The Manmodi caves are a complex of rock-cut caves situated about 3km to the south of the city of Junnar in India. It is believed that the caves were carved on the natural trade routes. This route is formed by the passes that lead to the basaltic plateau of the Western Ghats from the coast.
It is recorded that the caves are classified into three groups- Bhutalinga group, Amba-Ambika group, and Bhimasankar group. It is recorded that one of the caves has an epigraph which mentions the Western Satrap Nahapana bearing the title of Mahakshatrapa (Great Satrap).
Three Groups of Manmodi Caves
Bhutalinga group of caves
In this group of Manmodi caves, the principal cave is an unfinished Chaitya-cave. The Chaitya cave's door is nearly the whole width of the nave in addition to the small semi-circular aperture or window over it. However, the arch of the window is not adjusted to the arch of the roof inside since it is much higher. It is believed that the Chaitya hall on the Manmodi cave dates back to the period of the Western Satrap ruler Nahapana.
As mentioned in the inscription on the central flat surface of the lotus, the façade of the Chaitya Hall was donated by Yavana. The inscription was written in Brahmi character.
Inside the chaitya hall in the middle compartment, there is erected a standing female figure, Lakshmi, with a lotus flower on each side. The next to this compartment have elephants standing on lotus flowers which holds water jar. Often the statue of the elephant is represented beside to the figure of Lakshmi on Buddhist arts. In the next compartment, on each side, there stands a male figure depicts as if he is doing puja towards the central figure.
Regarding the pillars, there are three octagonal pillars on the right side which are blocked out. There is a horizontal soft stratum in the rock which has probably led to the work being relinquished in its present unfinished state.
Along with Chaitya cave, there are also Buddhist cells as well. These Buddhist cells are higher up the rock. On the east or left side of this cell, there are four cells with neatly-carved facades and the doors have a chaitya window arch over the door. Between these arches, there are two dagobas with chhatris in half relief. There is one plain cell beyond these ornamented cells.
Amba-Ambika group of caves
Amba-Ambika group of caves is located near the south-east end of the hill which consists of an unfinished Chaitya cave and a number of ruined cells and viharas. The Chaitya cave has two octagonal columns in front that supports the entablature above the great window. These columns are erected in the style that is found at the Ganesa Lena, with water-pot bases and capitals. But in this cave, the aisles have not been commenced. The capital of the dagoba along with the block of rock from which the dome was created are roughly blocked out. Also, the great fault in the rock at the back of the cave seems to have stopped further operations.
If we look at the façade, it is quite rough but is covered with inscriptions. It is thought after looking the positions and the roughness of the surface, these inscriptions might be the result of the work done by the visitors. The cave faces north and the floor is much filled up with mud. At the east side of the site, there is a cell which consists of dagoba carved on the roof whose staff has been broke.
In the outer wall of another of these cells, there have been a standing and sitting Buddha statues. But these statues have been obliterated.
Bhimasankar group of caves
The Bhimsankar group of caves are located around a corner of the hill to the south-east of the Amba-Ambika group of caves. These caves are at a considerably higher level at the hills. Some of the caves of this group are almost inaccessible.
However, the first cave to reach in this group of caves is a small vihara without cells or carving. Next, to this cave, there is another cave hall with two octagonal pillars in the front of the verandah. The hall is 33 feet deep, and about 12 feet wide. At the back side of the hall, there is a rock of over 8 feet wide by 5.5 thick. The door is 5 feet 10 inches wide and reaches to the roof of the hall which has been frescoed. The back of the seat or low screen in front of the veranda is carved outside with the rail ornament. The columns are of the usual Nasik pattern but without animal figures.
The other caves at this Bhimasankar group of caves are small and uninteresting.
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