How Many Caves Are There in India?


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When you think of India, its rich heritage and amazing cuisine likely come to mind. But when you think of India, there’s another hugely intriguing aspect you’re missing – and that’s the large number of different caves the country is home to.

How many caves are there in India? India is home to approximately 2,702 caves. However, because India is such a large country, and because some cave systems are still partially or fully unexplored, it’s tough to put an exact number on just how many caves the country has.

India has a lot of caves, and you’ll likely be intrigued by every single one of them. To help you understand India’s large array of caves, we’ll walk you through just how many there are, what they’re called, and what characteristics they have.

How Many Caves Are There in India?

India is home to approximately 2,702 caves and counting.  But since some cave systems have not been fully explored, there are likely even more caves in India than the approximate 2,702 we know about.

The thousands of caves in India may be independent, in groups, or part of very large cave systems, and they are often different than what we consider to be “traditional,” naturally-occurring caves.

What Makes a Cave?

Numbers aside, India may challenge your idea of what a “cave” really is.

When you think of a cave, your mind probably pictures a large, dark hole or chamber that has been naturally formed by the environment.

While naturally-occurring caves are commonly found in India, and there are many of them, India also has a vast amount of caves you might not consider caves.

These caves found in India are sometimes called artificial caves, but are most commonly called rock-cut caves or rock-cut architecture. Rock-cut caves are caves that have been designed and created by man rather than nature.

According to an article on Indian rock-cut architecture by the New World Encyclopedia, the rock-cut architecture found in India is primarily religious in nature. In Indian culture and history, caves have long been considered sacred places.

Because of the sanctity of India’s caves, many of the rock-cut architecture and structures created out of rock were built into Temples and other places of worship.

These rock-cut architectural structures are still referred to as caves, although they may resemble architecture that includes worship halls, stone columns, stairs, paintings, sculptures, and even abodes.

Breakdown of Caves in India

While there are approximately 2,702 caves in India, there are different numbers of them spread through different areas and cave systems. For example, there are 6 Badami Caves, but there are 109 caves at Kanheri.

So, what are the caves and cave systems called? How many caves do they each have? What types of caves are they – natural, or rock-cut?

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Browse through the table below for a complete breakdown.

Cave or Cave System Name Number of Caves Characteristics / Type Coordinates
Ajanta CavesApproximately 30Rock-cut monasteries and temples20.5519° N, 75.7033° E
Amarnath Cave1Natural cave34.2157° N, 75.5041° E
Badami Caves 6Rock-cut cave temples15.9167° N, 75.6910° E
Bagh Caves9Rock-cut monuments and monasteries22.3236° N, 74.8055° E
Barabar Hill Caves7Rock-cut caves25.005° N, 85.063° E
Belum Caves1 cave with several chambersNatural cave15.1026° N, 78.1115° E
Borra Caves1 cave with several chambersNatural cave18.2807° N, 83.0397° E
Caves of MeghalayaAbout 1,700 total caves; about 980 caves partially or fully exploredNatural caves25.4670° N, 91.3662° E
Edakkal Caves2Naturally formed prehistoric rock shelters11.6268° N, 76.2343° E
Elephanta Caves1Rock-cut caves18.9633° N, 72.9315° E
Ellora Caves34Rock-cut monasteries and temples20.0258° N, 75.1780° E
Guntupalli Caves Group of Buddhist monumentsRock-cut monuments and temples17.0188° N, 81.1305° E
Jogeshwari Caves3Rock-cut temples19.1389° N, 72.8581° E
Kanheri Caves109Cluster of rock-cut monuments and temples19.2059° N, 72.9069° E
Karla Caves15Rock-cut caves and shrines18.7833° N, 73.4704° E
Kotumsar Cave1Natural cave18.0520° N, 81.0560° E
Lakhudiyar Cave1Natural cave and rock shelter29.3832° N, 79.4451° E
Lenyadri30Rock-cut Buddhist caves19.2434° N, 73.8874° E
Mahakali Caves19Rock-cut Buddhist caves and monuments19.1301° N, 72.8732° E
Moghalrajpuram Caves3Rock-cut caves and sanctuaries16.5062° N, 80.6468° E
Nagarjuni Hill Caves (Barabar)3Rock-cut caves and monuments25.0091° N, 85.0784° E
Nasik Caves (Pandav Caves)24Rock-cut caves19.9412° N, 73.7486° E
Robbers Cave1Natural cave34.9970° N, 95.3304° W
Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka700 rock sheltersRock-cut shelters22.9395° N, 77.6124° E
Undavalli CavesSeveral structuresRock-cut temples; some four stories tall16.4967° N, 80.5816° E
Varaha Cave Temple1Rock-cut temple12.6181° N, 80.1923° E

