Trace the evolution of mankind from forests and caves to urban settlements and markets in the city of Bombay! This experience takes you from modern day urban landscape of skyscrapers and freeways to deep into forests where aboriginal peoples continue to live in their respective hamlets, as well as ancient caves where Buddhist monks established a thriving monastery in the 2nd century BC (Mauryan era).
Meet at a mutually convenient location and head to the main entrance of SGNP (Borivali). A five kilometer exploratory walk through the forest leads to the caves. If we’re lucky, we might spot some leopards! (Alternatively, we could take the mini-bus run by the forest department or hire cycles).
1. The Warli Tribal Art: The Warli tribes of north Konkan have an art form that has become an icon in the state of Maharashtra. There are a number of Warli tribals who still have their hamlets inside the forest and one may spot them on the way.
2. The Great Hall (Kanheri): Amongst all the caves, the biggest one is constructed as an assembly hall. With beams holding up the ceiling, it is a majestic structure and symbolises a great Age when this set of caves was a thriving centre. According to Portuguese travelers, Buddhist monks were observed there as late as the 16th century.
3. View from the top: There are around a hundred caves at Kanheri and one has to do a lot of physical work climbing rock outcrops and descending to the dark abyss of holes. However, occasionally, one gets to stand atop an outcrop and look yonder at the landscape. Above the Deciduous tree line, one can just about make out the concrete jungles of Bombay.
- Coexistence of tribal and urban communities with the wildlife: Sometimes peaceful, sometimes in conflict, the traveler can get a quick lesson or two in anthropology as well as observe the thin line dividing nature and urban landscapes.
- Archaeological fix for the day: For Archaeology lovers, the Kanheri Caves will prove to be a treat to get acquainted with inscriptions and ruins from the Mauryan Era.