Gandharpale or Pala caves are situated on a hill near Mahad- Konkan across the Mumbai-Goa highway (an old merchant route of Mahad-Varandha ghat-Ter) at the confluence of Savitri-Gandhari rivers.The caves have probably taken the name from two villages in the vicinity of Mahad viz Pale village (known in the ancient times as Palipattan as per a 11th century stone inscription belonging to the Shilhara king Anant deva. There is also a mention in an ancient Greek text 'Periplus of Erythraean sea' dt 247 BC where Pale is mentioned as Palaipatyai) and Gandhare village (which since long is uninhabited).
They are Hinayana Buddhist caves that were excavated sometime in 150-300 AD.There are in all 31 caves.
They are mostly Buddhist viharas located on a hill top.
There are stone steps that take you to the top and can be accessed in hardly fifteen minutes.
The caves have a few small stupas located in prayer halls called chaityagrihas..
There also exist a few carvings of lord Buddha , the Bodhisatvas along with attendents on the vihara walls and pillars. But they seem to have abraded with time. There is also a shilalekh in the brahmi script carved on the wall of one cave.
The ambience surrounding these caves is awesome, especially in the monsoons, when the entire hillock gets wrapped by a green blanket and is adorned by several rivulets and water cascades.
Text and photographs : Abhijit Rajadhyaksha