As I’ve shown in recent weeks, India is full of incredible rock-cut structures and today, I’m taking a closer look at the Barabar Caves, the oldest surviving rock-cut caves in India, dating back to the Maurya Empire between 322 and 185 BC.
They are located in the Makhdumpur region of the Jehanabad District of Bihar, India, 15 miles north of Gaya.
You can find the caves in the twin hills of Barabar and Nagarjuni, seven caves in total, and some bear dedicatory inscriptions to King Piyadasi and Devanampiya Dasaratha, thought to be the legendary Emperor Ashoka the Great and his grandson, who lived in the 3rd century BC.
The most famous cave is known as the Lomas Rishi Cave, being the earliest surviving ogee shaped chaitya arch, an important feature in Indian Buddhist rock-cut architecture, which became a sculptural decoration for centuries. It is an early stone-cut version of something that would have been originally built with wood for other, older structures.
Most of the caves contain two chambers and are cut entirely out of the hard granite bedrock. They have highly polished internal faces, known as the Mauryan polish, which is also used on sculptures on that age, and gives incredible acoustics and echo effects.
This polish and the stone cutting techniques hints at the Lost Ancient High Technology with regards to stonework in India, a way of finishing stone that was rarely seen again after the Maurya Empire, amazingly preserved in these caves at Barabar.
All images are taken from Google Images and stills from a video by Vlad9VT from February 2009: