Dharashiv Caves – Historical Background :
The dharashiv caves are situated 8 Kms away from Osmanabad city in Balaghat Mountains. The caves were taken note of by Archaeological Department and mentioned in the book “Archaeological survey of India” by James Verges. There are total 7 caves in the Balaghat Mountain lane. The first cave is without any statue with small open space .The second cave consists of a statue with Artistic work on right side of statue. The art work is of gandharva era. The fourth cave is with open space without any statue inside. The statue in the sixth cave is damaged while the seventh cave has no statue. That this is an ancient place is shown by the caves excavated in the hill at a distance of about eight miles.
These caves were originally Buddhist, but were later converted into monuments of the Jain religion and fresh caves were also excavated nearby. Of this we shall speak later. There are some more Buddhist caves excavated in the hills, about 8 miles from Dharashiva. The earlier of them are referred by Burgess to the middle of the 7th century A. D. Cave No. II is modeled on the plan of the Vakataka caves at Ajanta. It has a central hall measuring 80 feet by 80 feet, with 14 cells for the residence of the Bhiksus and garbhagraha with a colossal image of the Buddha in Pamasana. From the hoods of a serpent spread over its head, it is supposed by some to be the image of the Jaina Tirthankara Parshwanath, but the figures of deer with a dharmacakra between them on the pedestal indicate that it is that of Gautama Buddha. Another cave (No. III) has a hall of 59’ by 59’, closely resembling Cave No. I. Later some Jain caves (No. V and VI) were excavated on the same hill. They are described in the Prakrt work Karakandacariu as excavated by the king Karakanda, who came to know about the earlier caves from the prince Siva of Terapura (Tagara).
The Karakandacariu is a work of the 11th century A. D. so these later caves were probably excavated in the 9th or 10th century A. D. during the age of Rastrakutas. As per the historical survey of caves they were built in 5th century B.C. There is severe differences between historical researchers & archaeological intelligence regarding religion i.e. whether the caves belongs to Buddha or Jain. There is also strong differences regarding the era of when the caves where built. Recently in 1996 with help of World Bank few parts of cave have been repaired.