The Barabar Caves - 6: Inside the Karan Chopar Cave
Some things change, and some things remain the same. The resident holy man/priest/hermit whom I had met in 1993 was, in 2009, still living at the caves, and looking remarkably similar to the picture on Page 1 of this site. His facilities had been improved. The small well has been supplemented by a second, larger one. A pump house pumps water to the small accomodation block where the Holy Man and his helpers live.
Now that I had the caretaker of the caves with me, I could look inside the Karan Chopar cave as well. He unlocked the large padlock from the metal barred-gate, and I was able to go inside and take photographs. Like the Sudama cave, the Karan Chopar cave has a perfectly polished interior, and consequently displays a particularly fine and sustaining echo, as previously described. It was made 7 years later than the Sudama cave, in 245 BC.
E.M. Forster writes of the interior: 'They are dark caves. Even when they open towards the sun, very little light penetrates down the entrance tunnel into the circular chamber'. This is still the case, and proves a real problem for the photographer. I prefer to use whatever natural light is available, and don't carry any extra flashlights with me. It was therefore necessary to use a tripod. I found that by taking a 3-second exposure, there was enough light to capture a successful image. I also used HDR (High Dynamic Range) techniques to capture detail inside the cave and the entrance tunnel simultaneously. The widely differing light levels in these areas would have made a single exposure impossible.
A damaged inscription of 5 lines within the passageway to the cave mentions the 19th regal year of Ashoka (i.e. 245 BC.) and refers to the name of the cave as the Supiya Cave, and the name of the hill as Khalatika.
The final photograph of the interior of the Karan Chopar cave in this series shows the caretaker sitting on a small stone dais on the end wall nearest to the entrance. The exact purpose of this dais, with its gently tapering sides, is unknown. Perhaps it served as an altar, though if so, it is a little low. Perhaps is was used as a seating platform for the senior monk of the chanting ceremonies. I guess that the presence of this dais will degrade the echo slightly, though without precise measuring equipment I wasn't able to form a good comparison between this cave and the Sudama.
I was very pleased to have taken such good photographs of the three caves - a great improvement over what was possible in 1993. And more excitement was still to come. Though neither the caretaker or my driver could speak English, they both understood my questioning as to the location of the Nagarjuna Hill, which I had been unable to locate on my last visit. The caretaker indicated that not only did he know where the hill was, but he also knew where its caves were hidden! We all got into the car and drove in the direction that he indicated...
Please visit Page 7 of the Barabar Cave series..