Caves of Udayagiri
6-km from Bhubaneswar Railway Station, District Puri, Orissa
Locally Known As :
Famous As :
A Jain Pilgrimage Centre
Architectural Style :
The largest Buddhist Complex in Orissa, Udayagiri in the district of Jajpur has assumed further importance after recent excavations which revealed the ancient name of the monastery as Madhavapura Mahavihara. The excavations also brought to light a sprawling complex of brick monastery with a number of Buddhist sculptures. The entire area is found located at the foothills of a large hill that acts as an imposing backdrop.
The archaeological remains at Udayagiri consist of a brick stupa, two brick monasteries (one excavated and the other still unexcavated), a beautiful stepped stone well with inscriptions on it, and rock-cut sculptures at the top of the hill behind. Chronologically, the Udayagiri Buddhist Complex is later than Ratnagiri and Lalitgiri, and the monasteries probably flourished between the 7th and the 12th centuries A.D.
The large number of exposed sculptures from the excavations, as well as those still in situ, belong, obviously to the Buddhist pantheon and consist of Boddhisattva figures and Dhyani Buddha figures. Interestingly, although the site is located close to Ratnagiri (about 5 km), Udayagiri does not possess a number of Vajrayana sculptures. Much is still to be known about this site. In its present state, Udayagiri provides visitors a grand sight with its newly excavated sprawling monastery complex that has to be reached through a long stairway. The un-excavated area poses a mystery to archaeologists, art lovers and lay visitors alike with the prospects of the hidden treasures that lie buried. Adventure seekers will be thrilled by the ascent to the hilltop. The hilly, serpentine, all-weather approach road on the other side of Udayagiri is another added attraction.
Caves of Udaigiri
Cave 1, also known as Rani Gumpha has beautiful images of elephants, monkeys, sword fights and abduction of women etc. All the images have the connection with King Kharvela. The images with rich artistic expressions, is a great attraction for history lovers. Some of the caves are completely in ruins, while cave 3 and 4 are known for its massive sculptures and architectural splendor.
Situated near Udaigiri, thousand of relics are scattered here. An ancient tank lies here, it is said that the tank have water called Akahh Ganga (Ganga from the heavens).
Khandgiri Cave Sculptures
Among the caves, Cave 2 is the biggest one which was excavated in the first century B.C. In one of the caves one can view some faint lines in Brahmini script, which are assumed to be 2000 years old. The Anata Gumpha (Snake Cave), has a serpent shaped decoration at the entrance. The cave contains the best sculptures of the hill. The Jain temple situated at the hilltop is another attraction here.
THE LOWER STOREY
It consists of a single cell with three entrances and a pillared verandah with a bench at the rear end. On the walls flanking the terminal pilasters of the verandah are carved two dvara-palas (sentries). The left figure is better preserved; it wears a loin-cloth, heavy ear-ornaments, bangles and a necklace, holds a spear in its right hand and has a sheathed sword suspended form a strap on his left shoulder.
The pillars have disappeared, leaving remnants of their stepped and octagonal bases; the capitals each consist of six animals, bulls on the left and lions on the right- two seated back to back on the front and the rear and one each on the other faces. The pilasters, also over stepped bases, are divided into five sections, of which the basal, central and terminal ones are square and the intermediate ones are rendered octagonal by chamfering the corners of the square. Their capitals consist of three animals, horses on the left and elephants on the right, resting on a corbelled abacus above a bell-shaped lotus. The verandah has a shelf on each side.
The entrances to the cell are embellished with side-pilasters crowned by animals (the bull and winged lion being recognizable) on a corbelled abacus. Over them there are arches (torana) relieved with motifs like the honeysuckle, lotus or creeper, issuing from the months of animals, and crowned by a srivatsa in the central and nandipada in the side ones. A railing connects the lower ends of the arches.
