Ever since Buddhism arose in India, many monuments, sculptures, Buddha Temple’s construction, started spreading across the nation and worldwide. Siddhartha Gautama, also known as Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, was born in Lumbini, Nepal. Buddhism Starts spreading in India from ancient Magadha, now is modern Bihar. Bagh Caves one of the finest example of Buddhism culture in western Madhya Pradesh of Central India. They are popularly known as Bagh Caves located on the bank of a seasonal stream called Baghani. It is a tributary river for Narmada river.These caves are located at the distance of 95 kms from Dhar district of Central Indian state Madhya Pradesh; these southern hill slopes are famous as “Vindhyas” in Kukshi tehsil of Dhar districts. These caves having an adjacent location of Baghini River, depicts many Buddh sculptures like Viharas stupa and Boddhisattvas.
In the words of John Marshall, "Of the whole vast galaxy of monuments that antiquity has bequeathed to India, none are more remarkable or more interesting to the archeologists than her rock-hewn shrines and monasteries". In a brief description Bagh Caves consisting of 09 wonderful caves, built out of rock cutting, got the dating between 400 and 700 AD. These caves Surrounded with the beautiful paintings, having a similar touch to Ajanta Caves in North of adjoining Maharashtra state. When we discuss about paintings & murals, there are only 2 groups of cave temples where we can see the murals of 5rh century CE or before, first in Ajanta & secondly in Bagh. Ajanta & Ellora have got their due popularity but Bagh caves have been into oblivion from tourists and common people which is its ill-fate. This is described in the history that Buddhist monks were resided here and used this place for meditation and religious congregation.
It is said that these fantastic caves got this name Hindi language in which "Bagh" means Tiger & "Gufa" means Caves. These caves situated among the Vindhyas hillocks and there were a solid presence of tigers at pretty old time, when at the vicinity of the caves there where several tribes and villages and people from these tribes scared to go near these tiger den caves. It is said that for some times under seclusion, abandoned by human beings and get densely forested. Due to presence of water through river, natural den and presence of enough prey in forest area had made these caves an ideal shelter for tigers. Due to presence of tigers, it got its name Bagh Caves.
If we follow the history of 4-5th century, this region was not arid & dry as it seems today. Inscriptions reveals the fact that area has good cultivated land and was more forested too. Inscriptions in Cave-2 given names of 8 villages: Lonakara Pallika, Dagdha Pallika, Devagraharaka, Gavayapaniyaka, Yajnagrahaka, Garjananaka & Pippalojjhara. All these 08 village can be traced even today but some other mentioned names are unidentified. Almost all the inscriptions of Bagh caves commence with the term "Valkha" and "Vikha-adishthana" which means powerbase of Chiefdom. If we study only available epigraphs, we will notice Bhamanical influence but caves gives more stress on Buddhist activities. Their are about 36 epigraphs covering period from AD 358 to 487. Study shows that during that period it was ruled by Guptas. Further study shows that Bagh lost its importance in later years and political center shifted from Bagh to Mahismati (today's Maheshwar town).
It is believed that Bagh Caves were first brought in to light by Lieutenant Dangerfield who published his findings in the transcripts of the Literary Society of Bambay Vol.II in 1818. Later it was visited by Dr. E. Impey in year 1854 who published a detailed account of these in 1856 in the journal of the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society Vol. After that Colonel C.E. Luard refined the information of Dr. Impey with illustrations & images of the site when he visited these caves in somewhere between 1907-08. His accounts were published inthe Indian Antiquary vol.XXXIX in year 1910. In later year 1923, A.K. Haldar visited the site and published his article in Burlington Magazine. After his visit, M.C. Dey visited in year 1925 in which he mentioned Bagh as oasis in the middle of desert. When Archaeological Department was formally set-up in Gwalior city of Madhya Pradesh, clearing & reinforcement work was initiated by M.B. Garde who used a renown artists team to prepare copy of images. These original copies are on display in Gujari Mahal Museum of Gwalior city and their copies are also on display in British Museum, London. Although its conservation work was carried by with good intention but unprofessional work team caused further damage to existing caves. Caves were visited by John Marshall in 1927 and was involved in its conservation work. Archaeological Survey of India carried major conservation work in year 1981 and saved its 05 caves that can be visited now a days. In subsequent year 1982, a bridge was constructed in 1982 making the access to visitors more easier.
These caves are one of rare specimen of rock cut structure in India, but the most amazing thing in these caves are the murals made in tempera technique, very akin to Ajanta Caves in Aurangabad. Walls had strong mud plaster, and paintings were scribbled through this mud plaster very artistically using a thick plaster in brownish orange color, even the same thing applied over ceiling. The work has done in most similar way like Armamalai Caves in south, Tamil Nadu, Ajanta, Ellora and Karla Caves. Many tourists visit this place in addition to have a look over a beautiful, expressing vivid imagination and talent of artists. There is cave number 3 and 4 which is considered best as these paintings are still visible clearly here but one can figure out more in cave number 2, 5 and 7. To prevent further loss of the values of Indian classical art, most paintings were carefully removed in 1982 and today can be seen in Archaeological Museum of Gwalior.
Bagh caves lies in north-west region of Madhya Pradesh. It is close to Dhar and Mandu destinations thus while staying at hotel in Dhar or Mandu, we can visit these caves as excursion tour. It is accessible by road option thus using own cab or car will be of great use in visiting this place.
After reaching either Railway station or Airport of Indore, one can hire private buses for Dhar or hire Taxis from Indore to direct Bagh cave as caves are not adjoining the main way and so a turn will be taken after Sardarpur ahead to Dhar on the way of Bagh caves. It is recommended if you taking bus from Indore to Dhar you should pick the option of private taxi from Dhar to Bagh caves as there is no public transport available for caves separately.
Though Bagh Caves doesn’t have direct air connectivity, thus one has to reach Indore (IDR) first, which is the biggest Airport in Madhya Pradesh in addition to International connectivity, it is 161 km from Bagh caves, Dhar is 64 km far from Indore and caves are 97 km from Dhar so one can cover Dhar fort along the way to Bagh caves. Indore is a financial capital of the central state of India Madhya Pradesh; one can get wide air connectivity for all major cities of India like Mumbai, Bhopal, and Delhi from here or for here. Delhi which is the National Capital of India is at a distance of 894 km from Indore, and from Delhi on can board the flight for any destination abroad or domestic. Major Air carriers like Spice jet, Air India, Indigo, Jet Airways provides their air services widely inbound and outbound for all major Indian cities and abroad.
The nearest railway station is Indore, which is approx 160 km from The Bagh Caves; one can get private transport from Indore to Bagh caves. Indore railway station which is lies in the Chennai-Mumbai rail route. There are few trains from various destinations to Indore.
|Mandu to Bagh Caves||100|
|Omkareshwar to Bagh Caves||175|
|Maheshwar to Bagh Caves||110|
|Dhar to Bagh Caves||95|
|Indore to Bagh Caves||160|
|Burhanpur to Bagh Caves||280|
|Hanuwantiya to Bagh Caves||240|
Bagh Caves lies in eastern part of Madhya Pradesh in Malwa region. This area is comparatively more hot than southers part of Madhya Pradesh thus summer season is more challenging for local sightseeing. Here summer period can be experienced from Mar to July.
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