Historians around the world have longed visited caves and tried to unearth the history of human civilization. These caves not only served as habitations but also as places of worship and rituals. Caves are also the true embodiments of the culture of the civilization they were run by. And for those of you who are interested in the fascinating histories of caves, or maybe just looking for a place to travel to, this list of top 12 sacred caves in the world is just for you.
Also see: Famous Caves in India
Sacred caves in the world
1. Actun Tunichil Muknal, Belize
The Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave or the ATM Cave as it is locally called is a Maya Archaeological site. This cave is famous for the crystal maiden- a complete female skeleton that shines due to the eons of crystal calcification. Also, one can see the various Maya Pottery shards, the pots have a “kill hole”, which suggests that were used in rituals of some kind. Also, the cave contains a stelae chamber which was used by high-status individuals to perform rituals and offer their blood to the Gods.
2. Elephanta Caves, Gharapuri Island, India
Also a UNESCO World Heritage sites, these caves are a shrine to Lord Siva of the Hindu Mythology. There are various carvings of Siva, the main one being Trimurti Sadasiva, a statue that represents Siva as the creator, the preserver, and the destroyer. Also, the Ardhanarisvara carving represents the half male and the half female avatar of the God Siva. Siva has also been depicted as Yogisvara- the Lord of Yogis and Shiva Nataraja. The Gangadhara carving is just beside the Siva carving, suggesting that the Ganges came out of Siva’s hair.
3. Longmen Caves, China
Built through the Xiangshan and Longmen Shan hillsides, and above the Yi River, the Longmen caves are a treasure of Buddhist carvings. There are a total of 2,345 caves and niches in the area with tens of thousands of statues of Buddha and his disciples, a total of 2,800 inscriptions and sixty pagodas. These caves were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. There are also various temples in the caves.
4. Dambulla Caves, Sri Lanka
The Dambulla Caves are five Buddhist Cave shrines, and they have been a pilgrimage site for almost 22 centuries after by opened by King Valagambahu in 1 B.C. The caves have various murals and sculptures, along with ceiling murals that have directly painted onto the rock. The cave premises also houses the Dambulla cave temple along with five main caves. These underground paths provide impeccable illustrations of Buddhist History.
5. Corycian Caves, Greece
These are vast caves on the Mount Parnassus that were used to the God of Pan and the nymphs in ancient times. Also, a rock near the opening of the cave was used as an altar for religious rituals. Not only this, but the cave also has been a hiding place for citizens during foreign invasions. This cave gives one a very deep insight into the history of Greece and the practices and rituals Greeks were involved in. Also, the paths in the cave are more easily traveled by active walkers than by horses or mules.
6. Bronze-Age Minoan Caves, Crete
Crete has more than three thousand caves, and they were used by the Minoans (Minoan civilization was the first advanced civilization in Europe) to worship God’s and Goddess of Greek Mythology. History has it that Rhea gave birth to Zeus in one of the caves called Dikteon Cave and was hidden from his father Cronus by Rhea in the Idaian Cave. During the Minoan period, the caves in the West of Crete were used for habitations, sheltering, work and meditation. If you are curious about the advent of advanced human civilization, you should definitely pay Crete a visit.
7. St. Paul’s Grotte, Malta
St. Paul’s Grotte is a tiny cave which St. Paul, then a Roman Prisoner lived in after he was shipwrecked to Malta around 60 A.D. According to the Bible, St. Paul was treated well by the Maltese and during his state, he performed a miraculous cure when he survived a viper’s bite. He was then seen as a God by the locals. The cave complex also has a museum that has a collection of Catholic artifacts and paintings. Visitors say that have a special feeling when they visit the cave.
8. St. Michael’s Cave Shrine, Italy
A cave shrine dedicated to the archangel Michael, this tiny cave was made into a shrine after archangel Michael appeared on the spot and said, “Where the rocks open widely, the sins of men may be pardoned”. It is also said that Michael left an altar, a red cloth and his footprint in stone to mark the spot. This shrine is an important pilgrimage site since the early Middle ages.
9. Grotte de Font-de,-Gaume, France
Thai cave in Dordogne, France features various animal paintings on its rough limestone walls. Even though the origin of the paintings dates back to 15000 years, the colors are still vivid. It is supposed that the purpose of this cave was to hunt or the artist attempt to represent the lunar calendar.
10. Sof Omar Caves, Ethiopia
It is said that the opening of the cave was revealed to Sheikh Sof Omar by Allah himself. The twelfth century. Since then, this cave has been used as a mosque by local Muslims to offer their payers. Also, the rocks in the cave have naturally eroded to give rise to vaults, domes, columns, and pillars, making this cave a natural architectural marvel. To see if the architecture is really as marvelous, you must pay a visit to these caves.
11. Ajanta Caves, India
Even those Ajanta Caves are man-made recesses, they are considered caves as they have been fully carved out of rocks. These caves are believed to be the work of Buddhist monks who stayed there from second century BCE to sixth century CE. The caves were neglected after they left.
12. Ellora Caves, India
Ellora caves are a collection of thirty-four caves. The complex also includes the Kailasa Temple, which has been carved fully out of bedrock. Not only do these caves have Buddhist temples, Hindu and Jain structures are also present. These caves, along with the Ajanta Caves are one of the most beautifully carved caves with intricate sculptures, amazing everyone who visits. The caves have been carved out of basalt bedrock, a rock that is much harder to carve. A lot of people wonder how these caves were actually carved as the present day techniques are not capable of such fine and intricate patterns.
Also read: Kailasa Temple – An Architectural Wonder
In the world there is a list of thousand caves but if we talk about sacred caves these are very few. If you are planing to visit a sacred cave, this list will help you for sure.