A Trip to the Barabar Caves
By Shubha Khandekar
The India team of Lord Cultural Resources has recently visited the Barabar caves located in the state of Bihar, India, in regards to the Bihar Museum’s exhibition design project, in which our firm is currently involved.
Meandering over an exotic landscape of low hills strewn with large, well-rounded boulders, in sharp contrast to the vast Gangetic plains of Bihar, we reached the base of the cluster of hills on which stand the oldest surviving rock cut caves of India, perhaps of the world: four in the Barabar and three in the Nagarjuni groups. For their historical significance, these caves form an important exhibit at the Bihar Museum, for which we are the Master Planning Consultants and also designing the exhibits.
Majestic in the beauty of their rawness, the caves incorporate deep acoustics that make them ideally suited for chanting and meditation in seclusion while the inscriptions at the entrance reveal that they were carved by Emperor Asoka for the Ajivika ascetics 2300 years ago.
The Barabar Caves were featured by the British writer, E.M. Forster, in his novel A Passage To India and in the 1984 movie based on the book directed by David Lean. Forster visited the caves on one of his two visits to India. Struck by their curious echo, he used them as a central location in his book, renaming them “The Marabar Caves” for the story.