Archaeological Museum
Caves Of Udayagiri
District Museum
Handicrafts Museum
Orissa State Museum
Tribal Museum
East India
West India
North India
South India
Central India
Adventure Wildlife
Deccan Odyssey
Fairy Queen Train
Palace on Wheels
The Royal Orient
World Time
Train Schedule
Currency Info
Distance Calculator
Indian Railway Reservation
Weather Report
STD Code
ISD Code
Packing List
Must Explore
How to reach India
Travel risks
Foreign embassies in India
Indian embassies in Foreign
Facts about India
Visa & passport
Home>>East India>>Orissa>>Historical>>Khandagiri Caves

Khandagiri Caves

Khandagiri Caves

Khandagiri, Khandagiri travel, Khandagiri tourism, Khandagiri Historical Place, travel to Khandagiri MonumentLocation : 6-km from Bhubaneswar Railway Station, District Puri, Orissa
Locally Known As : Gumpha
Famous As : A Jain Pilgrimage Centre
Architectural Style : Rock-cut Architecture

To the west of Bhubaneswar are the twin hills of Khandagiri and Udaygiri (c. first century BC), the next major Orissan historical monument after Ashoka's rock-cut edict.

The rocks of the Khandagiri and Udaygiri hills were carved and tunneled, to create this multi-storied ancient apartment residence for Jain monks. They were the work of the first known Orissan ruler, King Kharavela, and probably begun in the first century BC. Kharavela was a king of the Mahameghavahana dynasty, who is known for expansion of the Kalinga empire and his installation of public improvements, such as canal systems. His queen was evidently quite a patron of the arts, and probably had much to do with the impressive sculptural decoration of the caves.

As you approach the site, Khandagiri, with its 15 caves will be on the left. Udaygiri will be on the right. The 18 caves of Udaygiri include the famous Hathi Gumpha ('Elephant Cave') with its famous inscription of Kharavela. From the inscription, we learn much about Kharavela's military exploits, and also that his royal city had gate towers, bathing and drinking tanks, and was the scene of formally organized music and dance performances, as well as sporting and social events. The city, says the inscription, "was made to dance with joy". Kharavela was evidently a skilled musician, and it seems as if he created a remarkable center of the arts.

The famous Rani Gumpha ('Queen's Cave'), also on Udaygiri, has upper and lower stories, a spacious courtyard, and elaborate sculptural friezes. The carvings show popular legends, historical scenes, and religious functions, as well as many dancers. The style seems quite well-developed, and of a singular grace and liveliness.

The Ganesha Gumpha, which is reached by a walkway from the lower storey of the Rani Gumpha, is isolated, and perhaps for this reason, better preserved. Its two dwelling-spaces with verandah in front are reached by a short staircase from the courtyard.

All of the caves are small, and follow the natural configurations of the 'living rock'. The sculpture throughout exhibits a strong, lively folk element, which has been executed with

Cave-1 (Tatowa-gumpha 1)
Khandagiri, Khandagiri travel, Khandagiri tourism, Khandagiri Historical Place, travel to Khandagiri MonumentCave-1, the first of the two known as Tatowa-gumpha, from the figures of parrots carved on the arches of their doorways, consists of a low cell, with two doorways, fronted by a benched verandah. The ceiling of the verandah is supported on a pillar, octagonal in the middle and square below and above, with the characteristic chamfering of the corners and two pilasters. On the inner face of the pillar is a bracket, relieved with lotuses, honeysuckles and rosettes.

Guarding the entrance to the cave and standing in front of the pilasters are two sentries, clad in dhotis and scarves and armed with swords. The sidewalls of the verandah each have a shelf. The floor of the verandah is at a much lower level than that of the cell. The eaves projecting over the verandah have fallen away.

Entrance to the cell is provided by two doorways flanked by pilasters crowned by a pair of addorsed animals, bulls in the case of the right doorway and lions in the left. From the top of the capitals spring the semi-circular arches (makaara-tarana), one relieved with a creeper and the other lotuses alternating with honeysuckles, issuing from the mouths of a makara.

The spaces between the arches and sidewalls have patterns simulating the barrel-shaped roof supported on brackets and crowned by a row of finials carved against a background of railing-motif. Similarly roofed structures are common in the reliefs of Bharhut.

Between the two arches is a short one-lined inscription calling the cave that of 'Kusuma', an inhabitant of 'Padamulika'.

Cave-2 (Tatowa-gumpha 2)
A flight of modern steps built on the right side of Cave-1 will lead to Cave-2. Though similar to Cave-1, this cave is more spacious and its decoration more elaborates. The ceiling is comparatively high and is curved. There are three doorways ornamented with arches and pilasters.

The shafts of the pilasters are octagonal above and square below, resting on carved ghatas, the latter placed on stepped bases; over the bell-shaped lotus are neckings, cables and, in one instance, the bead-and-reel, above which are the abaci crowned by the capitals consisting of animals- a pair of spirited lions amidst trees on the left doorway, a set of four elephants on the middle and a pair of life-like bulls on the right.

