas Rishi Cave, Sudama Caves, Vishwakarma Caves, and Karan Chaupar Caves.

Barabar Hill's caverns are the world's oldest rock-cut caves. The Barabar Caves were cut from a single solid granite block.

The Barabar Caves were constructed date back to the Mauryan Empire in the 3rd century BC (322 BCE -185 BCE).

Parts of the Barabar Caves

Lomas Rishi Cave

  • On the southern edge of the Barabar hills are the Barabar Caves, commonly known as the Grotto of Lomas Rishi.
  • The rock-cut Lomas Rishi Cave was excavated out as a refuge.
  • It is the earliest surviving example of the ogee-shaped Chandrashala or Chaitya Arch, a common element of Indian art and rock-cut architecture for centuries.
  • The arch-like exterior of Lomas Rishi Cave is a magnificent replica of monks' wood and thatch houses.

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Sudama Caves

  • Sudama Caves are located on the left side of the Barabar Hills, close to the Lomas Rishi Caves.
  • According to an inscription at its entrance, the Sudama cave was maybe the first cave dug in the Barabar region.
  • The roof of the Sudama cave is arched. It has a rectangular mandap within a vaulted circular chamber.
  • The inside walls of Sudama Caverns are a feat of engineering. A mirror image is created by the granite's incredibly smooth and polished surface.

Vishwakarma Caves

  • The Vishwakarma Cave is made up of two rectangular halls, the same as the other Barabar Caves. Like an expanded porch, the space is exposed to the outside.
  • The other name for the Vishwakarma Caves is Vishwamitra Caves.
  • The Vishwakarma Cave was presented to Ajivikas during Ashoka's 12th year of rule.
  • It is the only cave in the series that excludes inscriptions from after Ashoka's reign.
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Karan Chaupar Caves

  • The northern edge of the Barabar Hills is the location of Karan Cahupar.
  • It is engraved with an Ashoka inscription from the 19th year of his reign.
  • An inscription unearthed at the cave's entrance describes the Buddhist practice of retiring (Vassavasa) during the monsoons.
  • The inverted swastika at the end of the inscription indicates that this cave, one of the four Barabar Caves, was only available to Buddhist monks.

The Barabar Caves exist in a wide range of forms and sizes. There are no other rock-cut caves in India that are as old as these, and others made in succeeding centuries demonstrate their craftsmen's constant growth in technical skill and design. As a result, the Barabar Caves might be considered the beginning of India's rock-cut architectural history.

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FAQs on Barabar Caves

Q1. Who designed and developed the Barabar Caves?

Ans. Emperor Ashoka designed and developed the Barabar Caves.

Q2. Who gave Ajivikas the Barabar Caves?

Ans. Emperor Ashoka gave Ajivikas the Barabar Caves.

Q3. What is the location of the Barabar Caves?

Ans. The Barabar Caves are located in Makhdumpur, Bihar.

Q4. What use did the Barabar Caves serve?

Ans. The Barabar Caves are a major tourist attraction in Gaya, and they provide evidence of the once-dominant religious order Ajivikas.