World Heritage Sites – Ellora Caves – Pitalkhora Caves
The Pitalkhora (20°15’ N; 75°15’ E) or “Brazen Glen” is located at a distance of nearly 25 km west of Kannad, a tehsil headquarters in Aurangabad district and nearly 40 km west of Ellora caves. On the Aurangabad – Chalisgaon road, one has to take a diversion at Kalimath and travel nearly 4 km to reach the caves. The caves are located in a valley below and one has to ascend the steep steps to reach down. A stream, usually full of water during monsoon greets the visitors midway during the descent, and after crossing over through an iron bridge constructed by the ASI, one reaches the caves.
Pitalkhora consisting of 14 Buddhist Caves forms one of the earliest centres of the rock-cut architecture. They are cut in a variety of basalt rock which weathers faster in contrast to other parts in Maharashtra. Out of 14, 4 are chaityagrihas, one housing votive stupas, one apsidal and single cell (5A), and the rest are viharas. All the caves belong to the Hinayana period but the painting executed in the caves are of Mahayana period. The caves are in two groups; the first group consists of 10 caves and second consists of 4 caves. The Chaitya and Monastery Caves in this group have traces of very beautiful paintings of which some are surviving in the former. It is believed that Pitalkhora can be identified with ‘Petrigala’ of Ptolemy’s and ‘Pitangalya’ of ‘Mahamayuri’, a Buddhist chronicle. The inscriptions found here dates from c. 250 B.C. to 3rd – 4th century A.D. Two of the records mention ‘Pathitana’ (Pratishtana, the capital of Imperial Satavahanas, modern Paithan) and one mentions ‘Dhanyakataka’ modern Dharanikota in Guntur district, Andhra Pradesh.
The sculptural representations here are similar to that of found in the stupas of Sanchi, Karla, Nasik, of the same period. As these Caves are carved in somewhat softer and fragile rock, here one can also see examples of ‘ancient conservation’. A feature which needs special mention is the very ingenious arrangement of diverting water that found its way into the cave through cracks; long tunnel like openings were bored into the ceilings and the water was allowed to flow fully into the cave underneath the floor in concealed drain channel cut to lead the water outside near the cave entrance (Cave 4).