The arches are decorated with a series of honeysuckles with a lotus at the top (on the left), lotus alternating with plants (in the middle) and vine (on the right) and have on either side doves and parrots on the right and middle arches and a pair of deer on the left. Crowned by a nandipada the arches have on the underside ribs reproducing the rafters of the wooden prototypes.

The semicircular space below the arches and above the door-openings is filled with a honeysuckle in the central and a garland with a lotus and lotus-buds in the side ones. Like Cave-1, the fašade of the cell is relieved with the barrel-shaped roof with pinnacles, flanked, however, by a lion on the left and an elephant on the right; the railing-motif occurs here below the roofline.

A major portion of the two pillars supporting the ceiling of the verandah is of modern restoration. Projecting from the pillars and pilasters and supporting the ceiling are cut-out brackets relieved with a variety of motifs; the inner brackets are better preserved and contain:

  • Honeysuckle alternating with lotus in the two outermost ones.

  • A danseuse in the company of a musician playing on a stringed instrument under a tree.

  • A female devotee holding a tray of flowers in her left hand and the stalk of a flower in her right, in the two middle ones. The hairstyle, dress and ornaments of these archaic figures are especially noteworthy.

On the back wall of the cell are painted in red pigment on a thin plaster letters of the Indian alphabet in Brahmi characters of the 1st century B.C. and A.D. some of the letters occur repeatedly. Presumably one of the recluses attempted to improve his writing by practising on the wall.

Cave-3 (Ananta-gumpha)
Farther ascending by the same flight of steps, the visitor will find Cave-3, called Ananta-gumpha after the figures of twin serpents on the door-arches. Similar on plan to the preceding, it is one of the most important caves on the Khandagiri hill, on account of its reliefs.

The general disposition of the reliefs is more or less identical with those of Cave-2 and some of the caves of Udayagiri, but the motifs in some cases are unique. The long cell has a convex ceiling and is of a sufficient height to admit a man standing. The floor of the verandah, which was originally lower, has been raised to the top-level of the bench by masonry.

On the back-wall of the cell is carved a nandipada on a stepped pedestal flanked on either side by a set of three symbols- a triangle-headed symbol on a stepped pedestal, a srivatsa also on a stepped pedestal and a svastika, regarded by the Jain's as auspicious. In medieval times the image of a Tirthankara was carved below the right hand srivatsa and svastika but was left unfinished.

The interest of the cave lies in the sculptured fašade of the cell, the beauty of which is, however, substantially undermined by the damage to the wall (done deliberately, as suggested by chisel-marks) between the first and the second doorways, together with parts of the tympana over them. All the four doorways are flanked by pilasters, from the capital of which spring the arches, the latter crowned by either a srivatsa or a nandipada.

The pilasters have ghata-bases resting on stepped pedestals and have capitals consisting of a set of animals, bulls and lions recognizable in two sets, resting on an abacus above an inverted bell-shaped lotus. The ghata is also decorated with lotus-petals. What, however, distinguishes these pilasters from others is the ornamentation of the shafts, differing in each pair- vertical rows of the bead-and-reel in the first, the diamond-shaped jali-pattern in the second, spiral flutings alternating with a vertical line of the bead-and-reel in the third and flowers between compartments in the fourth, all between half-lotus medallions below and above.

The faces of the arches, which have on the underside representations of beams, are embellished with carvings. The two central ones depict a running frieze with boys chasing animals including lions and bulls. The first arch contains rosettes within loops of garlands and the fourth a procession of twelve geese, with spread wings, in two groups proceeding from opposite sides, each holding in its bill the stalk of either a lotus-bud or a blue lotus as if to offer it to the sacred tree depicted below the arch.

The motifs on the tympana are also different in each case. The first depicts the flattened front view of a royal elephant attended by a smaller one on each side (the right one missing) holding the stalks of a lotus and buds. On the second tympanum is carved the figure of a turbaned royal personage, wearing heavy kundalas, a necklace and bangles, under an umbrella, with a female figure holding a fly-whisk on either side and driving a chariot drawn by four spirited horses.

Above them are the representations of the moon, surrounded by stars, and the sun, which symbolize the stellar world. The left hand of the figure is placed on the waist and the right on his chest. The figure has generally been identified with 'Surya'. A demonish pot-bellied dwarf holding a spouted water-pot in his left hand and a banner in his right hand stands at the right end of the relief near the right wheel of the chariot.

The next tympanum shows 'Sri' or 'Lakshmi' in the lotus-lake with stalks of full-blown lotuses entwining round her arms and being bathed with water from pitchers held by two elephants standing on lotuses on her sides. A pair of birds is seen pecking at the seed-vessels of the lotuses.

