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The Barabar Caves are the oldest surviving rock-cut caves in India , mostly dating from the Mauryan period (322–185 BCE), and some with Ashokan inscriptions, located in the Jehanabad Districtmarker of Biharmarker, India, 18 km north of Gayamarker.

These caves are situated in the twin hills of Barabar and Nagarjuni, dating back to the 3rd century BC, Maurya period, of Ashoka (r. 273 BC to 232 BC.) and his son, Dasaratha, though Buddhists themselves , who allowed various Jain sects, to flourish under his policy of religious tolerance, these caves were used by ascetics from the Ajivika sect , founded by Makkhali Gosala, a contemporary of Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, and of Mahavira, the last and 24th Tirthankara of Jainism . Also found at the site were several rock-cut Buddhist and Hindu sculptures .

The area was also the setting for the opening of E.M. Forster's book, A Passage to India, while the caves themselves are the site of a crucial, though ambiguous, scene at the book's symbolic core. The author visited the site, and later used it, as the Marabar caves in his book .

Caves at Barabar Hills

General view of cave temples in the Barabar Hills, (Bihar)
Sudama and Lomas Rishi Caves at Barabar, Bihar, a 1870 photograph

Sudama and Lomas Rishi Caves are the earliest examples of rock-cut architecture in India , with architectural detailing, made in the Mauryan period, and became a trend the subsequent centuries , like the larger Buddhist Chaitya, that were found in Maharashtramarker, such as in Ajantamarker and Karla Caves, and greatly influenced the tradition of South Asian rock-cut architecture . Near by caves of Nagarjuna are smaller and younger than Barabar caves

Most caves at Barabar consist of two chambers, carved entirely out of granite, with a highly polished internal surface. The first chamber was meant for worshippers to congregate in a large rectangular hall, and the second, a small, circular, domed chamber for worship, this inner chamber probably had a small stupa like structure, at some point, though they are now empty.

  • Lomas Rishi cave: The arch-like shape facade of Lomas Rishi Caves, imitate the contemporary timber architecture. On the doorway, a row of elephants proceed towards stupa emblems, along the curved architrave .

  • Sumdama cave: This cave was dedicated by Mauryan Emperor, Ashoka in 261 BC, and consist of a circular vaulted chamber with a rectangular mandapa .

  • Vadithi-ka-Kubha cave

  • Vapiya-ka-Kubha cave .
  • Karna Chaupar cave .


Image:Plan of the Barabar Caves and an elevation of the entrance to the Lomas Rishi Cave, Barabar, Bihar.jpg||Plan of the Barabar Caves and an elevation of the entrance to the Lomas Rishi Cave, Barabar, Bihar

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