Barabar Caves are situated in the hilly area near Makhdumpur, 25 km south of Jehanabad. These ancient rock-cut Buddhist chambers date back to the 3rd Century A.D. and are renowned as the place of origin of the Ajivika sect.
Situated on the twin hills of Barabar and Nagarjuni, Barabar Caves are a set of 7 rock-cut caves dating back to the 3rd century BC, during the Maurya period. These rock-cut chambers bear dedicatory inscriptions which inform that the four caves on Barabar hill were assigned by King Ashoka to Ajivika monks in 261 BC. Another inscription on the Nagarjuni hill is of the grandson of King Ashoka, Dasaratha Maurya, which tells that the Ajivikas continued to enjoy imperial Mauryan patronage for a long.
Out of the 7 caves, the Barabar Hill houses 4 caves and the Nagarjuni Hill is having 3 caves. Carved out of granite, the caves on Barabar Hill are named Karna Chaupar, Lomas Rishi Cave, Sudama Cave, and Vishwamitra Cave. The cave of Lomas Rishi is probably the most famous of the caves of Barabar, because of its beautifully carved door. It is on the southern side of Barabar Hill and is adjacent to Sudama cave, which is on the left. Lomas Rishi consists of two rooms- a rectangular room, and a circular, semi-hemispherical room. The cave has an arch-like shape facade that imitates contemporary timber architecture. On the doorway, a row of elephants proceeds towards stupa emblems, along the curved architrave. This is the characteristic form of the ‘Chaitya arch’ or chandrashala, to been an important feature of architecture and sculpture in the rock for many centuries.
Lomas Rishi cave
The cave of Lomas Rishi is probably the most famous of the caves of Barabar, because of its beautifully carved door. It is on the southern side of Barabar granite hill and is adjacent to Sudama cave, which is on the left. Lomas Rishi consists of two rooms: a rectangular room measuring 9.86×5.18m, and a circular, semi-hemispherical room 5m in diameter, which is accessed from the rectangular room by a narrow rectangular passage.
The Sudama cave is located on the southern side of Barabar granite hill. It is close to Lomas Rishi and on its left. It consists of two rooms: a rectangular room measuring 9.98×5.94m, and a semi-hemispherical room 6m in diameter, which is accessed from the rectangular room by a narrow rectangular passage. This is probably the first cave in the group to have been dug. This cave was dedicated by Emperor Ashoka in 257 BCE (the 12th year of his reign) as evidenced by an inscription in Brahmi using his protocol name (Priyadarsin, “He who brings joy”) found in the entrance of the cave, whereas the cave of Lomas Rishi did not receive a dedicatory inscription.
Karan Chaupar cave
Karan Chaupar, also known as Karna Chaupar, is on the northern side of the Barabar granite hill. It consists of a single rectangular room with polished surfaces, 10.2×4.27m in dimensions. It contains an inscription of Ashoka dating from the 19th year of his reign, about 250 BCE, located outside, immediately to the right of the entrance. Initially, it was thought from E. Hultzsch’s 1925 translation, that Ashoka’s inscription from Karna Chopar Cave does not mention the Ajivikas, and seems rather refer to the Buddhist practice of retirement (vassavasa) during the rainy season.
The nearby caves of Nagarjuni hill were built a few decades later than the Barabar caves and consecrated by Dasaratha Maurya, Ashoka’s grandson and successor, each for the Ajivikas sect. They are 1.6 kilometers east of the Barabar Caves.