Monday, 21 May 2012

Mandapeshwar Caves a Forgotten Legacy

Mandapeshwar Caves

Friends this weekend I am taking you with me to Mandapeshwar Caves. What prompted my visit to this place was a small article which I read few days back in the DNA newspaper,whereby it was reported that the Maharashtra government wants to give Mumbai a face lift by beautifying 17 destinations.The tourism department has sanctioned Rs5.5 crore for the development of Kanheri Caves, Gilbert Hill, Bandra Bandstand, Mandapeshwar Caves, Powai lake, Juhu Chowpatty, Mahakali Caves, Aarey Colony, Aksa beach, Jogeshwari Caves, Film City, Erandel beach, Essel World, Madh Island, Manori Chowpatty, Gorai Chowpatty and Sanjay Gandhi National Park.

The expenses incurred for development of Mandapeshwar Caves along Dahisar add up to Rs1.05 crore. This includes building outer boundary walls, storm water drainage, roads, main entrance at the caves and beautification of the area. Similarly, Rs85 lakh have been set aside for development of Gorai jetty, Rs1 crore for Aarey Colony beautification, and Rs1.35 crore for Aksa beach. With respect to the rest of the spots, work is under way and will be reviewed to ascertain the exact expenditure.
Locals loitering around
Mandpeshwar Caves was nearby so I went there to check out on my own and collect the first hand information for the benefit of my readers.

To know a place more intimately it is always necessary that we must understand the history behind the same so let us first dwell upon the history of these caves

The Mandapeshwar caves are also known as mandapeshwar Leni in Marathi is an 8th century rock cut shrine dedicated to lord Shiva located near Mount Poinsuri in Borivali.Originally these caves were on the banks of Dahisar river but later the course of river changed
Four pillars of the Cave

The name of the neighbourhood was derived from this temple. it is believed that the name of Mount Poinsur, on which the Saint Francis D'Assisi High School is situated, is a corruption of the name Mandapeshwar.

The Mandapeshwar Caves are smaller and lesser known as compared to the Kanheri Caves in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park,Borivali.
The ruins of an old Portuguese - built church stand on top of the caves. 
Ruins of the Church on Top
During the time of the Portuguese this temple was  converted into a church.After them owners changed hands and it was used as a  monastery by Buddhist monks.The immaculate Conception Church is located to its south end .Few would know that Mandapeshwar Caves just like Mahakali,Kanheri and Elephanta caves were all well connected by the trade route that existed in and around Mumbai nearly 2000 years ago

Veiw from with in the cave
.These caves in ancient times were used by traders and Buddhist Monks who traversed down these stretches while on their way to Konkan and Sopara.In fact the Dahisar  river running adjacent to these caves was earlier used for navigation.They would go from here to Gorai and onward to their journey"says Anita Rane Kothare , Professor ancient India Culture, St Xaviers College.

Caves on the left side
Be it be Mandapeshwar  caves or Mahakali caves each one has a distinct features which set them apart from others.According to the committee on the caves report "The caves of Mandapeshwar resemble a many - layered palimpsest with plans of one generation superimposed by another" The original Brahminical caves dedicated to Shiva are of 8th Century A. D.  The Mandapeshwar caves perhaps have the most tumultuous history of all the Mumbai caves, or so it would seem from the scars the wall still bear. A hindu temple, it was targeted by the Portuguese, who asserted their religious beliefs over it by literally building a monastery and a church dedicated to Our Lady of Immaculate Conception on top of the cave temple. If you watch closely you will realize on a wall sultpure was damaged and Holy cross was superimposed at that place.
Holy cross superimposed on the wall
A monastery was raised over a rock for the education of the children of the converts. This went on until the middle of the eighteeth century when the Marathas ravaged the place during the battle of Bassein. After the desecration of the church, the Marathas uncovered the Brahmanic sculptures in the caves, which the monks had covered with plaster and worshipped them again.But even the marathas could not hold control over Bassein for long.Towards the end of the eighteenth century, the British defeated Marathas and conquered Bassein. Instead of repairing the desecrated church, the Catholics of the neighbourhood fitted the caves with a statue of Mother Mary, a cross and a pulpit and used it as a cave chapel from 1818 for about seventy years. In 1888, a few gentlemen from Bandra rebuilt the church as it stands today. One important factor here is that Kanheri and Mahakali Caves are Buddhist Caves while Mandapeshwar is a Shiva Cave.The Archaeological Survey of India has declared Mandapeshwar caves as nation Heritage monument.

