I read today a 2006 dated study that more than 1,200 cave temples have been discovered in India.
Just think about that. Wikipedia has a nice list of Hindu cave temples, the famous one's including those in Maharashtra and parts of South India that are tourist destinations of world interest, but it is only a short list.
Hindu cave temples (some are a mix of Hindu, Jain and Buddhist all at the same location) have always fascinated me. Most are very old and historic, but the tradition lives on and there are even modern one's excavated and turned into nice temples even now in other nations, an example would be in Malaysia built in the early 20th Century (actually founded in 1890) known as the Batu Caves near Kuala Lumpur where there is also a 140 foot high (42.7 m - promoted as the tallest in the world) statue of Murugan and a 50 foot high (15 m) Hanuman outside.
Something just feels "right" about such temples. They may not align iota to the various texts on proper temple construction, but yet they are very compelling and aluring in nature.
Besides these cave temples, there are also "rock cut temples" - creating a structure by carving it out of solid natural rock - in someways even more amazing which are sometimes free standing but literally cut from rock outcroppings or a combination of free standing and cave inner sanctums. Many of these are literally jaw dropping in majesty, art and often in sheer size, they are world historic monuments.
Here is just one example from Karnataka, India of rock-cut architecture. The Badami cave temples in the Bagalkot district of North Karnataka and the nearby stone temples of Pattadkal and Aihole.
18 arm Shiva
So the question is, would it be true to say caves have long been regarded as places of sanctity within Hinduism?
Om Namah Sivaya