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Presenting "Karle Chaitya Halls," first sequence of Nata Online Test Architectural Awareness Series

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Karle caves are located near Pune in India, along the ancient trade route from Arabian Sea to Deccan. Developed between 2nd – 5th century BC & associated with ‘Mahasamghika’ sect of Buddhism the caves are one of the ancient Buddhist rock cut architectural masterpieces. The cave complex today is one of the protected monuments under Archeological Survey of India.

Karle Chaitya Halls

Chaityas are Buddhist prayer halls or shrines where the devotees gathered to worship Lord Buddha. The Karle Chaitya is a long rectangular hall ( 45 meters long and 14 meters in height ) with an apsidal end where stands the Stupa. The central hall is divided into a central nave and two narrow side aisles with two rows of columns. The nave has a barrel vault for roof. A ‘pradakshina path’ is provided around the rock cut stupa which acts as a circumambulatory passage for devotees. As we enter the hall through the central entrance, we come across two rows of octagonal columns which separate central nave from the side aisles.



There are 15 octagonal pillars on both side of the central nave and 7 rectangular ones at the apsidal end behind the stupa. It is interesting here to observe the details of the pillars. The pillars behind the stupa are quite plain in terms of decoration, whereas pillars on either side of the nave are pot based with intricate carvings and crowned with inverted lotus capital, which is widely used in Buddhist architecture.

The Sun Window

The only source of light is the big Sun Window at the entrance. The light penetrates through the central nave and the pillars diffuse the fierce light of the sun into the aisles leaving the aisles as relatively dark spaces.

Outer screen

An outer screen, heavily carved, stands in front of the façade. Two lion pillars stood before the screen however, only one stands today. The architecture of rock cut caves of Karle, depicts clear influence from earlier examples of timber construction.

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