About 40 km northeast of the city of Gaya in the Indian state of Bihar, in the middle of an absolutely flat yellow-green plain, there rises a small rocky ridge about three kilometers long. In the rocks of this ridge, there is the Barabar cave monastery - the oldest preserved in India. The four caves, carved (?) In the rock, date from the reign of King Ashoka the Great, the first monarch to adopt Buddhism as the official religion.
Barabar Monastery was originally Buddhist. It belonged to the Ajivika sect, which was the main competitor of Buddhism during the reign of King Ashoka. The caves themselves are a gift from King Ashoka to this sect, as the inscription on one of the walls says.
The biggest mystery of the Barabar caves is the perfectly polished walls of the correct semicircular shape.
In its central part there is a group of rocky hills known for its ancient man-made caves in India, which are called Barabar (Banawar) Hill. About one and a half kilometers from them to the east there is another location of similar caves belonging to the same historical period as Barabar - the rocky Nagarjuni Hill.
Most often, both of these places are referred to under one general name: "Barabar Caves" (Barabar Caves).
The Barabar group consists of four caves, and the Nagarjuni group consists of three. The caves date back to the time of the great Mauryan empire: they were built during the reign of Emperor Ashoka (268-232 BC) and his successor Dasharatha (232-225 BC). Along with the two Son Bhandar Caves in Rajgir, they are the oldest cave temples in India.
One of the most interesting features of these rock structures is that they were neither Buddhist, nor Hindu, nor Jain, but belonged to the now defunct Shraman sect of Ajivik ascetic philosophers. The Barabar Caves are the only structure associated with this extinct religious and philosophical tradition - Ajiviki
The third unorthodox sect, which arose simultaneously with Buddhism and Jainism, was the Ajiviks - a group of ascetics, bound, like the Jains, by severe discipline and also refused all clothing.
The teachings of the founder of the sect, Goshala Mascariputra, are in many ways reminiscent of the ideas of his contemporary Mahavira, who at one time was his friend. Like Mahavira, he based on the teachings of the previous teachers and ascetic sects, complementing and developing them.
Both Buddhist and Jain sources claim that he was of an ordinary family, he died about a year earlier than Buddha, that is, in 487 BC. e., after a fierce polemic with Mahavira in the city of Shravasti. His followers, apparently, united with the disciples of other preachers, such as the antinomian Purana Kashyapa and the atomist Pakudha Katyayana, and formed the Ajivik sect.
The sect flourished during the Mauryan era - it is known that Ashoka and his successor Dasharatha presented cave temples to the Ajiviks. However, subsequently, the sect quickly began to lose influence, retaining a small number of followers only in a small area of East Mysore and the adjoining regions of Madras, where it remained until the XIV century, after which nothing else was heard about it.
The texts of the Ajiviks have not reached us, and we know about them only from the Buddhist and Jain polemics against this sect. The teachings of the Ajiviks were undoubtedly atheistic and characterized by consistent determinism.The traditional doctrine of karma, as you know, claims that a person's condition is determined by his past actions; along with this, a person himself can influence his fate in the present and future - with the help of correct behavior. The Ajiviks denied this. They believed that there is an impersonal cosmic principle (niyati, that is, fate), which determines everything in the world, down to the smallest details. Therefore, it is generally impossible to influence the process of transmigration.
Despite the fact that a person cannot influence his future in any way, the monks of the Ajivik sect indulged in severe asceticism, explaining this by the destiny. Nevertheless, adherents of rival creeds accused the Ajiviks of licentiousness and immorality.
The Ajiviks of the Dravidian south developed their teachings in a direction close to the evolution of the “great chariot” Buddhism. Goshala became for them an incorruptible deity, like Buddha in the Mahayana system, and the doctrine of predestination was transformed into a doctrine reminiscent of the views of Parmenides: the world is eternal and motionless, and any change and movement is just an illusion. There is a certain similarity with the teachings of Nagarjuna about "emptiness"
Yet the most amazing thing about the Barabar Caves is not their unique antiquity, not belonging to a mysterious Shraman sect that has long disappeared, not the remarkable accuracy of the geometry of the rooms and the amazing quality of the polishing of granite walls and vaults, but the fact that these unusual structures were specially designed and built as acoustic cave halls for meditation.
