Undecided origins: The Arvalem Caves & Waterfall, Goa
Goa ? Beaches, music, food, parties, alcohol and loads of fun! Truly, the perfect holiday destination. However, apart from all the fun and frolic, Goa is also home to intricate and detailed, ancient heritage architecture. While one might think that most of the architecture is a result of the long and prominent Portuguese rule over Goa, with the Fontainhas and Churches. It is interesting to know that there are lesser known monuments that adorn this beautiful land of water and sand that date way back to the 6th century. One such beautiful example of ancient historical monuments present in Goa are the Arvalem caves. These caves located in the small Goan town of Bicholim in North Goa, are age old rock cut caves that give us insight into the fascinating Hindu mythological tales.
The Arvalem caves in Goa are more often referred to as the ‘Pandava caves'’. But why so? What possible connection could a cluster of caves in Goa have to the Pandavas? Well, as intriguing as this may sound, legend has it that the five Pandava brothers- Yudhisthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva - from the epic of Mahabharatha, inhabited this cave in which they spend twelve years of exile! And what provides further leverage to this out of a story book theory are the five separate compartments of the caves which are believed to have been home to each of the five brothers. Out of the five compartments, three of them hold a shrine of the Shivalinga, with the one in the middle comprising the main one. And this is what has led to the belief that the caves have a Hindu origin. However, due to an excavation that resulted in the discovery of a 4th century statue of Gautam Buddha some archeologists believe that the caves could have a Buddhist origin. The true facts are still undecided, and are rather left to be decided by the curious minds visiting this beautiful heritage site.
Today, the Goa museum is the keeper of the excavated Buddha statue. While the origins of the caves are still undecided, some believe that a group of travelling Buddhist monks carved the entire cave out of a single laterite stone due to the presence of a vihara at the south and sanctuary at the north which seem very much to be the style of a classic Buddhist rock cave. Another fascinating yet peculiar sight are the inscriptions in Sanskrit and Brahmi which date back to 7th century Indian culture. The Arvalem caves, also called as ‘Haravelem caves’ by the locals are a sight to behold, which have resulted in many movie scenes being shot here and moreover making this place a popular picnic spot for locals as well as tourists.
While the Arvalem caves might be a scenic spot by themselves, what further adds to their beauty is the bonus point added by the mystical Arvalem waterfall located just 1.5 kilometers from the caves. A small lake is formed as the unhinged waterfall plunges from a height. And this pool of water is an enduring spot for local swimmers and tourists under the guidance of a tour guide.The waterfall is also a popular picnic spot among the visitors as it is located at a walking distance from the caves, and it brings out an irresistible aura about itself making it truly captivating. There is also a Rudreshwar Temple located in the vicinity of the caves and is also frequently visited by tourists.
The best time to visit Arvalem caves and waterfalls is all year long, there isn’t any specific season or time as its serene beauty stays untouched all throughout. However, the monsoon season is the perfect time to visit the Arvalem waterfalls, as the unhindered flowing water is in all its glory! An important thing to note would be the timings to visit this beautiful site as the cave is open to the public from 9 am to 5 pm, with a break of one hour between 1 pm to 2 pm in the afternoon. It is open on all days of the week. The Arvalem Falls is open from 9 am to 6 pm on all days of the week as well.
The Arvalem caves and waterfall are a must visit on a long vacation to Goa as they bring to this beautiful state an added glory that is far beyond its beaches and seafood.