In the south-east of the Kâṭhiâwâṛ peninsula, at Talâjâ, near the mouth of the Satruṅji river, is an almost conical hill, called in Sanskrit Talugiri, and in modern vernacular parlance the Têkri of Talâjâ, crownfld by two modern Jaina temples—one on the vertex, and the other on a sort of shoulder on the west face. The town lies on the north and west, slopes near the base, and has the Talâjâ, a small feeder of the Satruṅji river, to the north of it.
On the north-west face of this Talâjâ hill are a series of Buddhist caves, about thirty-six in number, with from fifteen to twenty tanks or cisterns for water. Both have once been more numerous; but many of them have been destroyed, probably to make way for a passage up to the Jaina temples, or their predecessors on the top. These caves appear to have been first brought to notice by Mr. Henry Young, C.S., in 1835, and are briefly described in a paper by Captain Fulljames on fossil bones of mammalia in Kâṭhiâwâṛ, written in 1841 (Jour. B. B. R. As. Soc. Vol. I., p. 32). Dr. J. Wilson included them in his First Memoir in 1850; and they were visited and described by the writer in May 1869.
One of the largest of these caves, and the only one that now presents any remains of ornamentation, is at a height of fully a hundred feet. It is locally known as the Ebhal Maṇḍpa, and measures 75 feet by 67½, and is 17½ feet high. This large hall, without any cells in its side walls, had four octagonal pillars in front, but none inside to support the roof; nor has it the wall that, at Ajaṇṭâ and elsewhere, usually divides such excavations into an outer verandah and an inner hall. It seems to have been constructed as a place of assembly or religious instruction, a Dharmaśâlâ in fact, where the early Buddhist missionaries preached to the simple people of the district, and taught them the new doctrines. Outside the entrance are wells or tanks on both sides, and several cells. On its façade are fragments of a modified, perhaps, a very primitive form of the horse-shoe or chaitya-window ornament, and of the Buddhist rail pattern, but this is the only sculpture now traceable among these caves.
The others are small plain caves not meriting description. In one of them is a dâgoba or stone cylinder with hemispherical top of a very simple type, the base only entire, and the remains of the toraṇa or capital still attached to the flat roof of the cave. The dâgoba and general arrangements of these caves are sufficient indications of their being Buddhist works; and though we have no very definite means of determining their antiquity, yet from the simplicity of their arrangements, and except that already mentioned on the façade of the Ebhal Maṇḍap from the entire absence of sculpture, such as is common in all the later Buddhist caves, we may relegate them to a very early age, possibly even to that of Aśoka or soon after.
The rock is of very different qualities in different parts of the hill; but where the existing caves are executed it is full of quartz veins ramified among nodules of varying degrees of hardness, and the disintegration of these under the effects of atmospheric influences has so destroyed the original surface, that if any inscriptions ever existed, they must have disappeared long ago.