Although the Buddhist caves in this province are among the most ancient to be found in India, as well as the most numerous, they are far from possessing the same interest that attaches to many of the other groups found elsewhere. There is not among the 140 caves in this district one single Chaitya cave that can for one instant be compared with the great caves of this class that exist on the other side of the Gulpb of Cambay. There are numerous cells, which may be called chapels, 15 to 20 feet in depth, containing Dagobas, but in most cases without internal pillars or ornament of any sort.1 The Vihâras, too, are generally either single cells or small groups of cells, with a pillared verandah, but seldom, if ever, surrounding a hall, or fonning any important architectural combination. Sometimes, indeed, its excavations are expanded into halls of considerable dimensions, 50 or 60 feet square, but then generally without cells or pillars. They seem, in fact, to have been plain meeting houses or dharmaśâlâs, and such ornament as exists in them is of the plainest kind, and what sculpture is found upon them, of the rudest and most conventional kind.
This marked difference between two groups of monuments situated 80 near one another, and devoted to the same purpose, must evidently have arisen from some ethnographic or other local peculiarity distinguishing the people who excavated them. There seems no reason for believing that any form of Buddhism existed in the province before Aśoka’s missionaries were sent here to convert the peopleimmediately after the convention heldby him, B.C. 246. If they were the same people we might expect they would adopt the same richly sculptured forms we found in Orissa, or the same architectural grandeur which was displayed in the same age in the Sahyâdri Ghâts. No contrast, however, can be greater than that which exists between the caves at Udyagiri, described above (pp. 69 to 94), and these Kathiwar caves. Though their dimensions and mode of groupingare nearly the same, and their age is nearly as possible identical, the eastern group is profusely adorned with sculpture, and everywhere affects ornament of an elaborate character, and in a style quite up to the mark of its age. All this is as unlike as possible to what is found in the western caves, where no figure sculpture anywhere exists, and the ornamentation is rude and unartistic beyond anything we find elsewhere belonging to the period. When we know more of the ethnography of the province we may be able to explain why, in this country, they adopted so puritanical a form of religious architecture. At present we can only note the fact, and leave the cause for investigation in the future. It may, however, be remarked that when Buddhism disappeared from the province, it was succeeded not so much by the wild and extravagant forms of Hinduism as by the soberer and more cognate religion of the Jains. It is not, of course, intended to assert that the Śaiva and Vaishṇava religions did not prevail at Somnath and Dwarka in the interval between the decline of Buddhism and the Mahomedan conquest or subsequently. The most marked feature, however, in the religious history of Kathiawar seems to have been a persistence in an ascetic atheism, antagonistic to the wild polythism of the Hindu religion. It may have been the prevalence of some such feeling among the early inhabitants of the province that led to the puritanical simplicity in the forms and the almost total absence of ornament that characterise the early groups of caves in Kathiawar.
From indications still everywhere observable on the spot, it is evident that at early times large monasteries existed both at Junâgaṛh and on Mount Girnâr. Of those on the hill scarcely a trace now remains, and even their site has been built over by the Jains. But at Junâgaṛh, though many rock-excavations had been quarried away since the Muhammadans took possession of the place 400 years ago, there were still many chambers on the outskirts of the fort, even in the first quarter of the present oentury, in which Colonel Tod remarked inscriptions in the same character as that used in the Aśoka inscriptions. These have been almost entirely quarried away since, except a few fragments just under the scrap of the Uparkôṭ or fort, and at Naudurgâ close by. These were probably the oldest caves in Kâṭhiâwâṛ,—or perhaps in India, with the exception of those at Barabar (ante, p. 37), which were excavated during the reign of Aśoka himself, but with which, some of these may be contemporary. Next to them, probably comes the upper range of caves on the east side of the town, but within the walls at Bâwâ Pyârâ’s Maṭh or Monastery. But here, as elsewhere, the process of excavating fresh cells probably went on at intervals for a long period, and the lowest in the sloping rook are perhaps the latest, though even they belong to an early date. A quarry has been opened behind them, and is wrought close up to and under the oldest of them: how many have been quite cut away no one can tell.
These caves are arranged in three lines (see plan Plate II.), the first and third nearly parallel and facing south, and the second, at the eastern ends of the other two, faces east. The upper range, on the north, consists of a larger cave at the west end and three smaller ones in line. The hall of the larger cave (A, Plate II.) measures 28 feet by 16, and has two plain square pillars (perhaps originally three) in line supporting the roof; at the west end it has a chamber (B), 17 feet by 6 screened off by two plain square pillars; and at the back are three cells, each about 11 feet square. The front is partly destroyed, but has still three square pillars, chamfered at the necks. On the façade is the only fragment of carving, a semicircular arch in very low relief with a cross bar across its diameter,—forming, perhaps, the earliest example of the "chaitya-window ornament," that in later times became so fashionable as an architectural decoration.
