Hindu cave temples in India are holy spots were Supreme Truth manifested to save humanity and to reveal knowledge to free living beings from the cycle of birth and death. Many ancient seers of Hinduism attained self realization in these caves. These caves today house Swayambhu Murtis (images that appeared on its own) of gods in Hindu religion. Here are some of the popular cave temples in India.
Amarnath Cave Shrine – Ice Shivling – Dedicated to Shiva
A natural ice Shivling gets formed in the holy cave of Amarnath. This wonder takes place at a narrow gorge in the Lidder valley in Anantnag District of Jammu and Kashmir – the cave Temple of Amarnath. The journey to Amarnath Cave is restricted to two months before Shravan Purnima (June – August).
Vaishno Devi Temple
Vaishno Devi Ji Temple is located at Katra in Jammu and Kashmir and is visited annually by more than 5 million devotees. The temple is located on the folds Trikuta - a three-peaked mountain. The murti of Goddess Vaishnodevi is in the form of three natural rock formations. Today the original cave entrance is closed, as it is very narrow and cannot accommodate the volume of devotees.
Patal Bhuvaneshwar Temple in Uttarakhand is a natural cave temple dedicated to various gods in Hindu pantheon and is mentioned in the Skanda Purana. The cave temple is mainly dedicated to Shiva and has naturally formed murtis of various deities. Patal Bhuvaneshwar temple is located about 37 km from Chaukori and 14 km from Gangolihat in Pithorgarh District in Uttarakhand. (More information about Patal Bhuvaneshwar Temple)
Elephanta Caves located in Raigad District in Maharashtra is carved out of solid rock in 6th century AD. The caves are 11 km north-east of the Apollo Bandar, Mumbai. The important murtis here are Trimurti Sadashiva Shiva, Ardhanarisvara, Parvati, Andhakasuravada murti, cosmic dance of Nataraja, Kalyanasundara murti, Gangadhara murti, Ravana shaking Kailasa, Siva as Lakulisa and a panel depicting Saptamatrikas. (You can find a video on Elephanta Caves here)
Some of the important cave temples here are the Kailashnatha Cave Temple dedicated to Shiva and the Dashavatara Cave Temple.
Badami Cave Temples
These cave temples are located in Badami in Karnataka. There are four caves here. The first three caves are dedicated to murtis of Ganapati, Shiva, Vishnu, Nandi, Nagaraja, Harihara and various incarnations of Vishnu.
Shivkhori is a famous cave temple dedicated to Shiva and is located in Reasi District in Jammu and Kashmir. This is a very long cave and entry is permitted only up to 130 meters. Rest part of the cave is unexplored as there is lack of oxygen. The cave has naturally formed Shivling and murtis of Goddess Parvati and Kartikeya.
Bidar Narasimha Swami Cave Temple
Narasimha Jhira Cave Temple is popularly known as the Jharani Narasimha Temple and is famous for a swayambhu Narasimha Murti. The temple in situated in a cave where the water runs up to 300 metres. One has to move through waist deep water to reach the feet of the murti. The temple is a kilometre from Bidar town in Karnataka.
Nag Hill Caves at Pushkar in Rajasthan
Naga Sadhus mediate here. There is a cave here associated to Parashuram. It is located a kilometre south of Pushkar in Rajasthan.
Shiva Gufa at Mehargav in Uttarakhand
Shiva Gufa is a naturally formed cave at Mehargav on the Uttarkashi – Yamunotri Road. In the cave, one can see a naturally formed Shivling – water naturally falls on top of it continuously. The Guha also has naturally formed ice sculptors of Shiva, Ganesha, Trishul, Lotus and Om. (Picture and more about Shiva Gufa can be found here)
Punarjani Cave at Thiruvilwamala in Kerala
Punarjani Cave is located near the Thiruvilwamala Temple in Thrissur District in Kerala. The cave is only open during the Krishna Paksha Ekadasi day in Kumbha Masam as per Kerala Calendar. (More info on Punarjani Cave)
Guha Ganapati Small Cave Shrines near Mookambika Temple in Karnataka.
Guha Ganapati Temples are located on the way to Sarvanjna Peedam from Mookambika Temple. Here there is a Cave with a Ganesh murti popularly known as Guha Ganapathi. (Find more information and pictures of Guha Ganapati here)