Karla Caves (Karli Caves) is a complex of ancient Buddhist rock-cut cave shrines. Karla Caves are located in Karli near Lonavala in the state of Maharashtra. These rock-cut cave shrines were developed in two different periods, one from 2nd century B.C to 2nd century A.D and the other one being 5th century A.D to 10th century A.D. the oldest shrine date back to 160 century B.C.
It is said that it developed on a very important trade route of that period that ran eastward from the Arabian Sea into the Deccan. These Karla Caves in Lonavala are one of the oldest and finest specimens of Indian art.
The areas where these Karla Caves are located were in the past dominated by the Buddhists and therefore are completely influenced by the Buddhist art form. The Karla Caves are also known as Karla Leni. These caves are associated with the Mahasamghika sect of Buddhism.
This sect was very much popular in the region of Karla Caves and had wealthy patronage as well. This is the reason that this sect patronized these caves and presented India with such brilliant craftsmanship.
The Karla caves Lonavala complex is built into a rocky hillside around 60 km from Pune and the complex is lit by large windows cut out of the rock and illuminating the interiors. The main cave has a large and beautifully sculpted prayer hall which is also known as chaityas and they date back to the 1st century B.C. overall the caves which are complex are an outstanding piece of craftsmanship on stone.