The three smaller caves (D, Plate II.) each consist of a verandah, 13 to 16 feet long, by 4½ to 5½ wide, with two pillars in front, and a cell inside. These caves may belong to the second century B.C., or even to age of Aśoka.
To the south-east of these is an open court (E. Plate II.), about 50 feet long, on the west side of which is a verandah, 39 feet long, and nearly 8 feet wide, in the back wall of which are three doors, the central one, 5 feet wide, leading into a room 20 feet wide (F, Plate II.), and fully 26 deep, to the extremity of an apse at the back. It is flatroofed, but apparently had four square pillars supporting it; if this cave was a Chaitya, as it seems most probably to have been, the dâgoba must have been structural. The other two doors in the back wall of the verandah lead into cells. The verandah has six square pillars, each with a strut to the projecting drip, the struts being carved into the form of lions or sârdûlas—mythological animals with the bodies of lions, and having horns; and at each end of the verandah one of these figures is carved in low relief on the wall. The façade of the verandah is also carved with rude chaitya-window ornaments, similar to the one on the first range.
At the north end of the court, and at a higher level, approaohed by steps, is a, verandah (H.), 19 feet 7 inches by 6 feet 10 inches, which gives access to two rooms at the back of it, each about 9¾ feet square. These caves also seem to belong to an early date. But on the east side of the court are two cells, each with a small verandah in front, and the commencement of a third—which seem to have been an after-thought, and the rook in which it was attempted to out them was too low to allow of their execution without lowering their floors below the level of the court outside, which would have rendered them damp. In the court just in front of these is the base (a) of a square stone pillar, and beside it was found a loose slab, bearing part of a Kshatrapa inscription on its edge. Unfortunately it was of soft calcareous sandstone, and many of the letters indistinct. It belongs to the time of Swâmi Jayadâman's grandson—probably Rudrasinha, the son of Rudradâman, whose inscription is on the back of the rock, bearing the inscriptions of Aśoka; and from the occurrence of the word Kevalijnâna, in what is left of it, Dr. Bühler conjectures that it is Jaina; and it may be, that these princes did favour Jainism and bestow on that sect this old Buddhist monastery. Outside this court to the south is a cave with a small sunk area in front (J, Plate II.). The cave consists of a verandah and two cells (K). On the doors are some roughly executed carvings, and over one of them is the swastika, and other Buddhist symbols (Figs. 1 and 2, Plate III.). These are certainly the rudest sculptures that have yet been found in any cave in India, and though it is hardly safe to compare things so far apart, we would probably be justified in assuming that they are consequently earlier than anything now existing in Orissa. If this is so, the first series of caves here (A to D) being certainly older must be carried back at least to the time of Aśoka, and this group (F to L) is the earliest complete Buddhist establishment we have, and most probably was excavated during the existence of the Mauryan dynasty. The emblems above the doorway (Fig.I, Plate III.) show that it was strictly Buddhist, though of a very primitive type.
Next to this is another small cave with a bench round the small outer court. The door has a sort of arch traced over it, and the cell inside, though partially filled up with earth, is considerably lower in the floor than outside. The third line of caves begins at the back of this, and runs west-north-west, but are noways interesting, being perfectly plain, the only peculiarity being that in the second and largest of them (O, Plate II.) there is a single octagon pillar in the centre of the floor supporting the roof. The base of it is too much damaged to allow of its shape being determined; but the capital consisted of an abacus of three thin members with the inverted water jar form under it, as in the oldest caves at Nâsik and Junnar.
The remaining three caves are quite plain, consisting of verandahs with door and two windows, separated by square pillars, and two cells each inside, except the middle cave which has only one cell.
The rock in which these caves are cut slopes down considerably to the south, so that the roofs of the last line are considerably beneath the level of the fioors of the first.
In the waste overgrown space inside the north wall of Juâgaṛh, at Mai Gadêchi, under an old Hindu or Jaina temple, long since converted into a Muhammadan mosque, is another rock excavation, 26 feet 8 inches wide and 13 deep, with a cell in one end. It has two octagonal pillars inside, with capitals that havd been sculptured, but have been defaced by the Muhammadans. In the front it has two square pillars with śârdûla struts or brackets. It is not clear, however, that this has been a monastic abode, and from some points of likeness to another excavation in the Uparkoṭ it seems probable that this may have been a garden retreat with a bath in front, now filled up, and built over by the sthân or shrine of a Muhammadan saint. Its age is also uncertain, but it is undoubtedly very old.
- 1. The cave at Junâgarh, marked F on Plate II., can hardly be said to be an exception, though its dimensions are 20 feet by 26. It has no dagoba, and it is not clear if it ever had.