The tourists were taken for a day visit to Kolvi, Binayaka, and Hatyagaud, which form a group of caves - the sole variety of its kind in Rajasthan.
The tourists were taken for a day visit to Kolvi, Binayaka, and Hatyagaud, which form a group of caves - the sole variety of its kind in Rajasthan.Image- Mohsin Khan

Tourists Captivated by Lone Buddhist Caves in Jhalawar, Now Crumbling Away Due to Political Apathy

With conviction, the visitors asserted that the lone caves of the Buddhist period in Rajasthan's Jhalawar possess the potential to become a global pilgrimage site, offering a unique blend of cultural richness and spiritual serenity for seekers worldwide. The heritage enthusiasts have been making efforts to invite His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Jhalawar-In a mesmerizing journey through time and spirituality, Buddhist tourists have been enchanted by the ancient caves nestled in the heart of Rajasthan's Jhalawar. The pilgrimage, organized by Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) and the state's Tourism Department, unfolded a hidden treasure trove of Buddhist heritage, evoking a call for global recognition and promotion. The tourists were taken for a day visit to Kolvi, Binayaka, and Hatyagaud, which form a group of caves - the sole variety of its kind in Rajasthan. Unfortunately, most of them are in a dilapidated condition due to decades of neglect, despite being protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

Initiated by the flag-off of the 'Dekho Jhalawar' tourist bus from the Garh complex, Collector Alok Ranjan set the stage for an unprecedented exploration. The bus traversed through the millennia-old basalt mines of Mishroli, where experts Madhusudan Acharya and Rajyapal Sharma unravelled the historical significance of this ancient site, adding layers of depth to the unfolding journey.

The expedition arrived at the Binayaka Caves, where the resounding echoes of Buddhist prayers resonated with the visiting devotees. Overwhelmed by the spiritual aura, the Buddhist tourists expressed surprise at the hidden gem that had long eluded mainstream attention. Pledging to share the marvels of the Buddhist caves globally, they recognized the need for concerted efforts in promoting this sacred site.

A diverse group of Buddhist tourists from Arunachal Pradesh, Ladakh, Sikkim visited the caves and were enthralled to experience its magnificence.
A diverse group of Buddhist tourists from Arunachal Pradesh, Ladakh, Sikkim visited the caves and were enthralled to experience its magnificence. Image- Mohsin Khan

Continuing the spiritual odyssey, the tour proceeded to the Kolvi Caves via Hatigauda, where Buddhist tourists immersed themselves in prayer, deepening their connection with their religious roots. The collective spirituality echoed through the caverns, creating a profound experience for all participants.

In attendance were not only local enthusiasts but also a diverse group of Buddhist tourists from Arunachal Pradesh, Ladakh, Sikkim, and beyond. The event was graced by the presence of knowledgeable guides, including Manoj Sharma and Vikram Tak, along with esteemed personalities such as Professor Ashok from Horticulture and Forestry College and Girls College Principal R Garg.

Reflecting on their transformative journey, the unanimous sentiment among the tourists was the proclamation of the Buddhist caves as unparalleled heritage sites. Advocating for global promotion, they stressed the need for widespread awareness to attract a substantial influx of Buddhist tourists from around the world. With conviction, they asserted that the caves of the Buddhist period in Jhalawar possess the potential to become a global pilgrimage site, offering a unique blend of cultural richness and spiritual serenity for seekers worldwide.

The tourist department is reported to have extended invitations to Buddhist nations, emphasizing the profound significance of the sites.

Buddhist sites in Rajasthan prey to political apathy

Blame it on political apathy or public disinterest in recognizing the heritage value of these caves located within close vicinity. Speaking to The Mooknayak, Rajyapal Sharma Convener INTACH Jhalawar Chapter mentioned that, being made of laterite stone, they are weak and in dire condition. " They were first visited and reported by Dr. Impey in 1853. Cunnigham published his report on the caves later in the Journal of Asiatic Society of Bombay 1857. The discovery of a rock-cut chaitya made Kolvi a striking and majestic site. These caves belong to a relatively later period. " Sharma informed. Originally, there were over 100 caves, but only 30-40 are currently visible. Some roofs have collapsed, and if the neglect persists, more are at risk of falling. The sites are protected by the ASI , however, not much have been done for their restoration or promotions. Sharma also highlighted the immense potential to develop a Buddhist circuit in Rajasthan, connecting with Madhya Pradesh's Mandsaur Dhammat caves, which attract a high number of visitors. He also said that the heritage enthusiasts have been making efforts to invite His Holiness the Dalai Lama to this place.

Speaking to The Mooknayak, Mohsin Khan, the tour manager said that it was the first attempt to attract Buddhist tourists to this place and it had been quite successful. In future more integrated efforts would be made. "It may take two days atleast if one wishes to actually explore the magnificence of the place and with the help of the locals we would try to work more on it so that the place gets its due recognition" he said.

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