I am absolutely crazy about caves. In the past, whenever I used to read the ‘Vanavas’ chapter of Pandavas in Mahabharata, I got fascinated each time by thinking about how could they live inside of the caves most of their exile-period! Before our Goa trip, I did a quick Google search and came to know that Aravalem caves were the ones where Pandavas took a refuge for quite some time (according to mythology). My enthusiasm doubled!
Situated in Sanquelim town in Bicholim district, North Goa- Arvalem caves remain open from 9 am-1 pm and again from 2 pm-5pm. We reached there close to 10 am and besides us, there were only handful of tourists. When we entered to the caves, I found it from the local guide that there are two schools of thoughts regarding the origin of Arvalem caves. Those who believe in Hindu mythology claimed them to be the hide-out of Pandavas and credit Yudhishtir, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakul and Sahadev to be the constructors of these caves. The other school declares these caves to be made by Buddhist monks. By seeing the rather pristine and simple technique, I tended to lean on the latter theory though!
Unlike caves like Ajanta and Ellora where the walls of the caves are adorned with beautiful paintings and sculptures, the walls of Arvalem caves were rustic in their charm and I unexpectedly felt quite intrigued about them!
There were total five caves in Arvalem and we found many Shiv lingas inside them. Each of it was different in size and shape and our local guide informed that- from Buddhist monks, the Shaivites ( or Shiva followers) took reign of these caves and molded them accordingly, during the Bhoja Kingdom of ancient Goa. Just thinking about how many times the ownership of those caves transferred from one hand to other, whirled my head.
Another USPs of Arvalem caves were the two distinctive places nearby- Rudreshwar Temple and Arvalem water-fall. Upon our returning from the caves, we took two halts on those two sites respectively, and as usual were smitten by the unadulterated charms of Goa.