One of the most surprising monuments of ancient Buddhist art is found in remote, collapsing Bagh Caves. Here in 1818 were discovered significant monuments of art including some of the most amazing paintings known to be made by ancient man.
Bagh Caves were nine rock-cut caves, made in perpendicular cliff towering 45 – 50 m above the Baghani River, on the southern slopes of Vindhya Range. They are hewn in vertical face of sandstone cliff – in fact the only outcrop of sandstone in an area where for most part is found basalt.
According to legend these caves were established by Buddhist monk Dataka. Earlier it was considered that caves were shaped in 7th century AD, but find of inscription in Cave 2 changed these views and now it is considered that caves were carved in late 4th century – 6th century AD.
Based upon the epigraphical records from this regions, historians tried to identify the areas of Valkha chiefdom, but the identification is tentative and based upon the similarity between the names in inscriptions and present day names. A copperplate charter, found at cave 2, refers to a grant of eight villages. These eight villages are identified as follows: Dagdha Pallika as Dahi, Lohakara Pallika as Lohari, Yajnagrahaka as some village near Lohari as this village was granted along with Lohakara Pallika to same Brahmana, Devagraharaka as Deogarh, Gavayapaniyaka as some village near Deogarh, Garjananaka as Gajnera and Pippalojjhara as Piplod. Apart from these sites, there are many sites, mentioned in inscriptions, which are still unidentified. Apart from Narmada, the only other river mentioned in inscriptions is Pomphagratta. However there is no tributary of Narmada of similar name. All the inscriptions from Bagh commence with the term ‘Valkha’ and some also give the phrase ‘Vilkha-Adishthana’, suggesting that the powerbase of chiefdom was called Valkha.
Paintings at Bagh Caves
Princess Malini and her companion are seated in a pavilion on the rooftop. The lady sitting to the left with high ornamentation is princess Malini. The second lady is shown overwhelmed with grief and has covered her face with upper garment. Princess Malini of Benaras (Varanasi) was devoted to monks Tishya, Kashyapa and Bhardwaja. Because of her devotion and faith on Buddha and Buddhism, she became an eyesore for the Brahmins. The Brahmins hatched a conspiracy to remove her from their way. So they sent an ultimatum to the king to choose either Malini or the Brahmins. Unwillingly, the king decided to discard Malini. In the painting, Malini’s companion is shown in grief when this news was broke out to Malini by her.
How to Reach
Bagh is about 97 km from Dhar, a major town in Madhya Pradesh, and about 150 km from Indore. (876)