Inscriptions in the Karla Caves, Maharashtra

As mentioned in the previous post, 22 inscriptions were found in the Karla caves and below is a short description of each of them.

1. Left end of the verandah of the chaitya. It says rock-mansion, the most excellent one in Jambudvipa, has been completed by the Setthi Bhutapala from Vaijayanti.  Vaijayanti seems to have been the ancient name for Banavasi in north Karnataka, as suggested by Dr. Fleet.

IMG_34062. The inscription on the lion pillar outside the chaitya says it was a gift of the Maharathi Agimithranaka, the son of Goti.

3. An inscription below the feet of the three elephants at the right end of the verandah of the chaitya cave says that the elephants and, before the elephants, the rail-mouldings above and below are the gift of Sthavira, the venerable Indradeva.

4. An inscription over the right doorway of the chaitya cave says that this door is the gift of Simhadhata, a perfumer from Dhenukataka. Dhenukataka (or) Dhanyakataka, was the ancient name of the area around Krishna District of Andhra Pradesh. It is now known as Amaravati.

5. On the pillar of the verandah in front of the central door. It says by the carpenter Samika, son of Venuvasa, a native of Dhenukataka, there was made the opening of the cave. The mutilation of this text renders imperfect explanation. This also signifies that the original panels above the door were made of wood. It also gives the impression at the inscription does not refer to the whole door, but to details connected with the opening.

6. The one above the inscription mentioned in point 5 says that this was a gift of Bhayila, the mother of the householder Mahadevanaka.

7. An inscription on the top of the third pillar of the left row mentions that this pillar is the gift of the Yavana Sihadhaya from Dhenukataka. Yavana, in those days refeInscription 1rs to a Greek, probably an Indo-Baktrian who were converts to Buddhism. It is to be noted that during the rule of the Satavahanas, a Greek ruler Demetrius waged a war on India and was defeated by the collective force of Satavahana, Kalinga and the Sunga dynasties and headed by Sri Pulamavi, the son of the great queen Naganika.

8. On the fifth pillar of the left row says this pillar is the gift of the preacher Satimita, the son of Nanda and the disciple of the Sthavira…………………..of the venerable Dhammutariyas, from Soparaka together with...This inscription is much defaced, perhaps intentionally, as Buhler thinks, in order to be replaced by the following one (9).

9. An inscription just below (8) says that this pillar containing relics is the gift of the preacher Satimita, venerable Dhammutariyas, from Soparaka.

10. In the chaitya cave, on the fourth pillar of the left row says, Of Dhamma, a Yavana from Dhenukataka. Paris Senart feels that this translation appears doubtful, simply because the name Dhamma applied to a Buddhist surprises him and the combination of a proper name with a tribal name in a compound is unusual. He cites example of an inscription in Junnar where the the word Yavana precedes a proper name. Moreover, it is hardly probable that the donor, a simple private person should bestow such complements on himself; He infers that Dhamma Yavana means would be a community of the Buddhist Yavanas, or rather a Buddhist Yavana who has modestly omitted his personal name.

11. In the chaitya hall, on the seventh pillar of the left row says, (This) pillar (is) the gift of Mitadevanaka, son of Usabhadata, from Dhenukataka. Paris Senart is inclined to believe that Mitradeva is the son of Rishabhadatta, who is mentioned in other inscriptions in Karla. Rishabhadatta is also mentioned as the son-in-lawIMG_3425 of Nahapana (a king of the Khaharata dynasty) according to inscriptions found in other areas. In an inscription in Nasik, Dakhamitra is mentioned as the wife of Rishabhadatta.

12. In the Chaitya cave, on the inside of the belt which forms the base of the great arch, an inscription says that this is The gift of the nun Asadamita. This nun is also mentioned in one of the inscriptions in Kuda.

13. In the chaitya cave, on the upper frieze to the right of the central door an inscription of five lines which says Success!! By Usabhadata, the son of Dinaka and the son-in-law of the king, the Khaharata, the Kshtrapa Nahapana, who gave three hundred thousand cows, who made gifts of gold and a tirtha on the river Banasa, who gave to the Devas and Bramhanas sixteen villages, who at the pure tirtha Prabhasa gave eight wives to the Brahmanas, and who also fed annually a hundred thousand Brahmanas-there has been given the village of Karajika for the support of the ascetics living in the caves at Valuraka without any distinction of sect or origin, for all who would keep the varsha.  The river Banasa is represented by two rivers, the first named Banas belonging to Northern Gujarat; the second flows through Eastern Rajputana and joins the Chambal valley. The incident mentioned in this inscription is most probably citing the donations made by the king Rishabhadatta at the holy town of Pushkar near Ajmer. It is to be noted that the river Basas precisely flows through this area. Valuraka seems to designate Karla, which we can presume to be its ancient IMG_3431name.

