Kanheri, with more than a 100 caves, appears to have been a large monastic rock-cut dwelling establishment with a chaitya as well as mona­stic teaching institution of the great Buddhist philosophy. The monastic dwellings at Kanheri are amongst the great creations of Indian archi­tecture and sculpture. The chaitya at Kanheri, to some extent, imitates that of Karla, and dates from the late second century A.D. on the basis of inscriptional evidence. The sculpture of Kanheri absorbed not only the Kushan influence in its mithuna couples but, later on, in the fifth century, we also find present the influence of Gupta sculpture, apparently from Sarnath. Certain influences from Kanheri are quite evident at Elephanta not only in the size of the sculptures emulating the two great standing Buddhas of Kanheri, but also in the iconography of Lord Shiva at Elephanta. Kanheri is certainly earlier than Elephanta as far as its fifth century sculptures are concerned.

Kanheri has left for historians a large heritage of inscriptions, besides its extremely rich religious and sculptural heritage. Many copper plates and inscriptions found at Kanheri have enabled valuable research in the ancient history of this part of India. Kanheri caves were visited by several foreign travellers. A group of Par sees from Iran visited the caves thrice— twice in 1009 and once in 1021. Their Pahelvi inscriptions appear on a facade of the same cave giving the date and names of the visitors in the party on each occasion. Evidently the Kanheri Monastery must have been a famous monastery even in the eleventh century. The Kanheri plates of A.D. 494 show that the power, domination and rule of the Traikutkas in this part lasted till at least A.D. 533. Several such inscriptions and plates have been discovered at Kanheri.

A very commendable effort has been made in this respect by Dr. S. B. Deo who has compiled a reference index of the inscriptions and copper plates in his Marathi book Maharashtra Va Gove Shilalekh-Tamrapatanchi Varnanatmak Sandarbha Suchi (Bombay, 1984). Dr. Deo has given the relevant details of all the inscriptions and copper plates which are discovered in Bombay as well as those preserved in the Prince of Wales Museum, the Asiatic Society of Bombay, the St. Xavier's College, etc. Dr. Deo has enumerated 69 inscriptions and 18 copper plates, either discovered or preserved in Bombay. An important copper plate of the Shilaharas dated A.D. 1026 found at Bhandup has now been kept in the British Museum. This plate in Sanskrit gives the geneology of the Shilaharas and throws a light on the religious nature of the conperned ruler.

Of the 18 copper plates, 15 are now kept in the Prince of Wales Museum, while one each in the British Museum, the Asiatic Society and the St. Xavier's College. Of the 69 inscriptions enumerated by Dr. Deo, 53 are at Kanheri, one at Mehal near Kanheri, and one each at Kondivti, Jogeshwari, Parel and Powai, while the rest of them, probably from other places in Western India, are now kept in the Prince of Wales Museum, the Asiatic Society, the University of Bombay Library and the St. Xavier's College.

Fifteen of the copper plates are in Sanskrit, while language of the three cannot be deciphered. Of the inscriptions, 49 are in Prakrit, 16 in Sanskrit, two in Kannada and one each in Marathi and a mixed language. Many of them are in the Brahmi script, while those in Devanagari are more numerous. Two of the copperplates belong to the Gurjar rulers, eight to the Maitrakas, one to the Rashtrakutas, three to the Shilaharas and four to other rulers which are not identified. Of the inscriptions, one belongs to the Mauryas, five to the Satavahanas, one to the Kushanas, two to the Chalukyas, one to the Kadambas, two to the Rashtrakutas, eight to the Shilaharas, one to the Yadavas, while the dynasty of the rest of 49 inscriptions has not been ascertained.

One of the Kanheri inscriptions mentions the matrimonial relationship between the Satavahan King Vasishtiputra Satakarni with the daughter of Mahakshatrap Rudra. As stated earlier, the Bhandup copper plate gives a geneology of the Shilaharas. One of the Kanheri inscriptions speaks of the spread of Buddhism widely in this part of India, while another mentions the excavation of the important chaitya at Kanheri. Most of the inscriptions and copper plates are in the nature of religious grants, and grants of land, land revenue, villages and water cisterns for the illustrious religious work.

These inscriptions and copper plates have opened new avenues for prized historical research.