Maharashtra to conserve rock-cut caves for tourism

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Carved into rock surfaces centuries ago, they stand as examples of the finest that Indian art has to offer. Now, these little-known caves with their sculptures and inscriptions, will get a new lease of life as the state government will launch a programme for their conservation and development. This is being done in order to develop the lesser-known caves into tourist sites.

A senior official from the state culture department told that they were planning to launch a comprehensive project for the development of the ancient rock-cut caves under the state’s jurisdiction. The project is likely to be implemented from the coming financial year.

“It will be on lines of the conservation programme for forts. This will cover conservation, construction of approach roads, steps, tourist amenities like toilets, setting up of meshes and nets to prevent bats from infesting these caves and leveling undulating surfaces. Proper signages will also be put up,” he added.

The project will be undertaken by the state directorate of archaeology and museums and the official said that they would try and secure funds from the tourism department.

While famous caves like Ajanta & Ellora (Aurangabad), Bhaja (Pune), Kanheri and Elephanta (Mumbai), are under the Archaeological Survey of India’s (ASI) purview, the state directorate has protected around 18 smaller caves with Hindu, Buddhist and Jain sculptures and iconography.

“Some of these caves like Ghatotkach in Aurangabad, which has Buddhist reliefs, are located in proximity to Ajanta, which sees a heavy tourist inflow. However, since it is little known, few visitors come here,” explained another official. The Ghatothkachh caves date to the 6th century AD. Others like Pandav Leni (1st century BC) near Nashik and Pandavdara near Kolhapur (7th century AD) can also be developed as tourist spots through conservation.

“Fresh conservation proposals will be drawn up for these caves. They can be developed as tourist sites. For instance, tourists from countries with a Buddhist influence may like to visit Buddhist caves in Maharashtra. However, the challenge lies in protecting them from encroachments and irresponsible tourists,” the official noted.

LITTEL KNOWN CAVES

“Some of these caves like Ghatotkach in Aurangabad, which has Buddhist reliefs, are located in proximity to Ajanta, which sees a heavy tourist inflow. However, since it is little known, few visitors come here,” explained an official. The Ghatothkachh caves date to the 6th century AD.

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