14. An inscription in the chaitya cave on the upper frieze to the left of the central door says In the seventh year of the king Sri Pulamayi, son of Vasithi, in the fifth fortnight of summer, on the first day, on the above, by the Maharathi Somadeva son of Vasithi, the son of the Maharathi Mitradeva son of Kosiki, of the Okhalakiyas, there was given to the community of Valuraka, of the Valuraka caves, a village with its taxes ordinary and extraordinary, with its income fixed or proportional. According to Buhler, Okhalakiya is the geographical name of a country or a tribe.

15. In the chaitya cave, above a pair of figures at the right corner of the verandah an inscription says Two pairs, the pious gift of the Bhikshu Bhadasama.

16. An inscription in the chaitya cave, on the inner side of the right hand screen of the verandah; above a pair of figures says exactly the same as (15),

17. This inscription in the chaitya cave, on the wall to the right of the central door (close to the rail platform) is completely worn out and just says This rail is the gift of.

18. An inscription in the chaitya cave, on the wall to the left of the central door and close to the rail pattern says this rail, the gift of the Bhikshuni Koti, the mother of Gunika, was made by Nandika.

19. An inscriptioIMG_3463n in the chaitya cave, on the second and third tiers of the frieze between the central and the right hand doors says King…… commands the officer at Mamada – For the support of the sect of the Mahasamghikas, of the medicant friars dwelling here in these caves of Valuraka, all pervaded with religion, we give as monks land the village of Karajaka here in the Mamala district on the northern road. To them I have secured the property of the village of Karajaka as monks’ land and to this village of Karajaka we grant the immunities belonging to monks’ land, not to be entered by……..and to enjoy immunity; with all these immunities I have invested it. And this village of Karajaka and the immunities enjoyed by monks’ land I have had registered here. Ordered verbally, written………… given at the victorious camp …….. The deed was executed by Sivakhadaguta (Sivaskhandhagupta) in the year 14, on the first day of the 4th fortnight of the rainy season.

20. To the north the chaitya cave, on the wall of the second cell (from the south) of a vihara, right of the entrance top lies an inscription which says Success!! On the second day of the third fortnight of winter in the twenty fourth year of King Sri Pulumavi, son of Vasithi, this pious gift of the lay worshipper Harapharana, son of Setapharana, a Sovasaka, living in Abulama, a nine-celled hall, has been given to the universal Sangha, as special property of the Mahasamghikas, in honor of his parents and securing the welfare and happiness of all beings. In the twenty first year it had been completed and ………… to me by Budharakhita and his mother …………….., a lay worshipper. The …………………a pious gift of Budharakhita’s mother.

21. An inscription on two sides of a semi-circular water cistern, in a vihara to the north of the chaitya cave. Its meaning is not accurately deciphered yet.

22. A mile south of the chaitya cave, on the front wall of a vihara, left of entrance top says Success!! The pious gift of the ascetic Budharakhita.



1. Epigraphia Indica Vol 7 – Article contributed by Paris Senart

2. Inscriptions from the Cave Temples in Western India with Decriptive Notes by Jas Burgess and Bhagwanlal Indraji

3. Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency Vol 18 Part 3, Poona by James .M. Campbell

4 comments on “Inscriptions in the Karla Caves, Maharashtra
  1. good article with great information i was travel maharashtra last year its amazing to visit

  2. Tanay Gurjar says:

    Thanks for the detailed descriptions! How I wish this preserved for eternity! The adjoining temple i causing a lot of unnecessary rush of ignorant people and pollution/commercialisation of this place. It needs more security and preservations techniques, alongwith some more displays detailing the history, ASI should look into this.

    • admin says:

      Absolutely correct Tanay.. The only saving grace is that this is a little away from people, so the tourist flow is limited. Moreover, most of the inscriptions are not reachable. This alone is saving them. Lets hope it is this way..

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