Monumental Change

Filmmaker Ratheesh’s five-minute documentary is an effort to protect the famous Karla caves from misuse.

Written by Prajakta Hebbar | Published:March 31, 2013 12:55 am

Filmmaker Ratheesh’s five-minute documentary is an effort to protect the famous Karla caves from misuse.

For filmmaker Ratheesh,a trip to the famous Karla caves near Lonavala changed his perspective not just about the history of India but also its preservation. The Kochi-based filmmaker,who had gone to visit the second century monument,was shocked by the blatant misuse of the place during a local festival.

“There is a Durga temple adjacent to the intricately-carved chaitya,or prayer hall,dating back to the first century BC,and on Mahanavami days,devotees throng the temple. On the same day,the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) ticket counter at the monument is closed but the doors of the monument are open to public. The devotees who visit the monument during that time treat the place shamefully,” says Ratheesh.

After seeing the plight of the monument,which is listed under ASI as ‘preserved heritage site’,the filmmaker could not stay put and decided to do something about it.

His five-minute documentary,Karla: The Story of a Crime,records the condition of the popular historical monument with actual footage and photographs to get the message across.

Ratheesh’s documentary premiered earlier this month at the recently concluded Kochi-Muziris Biennale. “This is one of the most important historical landmarks in the country. While there are proper provisions for tickets and security on all other days,all the rules and regulations are tossed aside during the local festivals. I have seen with my own eyes that people climb on to sacred spaces and rare statues to click photographs,” says Ratheesh. He hopes the documentary will push ASI towards taking better stock of the monument.

Sharing its history,Ratheesh says that the Karla cave complex is built into a rocky hillside,around 60 km from Pune,with large windows cut into the rock to light the interiors. The main cave features a large chaitya,which is among the largest rock-cut chaityas in India,measuring 148 ft long and upto 46 ft high. The complex also has many other carved chaityas as well as viharas,or dwelling places for the caves’ monks.

The caves were historically associated with the Mahasamghika sect of Buddhism,which had great popularity in this region,as well as wealthy patronage. The monastery was once home to two 15-meter grand pillars,but now only one of these remains. The remaining space is occupied by a temple dedicated to the goddess Ekveera,who is worshiped most notably by the Koli community from Mumbai.

Ratheesh,who recently moved back to the country from Mexico,says he is currently working on two documentaries — one on a Kathakali dancer and another on the life of a spiritual teacher.

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