Many of India’s ancient cave complexes served as sanctuaries not just for monks and missionaries, but also for travellers and traders. Famous ones like Kanheri in Mumbai, Ajanta and Ellora near Aurangabad, and Karli caves near Lonavla were built to be on or near port towns and trade routes specifically for this purpose. So while they house important temples, viharas, stupas and shrines relating to Buddhist, Hindu and Jain faiths, rock-cut caves also served a utilitarian value, especially during the torrential monsoon season when travellers would shelter here. They are marvels of indigenous architecture and design.
Take this quiz to find out how well you know India’s ancient caves and the cultures and faiths they represent. Tap on the + sign to enlarge the accompanying images, which are all from Sarmaya’s collection of rare photographs and engravings