Buddhist Rock-Cut Monasteries of the Western Ghats

This guidebook focuses on the rock-cut Buddhist monasteries near Nashik and Junnar, and at Karla, Bhaja, Bedsa, Kondane and Kanheri, all in western Maharashtra. These magnificent shrines and dwellings, known as chaityas and viharas, were cut into the basalt cliffs of the Western Ghats more than 2,000 years ago. They are located near to trade routes that wound their way through mountain passes, linking ports on the Arabian Sea with cities in the Deccan hinterland. Merchants travelling along these routes, together with local kings and queens and guilds of craftspersons, financed these excavations and supported the everyday life of the monks and nuns who resided there in ancient times.

Co-authored by George Michell and Gethin Rees, and illustrated with splendid, newly commissioned photographs by Surendra Kumar, this is the first guidebook to describe the sites listed above. The monuments are arranged according to itineraries to encourage visitors from Mumbai, Pune and Nashik to discover these splendid vestiges of the Deccan’s ancient Buddhist period.

Surendra Kumar is a photographer based in Hampi, Karnataka, specialising in topographic panoramas. His images are published in Discovering the Deccan: A Panoramic Journey Through Historical Landscapes & Monuments (Mumbai, 2011), Temple Architecture and Art of the Early Chalukyas (New Delhi, 2014), Portuguese Sea Forts (Mumbai, 2016), and Jewish Heritage of the Deccan (Mumbai, 2017).

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About the Authors

George Michell

GEORGE MICHELL trained as an architect in Melbourne, and then obtained a PhD in Indian Archaeology at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He has carried out research at numerous historical sites and monuments in India, including Badami, and then Hampi Vijayanagara, which, together with John M Fritz, he has extensively documented over more than 20 years. Both he and Fritz have authored Hampi Vijayanagara in the Pictor/ Deccan Heritage Foundation guidebook series. Michell’s most recent publications include Mughal Architecture & Gardens and The Great Temple at Thanjavur.

Gethin Rees

GETHIN REES completed his PhD in the Department of Archaeology at the University of Cambridge with a dissertation on the rock-cut monasteries of the Western Ghats, submitted in 2009. He has published articles on the relationship between Buddhist monasteries and the economy of ancient India. He is currently GIS Research Curator at the British Library, London.