Arvalem Caves a.k.a Goa’s Mysterious ‘Pandava Caves’ in Sanquelim


Goa was ruled by the Portuguese for 450 years. But very few of us know that for many centuries before the Portuguese arrived, Goa was ruled by numerous Hindu dynasties. Even today one can witness the marks left behind by these early rulers across the state.

At a distance of 31 Km from Panaji, is the small village of Arvalem in North Goa, which is well known among tourists for its beautiful waterfall and a set of caves that goes back 1,500 years. These Arvalem Caves aka Pandava Caves are among the earliest marvelous Hindu architecture in the state.

Image Credit – thegoavilla

Where are Pandava caves located?

Historians believe that Pandava or Arvalem caves were carved somewhere back in the 6th century.

Due to the duplexity of the carvings and artefacts that are found in these caves, they have narrowed this down that there can be two possibilities that is they are either of Buddhist origin or Brahmin origin.

According to one of the legends it is believed that during their 12 years of exile, the Pandava brothers –  Yudhisthira,  Bhima,  Arjuna,  Nakula an  Sahadeva  – from the epic of  Mahabharatha, resided in these caves.

Many others believe that the caves were in fact carved by travelling Buddhist monks out of a single laterite rock probably because the architecture  of these caves are similar to the caves known to have been carved by the monks, i.e.rock-cut caves with the sanctuary at the northern end and the vihara at the southern end.

During an excavations made nearby a large statue of Mahaveer Gautama Buddha which dates back to the 4th century was discovered, which can presently be found in the Goa museum. All these facts force scholars to lend supports to the Buddhist origin theory.

However, the presence of four shivlings in the caves makes one strongly believe that these caves are of Brahmin origin or were converted into shaivite caves. These lingas (phalluses) are carved and inscribed in Sanskrit and the style of these carvings are of the Bhoja period.

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How to visit Arvalem Caves?

The lesser known Arvalem Waterfalls are one of the greatest gifts of Goa. The Mystical Arvalem waterfalls are located just 1.5 Km away from the caves, and its gushing sound will immerse you in the beautiful rhythm of the water.

It gushes from a height of 70 ft. and forms a pool or a lake, which is the particular spot for the swimmers to soak themselves in it. Visitors can visit the waterfalls at any time of the year because the climate is blissful throughout the year. However, monsoon is the perfect time to visit the waterfalls. Meanwhile, tourists can visit the cave anytime in between 9 am to 5 pm, which includes an hour break between 1 pm to 2 pm.