In the two full and two half spandrils are represented four scenes. The first scene, beginning with the left, depicts a pious couple standing reverentially with folded hands, flanked by a dwarf under a tree on the left and a woman holding a tray of offerings in her left hand and a karanda-like object (casket) in her right.
In the next compartment are three personages- one male and two female- with folded hands in an attitude of devotion, seated on a bench and flanked on the right by a woman holding a tray and on the left by another holding a vase. To judge from the umbrella over him, the man appears to be a king. The ornaments of the women consist of heavy ear-studs, rows of bangles, heavy anklets and hansuli-like necklace.
A concert accompanied by dance forms the theme of the third. The female dancer with two braids of hair (one containing a flower), partly covered with a flowing veil, is seen within a pillared pavilion, the roof of which is relieved with stepped merlons. The orchestra is formed by four female instrumental performers- one playing on a mridanga, the second on a dhakka, the third on a harp and the fourth on a flute. One of the ends of the flute is in the form of the forepart of a lion.
In the fourth scene is a man with folded hands evidently proceeding towards a place of worship, accompanied by a boyish figure and two females holding a tray of offerings and a vase.
The wing has three cells, distributed on the three sides of a verandah, one having a window in addition to the usual door. The pillars have completely disappeared. The pilasters are similar to those of the right wing. The figures of the sentries are very much weather-worn.
It consists of four cells - three on the back side of the verandah and the fourth on the right. The roof of the verandah, together with the pillars, six in number, has disappeared. While the central rear cell has three doorways, the side ones has two each. The cell on the right side of the verandah has only one door. The door ways are embellished, like those of the right wing, with pilasters and arches, the latter connected with one other by railings supported by the bracket-figures of yakshas and yakshis.
Extending over the whole length of the arches are reliefs in nine compartments. The first scene from the left depicts a double storeyed structure with a barrel-vaulted roof crowned by a row of finials. The upper storey has only one entrance, through which a person is looking out: there is a balustraded open balcony round it, on which a woman is standing. The lower storey has two doors, each with a female figure. On the left side of the structure is a mango-tree.
In the second scene, which is almost wiped out, only the outlines of three figures riding on an animal and another with a sword can be made out. In the third compartment is discernible the figure of a royal personage under an umbrella, seated on an animal and accompanied by his attendants, one of whom holds a water-pot suspended on a stick and by a horseman in front.
The theme of the fourth scene is a group of men, some of them seated on elephants. In the fifth occurs a royal personage with two followers behind, one holding an umbrella and another a sword, on the left and four figures on the right, of which two are in a reverential attitude with folded hands. The central one stands with his left hand akimbo and right placed on his chest.
In the sixth scene are visible only three standing figures, of which one is a king, as suggested by the umbrella over him. The seventh depicts a gathering around a king; some of the persons are with folded hands. One of the troupe holds a sword. On the extreme left of the eighth compartment is a royal figure with two attendants behind him, one of them holding the umbrella over him, and another, in front, standing with folded hands; beyond the last are two standing women, one carrying a tray and another offering a flower, and two kneeling figures, one of them with flowing fillets round the head- a Greek feature.
Of the latter group the front one is holding the feet, as a token of submission, of a person who seems to be snatching at the head-dress of the former and the rear one has his hands folded. Both of them seem to have alighted from the caparisoned horse standing on the extreme right. By the side of the horse are three more figures with folded hands. Like the two kneeling figures they too do not wear turbans and are probably followers of the latter.
The ninth scene indicates the reception of a king, apparently on his return from a victorious campaign. On the left is the king standing below an umbrella held aslant by an attendant. Two of his warrior-followers carry long swords over their shoulders. On the right, carved on the wall adjoining the pilaster, are six figures, four women and two turbaned men, the latter with outstretched welcoming hands. Three of the women carry pitchers on their heads, the fourth, in kneeling posture, being in the attitude of pouring out the contents of her pitcher.
The whole series apparently celebrates the victorious march of a digvijayi king, starting from his capital, where people gaze at his departure from their houses, and returning thereto after passing through various lands.
