Saturday, 13 April 2013

Bagh Caves full details of Dhar district in Madhya Pradesh

Bagh Caves pics

Bagh Caves Introduction

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.

Bagh Caves History

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).

Art & Architecture

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.

It is believed that Bagh Caves were first brought in to light by Lieutenant Dangerfield who published his findings in theTransactions 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.

The most famous features of Bagh Caves are murals made in tempera technique. Walls and ceilings to be painted were covered with a thick mud plaster in brownish orange color. Over this plaster there was done lime-priming and then paintings were laid. Similar technique was used also in Armamalai Cave further south, in Tamil Nadu. At the time of their creation the murals of Bagh were lively, beautiful, expressing vivid imagination and talent of artists.
As these murals were discovered in 19th century, they caused much admiration. During the removal of grime, soot and other dirt there were discovered paintings of unexpected beauty and sophistication - unfortunately at the time of discovery only partly preserved in Cave 3 and Cave 4, some remnants of paintings are also in caves 2, 5 and 7. Thanks to darkness inside the caves colors of paintings remained more or less unchanged. Sophistication and richness of these paintings surpasses even the paintings in Ajanta, Ellora and Karla Caves. Murals of Bagh certainly represent "golden age" of Indian classical art.


A copperplate inscription of Maharaja Subandhu, recording his donation for the repair of the vihara was found at the site of Cave 2. Though, the date of the Bagh inscription is missing, his Badwani copperplate inscription is dated in the year (Gupta era) 167 (487). So the repair of Cave 2 took place in the late 5th century.

Description of caves
All five caves are monasteries - viharas. Shrine - chaitya - is located in the back of viharas. Around the central hall of caves there are smaller cells where monks lived.

Cave 2 (Pandav Cave) is the largest and structurally the best preserved one. Hall is held by 24 massive pillars. Here was found copper plate with inscription about the donation for repair of vihara by Maharaja Subandhu in late 5th century AD. He donated to eight nearby villages to upkeep the caves.

Cave 3 (Hathyakana) contains remnants of murals.

Most significant is Cave 4 - Rang Mahal (Rangmahal, Rangmahala, Palace of Colors, Kalayan). This cave has the most beautiful murals on the walls of portico. This includes painting of Bodhisattva Padmapani, Mushroom paintings.

Cave 5 served as a location for discussions of Buddhist monks, nowadays it forms a single body together with Cave 6.

Hostages of crumbling sandstone
Bagh Caves were nine rock-cut caves, made in perpendicular cliff towering 45 - 50 m above the Baghani River, on the southern slopes of Vindhya Range. They are hewn in vertical face of sandstone cliff - in fact the only outcrop of sandstone in an area where for most part is found basalt.
This area is beautiful, with river winding below, with forest in vicinities, traditional rural landscape around. Caves look especially beautiful during the rainy season when river has water and forest is lush green, during the ascent to caves one meets many springs. But the heavy rainfall characteristic for this district creates problems as well - it has helped to speed up natural processes to destroy the caves and it hinders access to caves.
The fragile sandstone has caused discuption of caves and loss of unique art values. Heavy layer of claystone lies over the sandstone and moisture filtering through the rocks together with the heavy burden on the ceiling has caused the collapse of caves. Additional factor facilitating the desctruction of caves was the removal of trees and shrubs covering the slope in 1950ies.

The paintings

The paintings on the walls and ceilings of the viharas of Bagh, the fragments of which are still visible in Cave 3 and Cave 4 (remnants seen also in Caves 2, 5 and 7), were executed in tempera. The ground prepared was a reddish-brown gritty and thick mud plaster, laid out on the walls and ceilings. Over the plaster, lime-priming was done, on which these paintings were executed. Some of the most beautiful paintings were on the walls of the portico of Cave 4. 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.
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By Road
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. 

By Air
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. 

By Train
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.

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