Present Tense(Now my Story) After checking out all the history possible of the above place I was excited to go and have first hand look. I took my motorcycle and zoomed to Borivali west ,passing the Bhagawati hospital within 5 minutes I was standing right in front of this famous Mandapeshwar caves.Standing in front of the caves you see the Immaculate Conception Church on your left hand side. 
Open ground in front of Caves
There is an open ground in front of the caves which is used as a playground and parking area by slum dwellers from the slum near it. One look at the caves and I felt let down because these caves still looked quite neglected . No doubt there is a big playground in front of the caves but not at all maintained. However I was told by one of the local person that this palyground earlier was in very bad shape encroached by slum dweller,beggars,and drug addicts but thanks to one of the local NGO that the ground got cleared of  the filth and encroachment. Earlier it was Portuguese who were abusing this holy sanctum and today it is locals. I was looking as to where that 1.05 crore was spent for restoration work and sadly I couldn't find any major improvement. It seems that whole sanctioned amount was absorbed by the 4 stairs that has been constructed in front of the caves (sic).
Stairs constructed as a part of restoration(1.05 crores ?)

I then entered the Caves there are around four pillars and as you enter the caves right in front of you is a small room which has shiv ling inside. I wanted to take the pictures of the interior of the Caves but the caretaker didn't allowed me to do so. I had read so much about the statue of Shiva in Natraja Pose but again was disappointed to see half destroyed statue of shiva. Parvati marriage statue is simply not presentable. next to the main cave there is a small caves on the left side but there was not much to be seem. I was told by one local that in earlier days there used to be some tunnel through those doors in the caves but personally I couldn't find much.
Ruins at the top of the Caves
After seeing the caves I moved towards the right side of the caves where a little climb took me to the top of the caves. Here I saw the ruins of old church totally neglected in other words nothing short of bhoot bangla I should say.
Ruins on top of caves caption

 Behind these ruins one can see the big football ground on the right side and a graveyard just adjoining this ruins.
Football ground behind the caves
 I have never seen a past and the present so close together.The purpose of this blog is not to demean any authority or community but just a humble attempt to bring awareness among people that there is so much heritage in the city that should not be wasted away like this.Some attempts should be made to redeem these heritage. Please do visit once these caves perhaps you may be inspired to do something.How I wish that our trekking community who do so much wonderful job of cleaning the forts,water tanks and many  more efforts to come forward and restore these caves to its earlier grandeur.

Thanks to all - aashish chawla
How to reach: 

There are number of buses going from Borivali west station. Bus no 203,205,207 can be taken and one can get down at Technical institute stop or Shivaji Nagar stop as these caves are between these bus stop.


  1. Hey Ashish thankx for sharing a blog with was really informative...though i stay in the same area i was unaware of the history or was never bothered about it...Thankx once again for giving this valuable information...keep writing and sharing the blogs...

    1. Thank you Vaibhavi for dropping by , support of friends like you inspire me to carry on writing.

  2. hello sir, this is a wonderful article on the caves. i live close by and wish to further research on them.Thank You for this wonderful information and pictures.

  3. hi,
    thanks for giving information.
    i am very thankful to you because from a long time i wanted to know about mandpeshwar.

    once again thanks!!!!!

  4. Magothane Caves, Boriwali E, Dattapada Road, ????

  5. Very well written Ashish... very informative.