At the angles where the right and left wings meet, the wings are two small guard-rooms, the right one with two doors. The outer faces of these rooms are lavishly decorated: the upper portions of both represent hills with springs and trees laden with mangoes and other fruits, wild animals, some in natural caves, birds, monkeys and other denizens of the forest; on the lower portions are depicted lotus-pools, in which are sporting elephants. The pilasters flanking the doors have ghata-bases placed on stepped pedestals and are crowned by winged addorsed animals, from which spring the arches, relieved with floral motifs, with a nandipada finial.
THE UPPER STOREY
The upper storey is better preserved, though here too the front portion of the verandah along with the pillars has disappeared. Out of the nine pillars, which now support the verandah, seven are modern, erected at the spots of the lost ones. The original pillars, to judge from the pilasters, were square below and at the top and octagonal in the middle. Each pillar had two bracket-figures, one facing the court and the other the cells. At least one bracket was detachable; its sockets exist on the pillar and the roof. There are altogether six cells- one each in the left and right wings and four in the rear.
All the four cells are provided with two doorways each, flanked by two pilasters, from which springs a carved arch (torana). In the triangular portions above these arches are variously srivatsa, nandipada, snake and lotus - all auspicious Jain symbols. The shafts of the pilasters are similar to the verandah-pillars, their capitals formed by a set of two winged addorsed animals, of which the horse, bull, lion and elephant are recognizable.
The arches are relieved with flowers, including the honeysuckle, lotus and creepers of various designs; in one case, animals are hotly chased by boys, this motif occurring in one of the early paintings of Ajanta and in the reliefs of Amaravati as well. The arches are connected with one another by railings, supported at intervals by dwarfish figures bent under the weight. The spaces between the arches above the railings are utilized for a long frieze, divided into nine compartments.
The reliefs apparently depict some legends, the satisfactory interpretation of which has not yet been arrived at, though different explanations have been suggested. From the vidyadhara flying in haste, with offering of garlands and flowers, which marks the beginning and end of the frieze, it appears that they may represent some episodes from Jain mythology, though there is hardly anything, which savours of the Jain faith, its mundane character being indeed too pronounced. The scenes seem to be independent of one another.
The frieze begins with a flying vidyadhara wearing an elaborate turban, a dhoti with plaits dangling in front, a floating scarf, kundalas, a necklace and bangles and holding in his outstretched left hand a tray of flowers and a roll of garlands and in his right stalks of a lotus three buds, intended for offerings. The modelling of the figure, especially in the lower portion, is supple.
In the second is depicted a highly-animated scene laid in a forest, as is indeed suggested by a flowering tree on the right, by the side of a hill with a natural cave containing a lion, carved at the left end. At the foot of the hill is a lotus-lake in which is a herd of three wild elephants, one of them confronting a party of one man and ten women.
Udaigiri has not its own airport, Bhubaneswar (100 Kms) Kms) is the nearest airhead. Cuttack (20 Kms) is also very close to Udaigiri.
By Air - Bhubaneswar airport is well connected to Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad etc.
By Train - Udaigiri is very close to Bhubaneswar and Cuttack railway stations, which are well connected to all major cities of the country.
By Road - Udaigiri is well connected to the cities Bhubaneswar, Cuttack etc. through the road network. It is connected to rest of the India via national highways. The buses run regularly from nearby towns to Udaigiri, one can also hire private taxis.
Cuttack and Bhubaneswar is perfect base for visiting Udaigiri. The hotels offer a pleasant stay to guests. There are plenty of options for stay, according to ones choice and budget. In Cuttack Hotel Akbari Continental (3 Star) is a good place to stay, while in Bhubaneswar the famous hotels are the Trident and the Oberois.
Best Time to Visit
At Udaigiri, the temperatures soars during summers and falls in winters. During monsoons heavy rainfall observed here, so the ideal time to visit Udaigiri is between September and March.