The first three caves are carved into a long, rounded rock, stretching 200 meters from east to west, and surprisingly similar in shape to a giant submarine emerging directly from the ground. The rock of the rock is gneiss (solid metamorphic rock outwardly and in its properties is very similar to granite, so from now on I will always use the words "granite" and "granite").
The path leads to the north side of the cliff, where one cave is located - Karan Chaupar.
The cave dates back to 244 BC. at the entrance there is an inscription that this cave was built 19 years later after the accession to the throne of Emperor Ashoka.
The cave has a simple rectangular entrance, which immediately attracts attention with its absolute geometry and perfect workmanship.
The cave is very peculiar, probably there is nothing like it among the cult buildings in the world: there is not a single drawing, bas-relief, statue, etc. inside.
Instead, there is a room with perfectly balanced geometric dimensions and marvelous polishing (I remind you that all this was carved in a granite monolith in the 3rd century BC), and quite impressive dimensions: length: 10.4 m, width: 4.3 m, height: about 3.3. m (walls 1.42 m and vault 1.84 m).
Here's what travelers write:
Then the most surprising thing was: the caretaker went to the end of the cave and loudly shouted out a few words, after which the cave was filled with some kind of intricate sound, many of which were clearly new, not related to what the caretaker was saying.
Still slightly dumbfounded, we ourselves began to experiment with sound, loudly pronouncing phrases with different intonations and intervals, or clapping our hands. As soon as you finish your phrase, you are immediately enveloped by the intertwining of many sounds: some look like muffled conversation, exclamations, street noise, etc., others evoke some familiar, but difficult to convey associations.
The emergence of some not very clear and even strange sensations turned out to be very interesting and unexpected: you are standing in an absolutely dark cave (the corners and walls are barely visible), and all “this” seems to be palpably “flying” around you. Some kind of psychedelic.
By the way, all the caves are really very dark. All lighting is daylight through the entrance opening and a candle that the caretaker lit in another cave.Photos were taken with a flash (autofocusing on a spouse with a candle) and then decently refined.
The result of our exercises was that the spouse is still absolutely sure that inside the cave she heard the everyday noise of the village below: the voices of people, the mooing of cows, the laughter of children, etc., and that "it" got inside either through the entrance or somehow. All my attempts to dissuade her with the help of physics and logic so far have not led to anything - any arguments are powerless if a person really heard "this".
If you imagine how, in a dark cave with such acoustics, it spins for hours, breaking up into harmonics and intertwining again into something else, a surround sound from repeated with a certain rhythm and intonation to different voices: "Om-m-m!" - just frost on the skin.
When I pondered the nature of this miracle, I greatly regretted that I had not made several measurements of the attenuation by the stopwatch of the clock and did not try to listen more closely to what simple sounds decay (vowel, pop, etc.). I can only say that complete attenuation of the sound occurs within approximately 5-6 seconds.
I have no doubts that all the caves of Barabara and Nagarjuni were created as special acoustic halls. Apparently the ancient builders knew well how, from what and where to build premises with such an amazing reverberation: all the caves are carved into a monolith; have almost the same size and internal geometry; the walls, vault and floor have been polished to the highest quality. Even absolutely rectangular openings in all caves are the same - probably there was some sense in this (perhaps they served as resonator holes).
There is also no doubt that they were intended only for meditation or any similar ritual actions, and the ascetics themselves lived somewhere nearby.
From what modern scholars write, one can understand that very little is known about the Ajiviks themselves (see above), and nothing at all about their ritual practices.
Therefore, we will probably never know why the Shraman sect of ascetic atheists needed to create such "high-tech", and most importantly, insanely labor-intensive "music boxes." Two more caves are located on the opposite, southern side of the cliff. To get to them, you need to climb the ridge of the rock along the stone stairs located next to the entrance to Karan Chaupar, and go down to the opposite side.