Notable Caves in India

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While all the caves in India are arguably notable and interesting, some Indian caves are truly one of a kind.

What are they? Why are they so especially notable? Let’s take a look.

Caves of Meghalaya

You probably remember the Caves of Meghalaya because of the major amount of caves the system encompasses.

There are approximately 1700 caves in the Meghalaya system. Over 980 of those caves have been explored or partially explored, leaving 720 caves that have yet to be explored at all.

While the sheer number of caves at Meghalaya makes them extremely notable, that’s not all that the Caves of Meghalaya have to offer.

The Meghalaya cave system is home to the world’s longest sandstone cave, Krem Puri. Krem Puri is 24,583 meters long – which is about 80,652 feet, and approximately 15 miles.

According to an article about Krem Puri by David Laitphland for the Hindustan Times, Krem Puri and its astonishing length even contain fossils from dinosaurs – particularly the Mosasaurus, a carnivore that lived nearly 62 million years ago.

The Caves of Meghalaya are also home to Siju Cave, which is famous for its stalagmites, stalactites, and limestone formations.

Ajanta Caves

The Ajanta Caves, the first in our table above, are another notable cluster of caves in India. They’re so notable, in fact, that they’ve been deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The 30 Ajanta Caves were constructed over a span of 800 years and feature some of India’s most celebrated and historic art.

According to Ancient History Encyclopedia, the caves of Ajanta feature ancient paintings, murals, sculptures, and architectural motifs in rock-cut temples and monasteries that date back as far as the first century BCE

Take Cave 9, for example, which was excavated in the first century BCE. Cave 9 features paintings from both the first century BCE when it was originally excavated, and the fifth century BCE when repainting was done.

The paintings and art at the Ajanta Caves are some of India’s earliest art, and some people have even regarded them as “the birth of Indian art.”

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Kailasa Cave

Kailasa Cave is part of the Ellora Caves, which is a series of 34 rock-cut monasteries and temples. The Ellora Caves have also been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Kailasa Cave, or Kailasa Temple, is extremely intriguing and notable in several ways.

First, Kailasa Temple is the largest monolithic building in the world. The entire rock-cut temple was carved from one piece of stone!

Further, according to Encyclopedia Britannica, Kailasa Temple was built by King Krishna I, a ruler of the Rashtrakuta Dynasty, who reigned from 756 to 773 CE.

It is estimated that approximately 200,000 tons of rock were removed during the construction of the Kailasa Temple. To make that number even more impressive, the entire Kailasa Temple was created using only hammers and chisels.

Final Thoughts

While there are approximately 2,702 Indian caves we know about, there are likely even more caves in India – some cave systems are still not completely explored, and it’s thought that some cave systems have yet to be discovered.

Many of India’s caves might challenge everything you think you know about caves – hundreds and even thousands of them were rock-cut by man. When it comes to caves, India truly has it all – and who knows what is yet to be discovered.

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When you’re ready to get started caving, be sure to read my Beginners Guide and check out my recommended gear section.

Rob

I’m Rob, the owner of StartCaving. I enjoy exploring and writing about caves. I live in Ohio and like going out to Ash Cave at Hocking Hills with my family. I plan to hit up more caves across the states in the coming years but until then I will continue to write about them.

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