The advent of Buddhism in India in the 5th century BCE led to one of the most special phases in Indian architecture. The glorious awakening led to beautiful rock-cut structures that demonstrate significant achievements in structural engineering and stone-craftsmanship. As a result, India is now home to more than 1500 rock-cut structures, many of which are of global importance.

With one of the longest caves at Jogeshwari, largest cave sites at Kanheri, and the oldest caves at Mahakali, Mumbai group of caves are prominent amongst the rock-cut enclaves found in India. The tradition of rock-cut caves began with Buddhist period and reached its apex under the Vakataka Dynasty in the 5th century AD. But it was not until the sixth century that Hindus in the region began to adopt the practice & start cutting their caves. Jogeshwari cave is one of the largest excavations of its kind, cut directly across the trap formations. Next to Kailasa at Ellora, this is the largest known cave in India with its length extending 240 feet from East to West and the breadth including the south passage is 200 feet. The cave enclave is accessed from the eastern side through a series of steps, descending to a depth of nearly 25 feet.

The east approach leads to the main cave through an entrance porch or Agramandapa with a transverse open court in between. The court leads to Mukhamandapa adorned with huge sculptures of Dvarapalas with their dwarf attendants, which are undoubtedly the most beautifully carved sculptures found in the entire cave. The Mukhamandapa leads to a corridor then to a rectangular chamber, the centre of which sits the main sanctum with door openings in the four cardinal directions. The Pradakshina path is about 3 feet below the level of the floor of the main sanctum. The southern side of the chamber leads to a corridor with ten free-standing pillars and two pilasters, which finally opens to a courtyard.

Plan and Section of Jogeshwari caves
Sources: Archaeological Survey of India, Mumbai Circle

Jogeshwari cave is cut on the portion of a low lying mound of rock as a result of which even a little amount of water found its way to the interior of the cave. In addition to this, the presence of a series of inner courtyards with drainage channels choked with debris lead to the accumulation of stagnant water up to a foot depth. The site of Jogeshwari enjoys good linkage with major arterial roads as well as easily accessible from the western rail corridor, but unfortunately, this easy accessibility has led to frenetic development activity in the area. The slum population that has settled on the top of the cave cause problems of water ingress and waste disposal into the courtyards, which leads to the deterioration of the cave. Needless to say, the Jogeshwari cave temple infested with encroachments losing its authenticity at a fast pace, even after a lot of conservation effort undertaken by the Archaeological Survey of India.

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