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Mandapeshwar caves - one of the rock cut caves of Mumbai

Dr. A K Chatterjee is a seasoned writer with more than 330 blogs in English and Bengali and 10 books mostly on travel, trekking and temples.

Mandapeshwar caves

Mandapeshwar caves

Key words (vernacular words are in italics)


Caves; rock-cut; Mandapeshwar; Shiva; Church; ruins; Mandapa; Nandi; Shivalingam; Nataraja; Gana

Introduction

There are hundreds of ancient rock-cut caves in India. The state of Maharashtra in the western India boasts a large number of those. Ajintha Leni (popularly called Ajanta caves) and Ellora are the most famous of these rock-cut caves. There are other famous rock-cut caves in Maharashtra like Bhaja, Karla, Bedsa etc. Even Mumbai, the very big metropolis which is called the the Commercial Capital of India, has five such caves viz. Kanheri, Mahakali, Jogeshwari and Mandapeshwar. Another one, the Elephanta Caves, is world famous and is situated in a small island in the Arabian Sea few kilometers away from the city, but the other four are located right within the municipal area of the big metropolis.

In the present article, we'll have a virtual tour of the Mandapeshwar caves, a group of ancient rock-cut caves bearing a long and interesting history, situated in a busy area of the Dahisar suburb of Mumbai.

Ajanta caves

Ajanta caves

World famous "Vajrapani" picture of Lord Buddha in Ajanta caves

World famous "Vajrapani" picture of Lord Buddha in Ajanta caves

Ellora caves

Ellora caves

Bhaja caves

Bhaja caves

Karla cave

Karla cave

Elephanta caves

Elephanta caves

Kanheri caves

Kanheri caves

Kondivite caves

Kondivite caves

Jogeshwari caves

Jogeshwari caves

Mandapeshwar caves

Mandapeshwar caves

Location

Mandapeshwar caves, though often referred as located in Borivili (West), are actually located on L.M. Road (Laxman Mahtre Marg), Dahisar (West), PIN 400103 near Shivaji Nagar locality. The 8th century rock cut caves are cut into the hills, now known as Mount Poinsur.

The most important landmark for the caves are the Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church and St. Francis D'Assisi High School and Junior College, located on Mount Poinsur, a name derived from corruption of "Mandapeshwar".
The geographical location of Mandapeshwar caves is 19.2451 degrees North, 72.8537 degrees East.

St. Francis D'Assisi School; Mount Poinsur

St. Francis D'Assisi School; Mount Poinsur

Our lady of Immaculate Conception Church; Mount Poinsur

Our lady of Immaculate Conception Church; Mount Poinsur

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History of Mandapeshwar

Mandapeshwar caves were constructed around 8th century CE by Buddhist monks like other rock-cut caves of Maharashtra. Later it was converted into a Hindu shrine dedicated to Mandapeshwar Shiva. in the 16th century, the Portuguese occupied the area and started using these caves as a Christian shrine. They constructed a church (the Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception) in 1544 AD on top of the hill in which the caves are cut; that old church is in ruins now.

In the early part of 18th century the Mahrattas defeated the Portuguese and caves got back their past Hindu heritage. But in the later half of the 18th century, the Mahrattas were defeated by the British, and a new church (The Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception) was constructed on the North-west side of the caves.
After independence, the caves again started functioning as a Hindu shrine. It is under the protection of ASI (archeological Survey of India).
The ruins of the old church is also under protection of archeological society.

Mandapeshwar caves and the ruins of the old Church on top

Mandapeshwar caves and the ruins of the old Church on top

Mandapeshwar caves

Mandapeshwar caves, protected by a fence, is situated just beside a busy road near Shivaji Nagar bus stand. On entering the premises, there is a big garden in front, beyond which is the hill with the caves. On top of the low hill the ruins of the old church can be seen.

The caves have three parts : the main cave is situated centrally, flanked by other secondary caves.

