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Mouth of the great northern cave, Gridhrakuta Hill, Rajgir

Mouth of the great northern cave, Gridhrakuta Hill, Rajgir

Photographer: Caddy, Alexander E.

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1895

Shelfmark: Photo 1003/(211g)

Item number: 1003211g

Genre: Photograph

Photograph of rocks and cave entrance, Gridhrakuta hill, Rajgir, taken by Alexander. E Caddy in 1895. Two natural caves on Gridhrakuta hill are mentioned by Hiuen Tsang, the Chinese pilgrim, as the site of many of Buddha's sermons. It also appears likely that he resided in these, and other caves around Rajgir, for short periods of time. Situated in a large valley surrounded by hills, Rajgir played an important role in in the Buddha's life, the political climate here was favourable towards non-Brahmanical sects like Buddhism. Known as Rajagriha, the city was the ancient capital of the Magadha kingdom. The rulers of the Magadha dynasty at the time of the Buddha were Bimbisara and Ajatashatru (circa 543-459 BC), and it has been claimed the latter was a Buddhist convert. After the Buddha's death Ajatashatru provided accommodation for the first Buddhist council at another cave in the hinterland of Rajgir. The importance of this pair of caves, one of which is shown in this photograph, is illustrated by the stone structures that can be found in the immediate vicinity, and the terracotta plaques depicting the seven past Buddhas found inside.

Caddy reported at that time, 'Ascending the Baibhar hill we pass several basements and the remains of two stupas. Continuing, we pass three Jain temples and come to a fourth. Here, descending a mountain path, a few yards, we come to another basement, and crossing on to a natural platform, just north of this temple, we are immediately in front of the Great Northern Caves. These caverns pierce the hill horizontally for a depth of fifty feet and more, leading into cross-galleries running at right angles to them for thirty or forty feet.'

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