Mumbai may be considered synonymous with population, pollution, and paisa (money) but little do people know that hidden in this concrete jungle are scattered treasures of history. Mahakali Caves, the site of an ancient Buddhist monastery, are one of those gems especially for people who are interested in archaeology.
Mahakali Caves, also known as Kondivite Caves, are situated in Andheri east, a suburb of Mumbai, and are approximately 5 kilometres from Andheri railway station on the east side.
The caves are a group of 19 rock-cut monuments built between the 1st century BCE and 6th century AD. They are cut in black basalt i.e. volcanic rock. The 19 caves form two rows: 4 caves on the north-west face of the Mahakali hill that are located in the rear and 15 caves in the south-east face that can be accessed from the main entrance.
The caves served as Viharas or dwellings for buddhist monks. There are Podhis or water tanks outside every Vihara. The Chaityagriha or prayer hall, which lies in cave no. 9 has a stupa enclosed in a room with a curved wall. It has seven depictions of the Buddha and figures from Buddhist mythology but they are all mutilated today. Writings in the Pali script, a language even older than Sanskrit, can be found on the walls.