The fourth tympanum depicts a sacred tree, which may be a pipal, within a railing under an umbrella, being worshipped by a woman offering a lotus and a man with folded hands with two dwarfish figures bringing a tray of offerings and spouted jars. The perspective rendering of the railing is noteworthy. The tree may be the kevala-tree of a Tirthankara.

The spaces between the arches are relieved with semi-divine beings flying in haste, from pillared halls with barrel-vaulted roofs, with garlands and trays of flowers and garlands towards the arches containing the objects of worship. The one on the extreme left almost snatches away in his haste a garland from the tray borne on the head of a fierce-looking dwarfish gana with ling ears. Above them and extending along the entire length of the verandah and continuing along the side-walls runs a railing interrupted only at those places where there are groups of stepped merlons, each alternating with a blue lotus. The latter motif occurs on the railings of Bharhut in an identical form.

The inner bracket of the left pilaster has a dwarf supporting an elephant, the latter carrying two figures, one of them with a banner. Its counterpart on the right contains an elephant above a lotus. The three inner brackets of the pillars have two women with folded hands separated by a floral band made up of stylized honeysuckles and lotuses.

The corresponding outer brackets are relieved with pot-bellied demonish ganas, with long ears, in the attitude of supporting the superstructure. Both the outer brackets of the pilasters depict cavaliers, the left one above a lotus.

The inscription on the outer side of the architrave between the left pilaster and the first pillar of the verandah calls the cave that of the monks of 'Dohada'.

The space in front of the cave has been levelled to form a spacious courtyard. The footpath on the right side of the cave leads first to the 'Deva-sabha' and next to the Jain temple on the top of the hill, but the route recommended here is different.

Retracing his steps to Cave-2, the visitor will take the track to the right and continuing to encircle the hill will first meet a nameless cave, open on the front, with its floor dug to a considerable depth at a later period.

Immediately beyond this, at a slightly higher level, to the right of a rock-cut flight of steps, is Cave-4, named after a tamarind tree, which once stood near it. It consists of a single small dwelling cell with two entrances and a benched verandah with a pillar of the usual type.

The pilasters, flanking the doors, have plain ghata-bases resting on a stepped pyramid, shafts ribbed in the middle, square otherwise, and crowning elements each consisting of a bell-shaped lotus capped by a square abacus, on which rest a pair of crouchant elephants (in the left pair of pilasters) and lions (in the right).

Khandagiri, Khandagiri travel, Khandagiri tourism, Khandagiri Historical Place, travel to Khandagiri MonumentThe arches above the pilasters are plain and have a pointed finial at the top. The inner bracket of the pillar is relieved with the figure of a woman carrying a lotus-bud in both of her hands and the outer with a trotting elephant. The delineation of the elephants, as in most of the caves, is strikingly naturalistic. The pilasters are unfinished and only the outlines of the octagons are drawn.

The twin hills of Khandagiri and Udayagiri are the two pious sites where proof of Orissa's tryst with the transient religion exists in good shape. A mere 7 km from Bhubaneswar, you too can tour Khandagiri and Udayagiri, the only two prominent surviving historical monuments of Jainism in Orissa, on your tour to Bhubaneswar with Tourism of Orissa tour packages.

The rock cut caves at Khandagiri and Udayagiri date back to the 1st century BC when king Kharavela ruled the Kalinga Empire. Belonging to the Mahameghavahana dynasty, King Kharavela and his wife were patrons of art, religion and projects that lead to social welfare such as Orissa's water canal system.

The Hathi Gumpha or the Elephant cave is famous for the rock inscriptions from the period of King Kharavela's rein. On your tour of Jain Monuments in Orissa, you too can see these pictorial inscriptions that tell of the King's military and personal exploits and the history of the royal city and its people through the images of elaborate dance and music performances, sports and social events.

The Rani Gumpha or the Queen's Cave is also replete with lively images that depict scenes from folklores, history, religion, and daily lives of the people. The separate courtyard attached to the two-storey cave is also an attraction at the Rani Gumpha in Udayagiri. The Ganesha Gumpha or Lord Ganesh's cave is another well-preserved Jain cave that you ought to visit on your tour of Jain Monuments in Orissa with Tourism of Orissa tour packages.

How to reach there

Road: Only a few buses go specifically to the caves, but there are plenty which pass the nearby junction, the main Calcutta to Madras highway.


More Historical Places in Orissa

>> Archaeological Museum

>> Caves Of Udayagiri

>> Dhauli

>> District Museum

>> Handicrafts Museum

>> Khandagiri

>> Lalitgiri

>> Orissa State Museum

>> Ratnagiri

>> Tribal Museum  


More Information About Orissa

>> City >> Cuisine >> Arts and Crafts >> Fairs and Festivals


Comments for Khandagiri


User Gallery for this Page

View All Images for this Page (0)

Please login to add comments or upload Images

Email : Password :



East India  |  West India  |  North India  |  South India  |  Central India  |   By State  Theme tour  |   Rail tour  |  Travel Links  |  Site Map Contact us