Just thirty years ago, the town of LONAVALA (also spelt Lonavla), 110km southeast of Mumbai and 62km northwest of Pune, was a quiet retreat in the Sahyadri hills. Since then, the place has mushroomed to cope with hordes of weekenders and second-home owners from the state capital, and is now only of interest as a base for the magnificent Buddhist caves of Karla and Bhaja, some of the finest rock-cut architecture in the northwest of the Deccan region. Though not on nearly such an impressive scale as Ajanta and Ellora, they harbour some beautifully preserved ancient sculpture, some of which dates from the Satavahana period (second century BC).

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