Mandapeshwar caves

Mandapeshwar caves

The central cave at Mandapeshwar

The huge cave, cut in the rock, is rectangular in shape. In front there is the Mandapa, which is a large space supported by several decorated stone columns. There are several relief works on the walls, most of which are now eroded and difficult to interpret. There is a small but beautiful stone statue of Nandi the bull, the Vahana or vehicle of Lord Shiva, in the sitting posture facing the sanctum.

There is a beautiful stone-made lampstand near the Nandi statue with burning lamps.
There is a broken stone statue of the hind portion of an animal just adjacent to the Nandi statue. From the looks of the hind portion of the body and the tail, it looks like a bull. Most probably it was the old/original Nandi statue.

The sanctum is again a big rectangular room with some blurred images in relief work on the walls. There are two Shivalingams (the aniconic phallic form of Lord Shiva) in the sanctum. One is old, an elongated stone Lingam with signs of ageing on it, the other, near the back wall, is smaller and rather new. Both the Shivalingams are worshiped by the devotees.

Main or the central cave, Mandapeshwar

Main or the central cave, Mandapeshwar

A pillar, central cave

A pillar, central cave

Stone Nandi; main cave

Stone Nandi; main cave

Two Nandi statues; central cave

Two Nandi statues; central cave

Older Shivalingam; main cave

Older Shivalingam; main cave

The new Shivalingam; central cave

The new Shivalingam; central cave

A pillar of the central cave

A pillar of the central cave

The secondary caves on the left of the central cave

There are two caves on the left of the main cave. These are devoid of any idols, and looks like the Vihara of the Buddhist caves elsewhere.

Cave on the left of central caves, Mandapeswar

Cave on the left of central caves, Mandapeswar

Caves on the right side of the central cave

At first, there is a small Mandapa supported by well decorated pillars. On the western wall of this Mandapa, there is a huge high relief work depicting Lord Shiva with Goddess Parvati and several other figures, supposedly of the "Gana"-s, who were companions of Lord Shiva and other nymphs and minor gods and goddesses

The beautiful relief work shows Lord Shiva in His human-like Nataraja form. Though the image is partly broken, especially in the lower part, still the grace and beauty of Nataraja is clearly visible.

Inside the Mandapa, there is a big rectangular hall like cave, again resembling the Vihara portion of a Buddhist cave. It is empty.

Mandapa of the right cave

Mandapa of the right cave

Huge relief work in stone depicting Shiva i Nataraja form; right cave

Huge relief work in stone depicting Shiva i Nataraja form; right cave

Nataraja, upper part

Nataraja, upper part

Lower portion of Nataraja - only two feet are intact

Lower portion of Nataraja - only two feet are intact

Figures around Shiva 1

Figures around Shiva 1

Figures around Shiva 2

Figures around Shiva 2

A beautiful stone pillar in the Mandapa, right cave

A beautiful stone pillar in the Mandapa, right cave

The inner cave on the right side

The inner cave on the right side

A view from the right cave

A view from the right cave

The ruins of the old church

On top the hill, which can be approached easily from the left end of the caves by a dirt path with low elevation, there are the ruins of the old church. There are walls and vestiges of rooms without any roof.

On the western side of the hill, the cemetery of the new church with a statue of Lord Jesus can be seen from here.

The ruins of the old church on top of the Mandapeshwar caves

The ruins of the old church on top of the Mandapeshwar caves

Way up the hill

Way up the hill

Ruins of the old church 1

Ruins of the old church 1

Ruins of the old church 2

Ruins of the old church 2

Ruins of the old church 3

Ruins of the old church 3

Ruins of the old church 4

Ruins of the old church 4

Conclusion

Mandapeshwar caves can easily be approached from different parts of Mumbai and adjoining areas. This should be a "Must" for anyone interested in old rock-cut caves and History.



Source

Reference

Different internet sites specially https://en.m.wikipedia.org>wiki.

All photos are by the author.

Location map

  • Location: Laxman Mhatre Road, Mandapeshwar, Dahisar West, Mumbai India
  • Latitude: 19.2451
  • Longitude: 72.8537

© 2022 Dr A K Chatterjee

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