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The ancient conglomerate of these rock-cut edifices is called Shana Vakiya caves excavated in Shana Dungar (‘Shana Hill’). The site falls in the Gir Somnath district of Gujarat. The site has escaped the attention of the scholars.
I went there recently. I did not know that it is a secluded place, and it is nearly 30 km away from the nearest highway. You will not find any mineral water, ATM, chemist shop, hotel, restaurant, dhaba, accommodation, or motor garage within approx. 30 km of radius. Some caves are accessible on some hills. But, all caves are not accessible. there are many villages, fields, and turns on the way. Your car may not run on top speed on the rural roads. In one day, you can see only some caves. If you want to see all the caves, you would need 2-3 days and help of some local person. You might also need hiking gear or ropes, and sturdy shoes. So, please plan your trip accordingly.
These caves were mentioned by James Burgess in his Archaeological Survey of Western India series. A few plans were also given. Afterwards, it is difficult for me to say whether any comprehensive study has been published.
The signage tells that there are 360 ancient rock-cut caves. However, the sadhu living in a Hindu temple there told me that the actual number is approx. 60. I was given to understand that many sailagrihas (rock-cut edifices) have adjuncts or wings. If you count the wings or adjuncts as independent caves, which you should not, then the counting goes up.
These are Buddhist caves, we are told. I could examine only a few caves because the man with me kept insisting: ‘let’s get out of here.’
It is difficult to speak of the exact age of the caves without proper study. However, I am certain that the caves were executed prior to the 6th century CE. I plan to go there again, live there with the sadhu for 3-4 days, and do a comprehensive photo documentation, make floor plans, and then study the material in relation to the other cave sites in India. I am sharing here my entire photo collection of nearly 5-10 caves that are on your right and left as your car stops there at the foothill of the cave site. I don’t think the caves have been assigned numbering by the authorities. So, it is impossible to assign cave numbers to these photos. Maybe, I will have to do it sooner or later.
Module curator and photographs: Dr. Rajesh Kumar Singh.