Estimated Reading Time::Just :)

Monday 24 April 2023

Udayagiri Caves – Odisha’s Hidden Past

This is in continuation of my visit to Odisha, the erstwhile Kalinga kingdom with its varied past and wonderful natural and historical heritage. No visit to Odisha is complete without a visit to the Udayagiri and Khandagiri caves.

Very few that are very ancient rock-cut Caves remain in Indian Sub-continent

As part of our efforts to bring to our readers as many stories as possible on India’s unique heritage, Tharangini and I have journeyed across destinations sometimes individually but most of the time together.

The most important Rani gupha (cave) which is double-storied, elaborately carved
But these have included historical monuments and temples from the last 1200 years. And further, it is rare to see the existence of monuments that are 2400 years old. 

A view of the caves with fortifications to save the monument

So, on a visit to Bhubaneshwar, I decided to take a journey with a very knowledgeable heritage guide who described each detail of the 18 caves of Udayagiri that are both natural and man-made, and built basically as dormitory shelters for Jain monks during those days.
A view of a cave with its dormitory accommodation for Jain ascetics
Earlier, Udayagiri (18 caves) and Khandagiri (15 caves) were one and the same but were damaged and split in the middle due to an earthquake. They are all monolithic caves and most of them are damaged due to ageing, and the weathering process.

Most caves have stone beds with a raised platform (like a pillow) & inlets for water inflow to cool the surroundings.

One can even find pegs in the caves even today for putting curtains in most of the caves which demonstrate how advanced Indians were with making their shelters cool with such interiors.

All caves have rows of cells for monks that open to the main verandah.

As we climbed the hills and went up and down the surviving caves which have been excavated for 10 centuries, I wondered at their remarkable living and shelters provided for monks who meditated and maintained mouna (silent) for long periods without taking any food.

Low ceiling caves for monks to maintain a low bowing posture always
Out of the 18 caves at Udayagiri, all pertain to Jain life and living except one which is of Hindu style. These caves were excavated in the first and second century BCE by King Kharavela of the Mahameghavahana dynasty. And a lot of sculptures, carvings, etc have been added to these caves during later periods. And in my next parts, I will take you on a picturesque journey with interesting facts.
How To Reach There:
Tucked away amidst verdant surroundings, Udayagiri Caves are situated in Bhubaneshwar, Odisha, and is just 7 kilometers away on the western side.

Location map:

No comments: