That sounded cool, but what was even more surprising was the realization that this vast Hindu realm was once almost entirely Buddhist... for a fleeting moment of time, at least. When Ashoka the Great Unifier ruled India, back in the 3rd century before Christ, Buddhist doctrine was exported as far afield as Greece. In his efforts to propagate Buddhism, Ashoka built shrines and monasteries all over India... my Soka Gakkai friends in Japan would call him a legend! He inscribed Buddhist teachings on rocks and pillars in many places. At Kanheri these engravings can be seen, written in the ancient Brahmi script, as well as Devanagari and Pahlavi. The empire ebbed, as all empires do, and all that were left behind were the deep-sea fishermen called Kolis, whose stone goddess Mumbadevi gave her name to the modern metropolis of Mumbai... and the ruins at Kanheri.
According to the Mahaarashtran Tourist Information Site:
"The viharas at Kanheri indicate a large monastic settlement which probably began in the 1st century AD when the bhikshus followed the austere Hinayana tradition. The settlement grew into a scholastic centre with a large library and continued through generations of monks for several centuries. The cells are provided with stone beds and cisterns for storing water, and are connected by walkways.
"Over time, the bhikshus enlarged their rock-cut Caves and in each group of viharas one was set aside as a chapel for meditation and the performance of prayer rituals. A stupa, now a votive memorial, was carved at the inner end and the arrangement of columns allowed a circumambulatory passage around it. Over the entrance was the characteristic arch in the shape of a pipal leaf. Originally simple and even severe, as at Bhaja, the chaitya developed into an impressive shrine like the magnificent Karla chaitya of the 2nd century AD -- an inscription here claims that it is the finest in ancient India..."