Udayagiri and Khandagiri caves also known as Katak caves or the Cuttack caves were carved out as the residential blocks for Jain monks during the reign of King Kharavela.
The Indian state of Odisha is adorned with a number of ancient structures. Odisha has a rich ancient cultural and traditional background. This is reflected in the art, crafts, culture and the magnificent structures present at this place. The place is also blessed with natural beauty. Beaches, lakes, river, lagoons and islands are in abundance in this place. Then comes the ancient historical temples and caves. One such cave is the famous Udayagiri and Khandagiri caves.
About the Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves
The caves are located near Bhubaneswar, the capital city of Odisha and are partly natural and partly artificial in nature. As the name suggests Udayagiri and Khandagiri caves are two separate caves adjacent to one another. The Udayagiri cave is also known as the ‘Sunrise hill’. Collectively these caves were formerly known as the Katak caves or the Cuttack caves.
These caves constitute several ornately carved caves which were carved during the 2nd century BCE. It is believed that these caves were carved out as the residential blocks for Jain monks during the reign of King Kharavela. These caves were carved out during the reign of this very king.
The Hathigumpha inscription declared a total of 117 caves that were excavated by Kharavela. The number of existing cave at Udayagiri is 18 and in Khandagiri is 15.
The various caves have different local names. The most famous of them all is the Ranigumpa cave which is a two storeyed monastery. Other important caves include Hathi gumpha, Ananta gumpha, Ganesha gumpha, Jaya Vijaya gumpha, Mancapuri gumpha, Bagh gumpha and Sarpa gumpha.
The caves display the extensively carved sculptural friezes as well as depict their historical importance. The Ananta cave depicts carved figures of women, elephants, flowers and athletes.
A Closer Look at the Caves
The Udayagiri caves has a total of 18 caves in it. It is more beautiful than the adjacent Khandagiri caves. The caves showcase beautiful ornate sculptures.
Rani Gumpha – The most famous among these caves is the Rani Gumpha also known as the ‘Cave of the Queen’. This cave is double storeyed and each storey has three wings and the central wing is bigger of them all. The lower wing has seven entrances whereas the upper floor has nine columns. The caves have rich showcasing of sculptures of the Jain religion and royal scenes. There are sculptures of wild animals, human figures, fruit laden trees, monkey and elephants too in these caves.
Bajaghara gumpha is yet another cave. It is simple and is considered as the shelter house of Jain monks. The cave doesn’t have any sculpture or carvings in it.
The Chota Hathi Gumpha has six elephant figures in its façade. It is small and petite.
The Alkapuri gumpha is doubled storeyed. The eye catchy element of this cave is that its relief has a sculpture of lion holding its prey in its mouth. The sculptures of Divine creatures with wings are also housed in this cave.
The Jaya Vijaya gumpha is also a double storeyed structure and has a beautiful image of a Bodhi tree with umbrella on its top. The artwork is exemplary here. There is another double storeyed cave called the Thakurani gumpha which houses tiny relief sculptures.
Panasa gumpha is small and doesn’t have any significant artwork. Then there is Patalapuri gumpha where there is no notable feature but has a pillared verandah.
The Mancapuri and Swargpuri gumpha are the prominent caves in here. They showcase Jain symbols. Three inscriptions have been found here. They talk about the queen of Kharavela and its successors.
Ganesha gumpha is one marvelous cave in Udayagiri. It has two statues of elephants holding garlands at the entrance. The cave got its name because of the carved image of Ganesha on the back of its right cell. The carvings in the cave narrates the story of the elopement of Bassavadatta, the princess of Ujjayini with King Udayan of Kausambi in the company of Vasantaka.
Vyaghra gumpha is very popular in Udayagiri. The cave’s entrance is carved like the mouth of a tiger.
Hathi gumpha is another famous cave in here. The inscription here is was erected by Kharavela and is the basis of the information about the history of Kharavela.
These are the famous caves present in Udayagiri.
There are 15 caves in Khandagiri. Some of them are discussed below.
The Tatowa gumpha has parrots carved above the entrance hence the name. There is another cave named by the same name as discussed above. It has a verandah with pilasters and it portrays exquisite paintings.
The Ananta gumpha has sculptures of elephants, women geese etc. The Khandagiri gumpha has double storeys but is roughly cut cell. Few relief images of Sasana Devi are found in the Ambika gumpha.
The Barabhuji gumpha has two relief images of 12 armed Sasana Devi and a few tirthankara sculptures are found in this cave. The Lalatendu Keshari Gumpha has images of Mahavira, Parshvanath and other Jain Tirthankaras.
A Tourist’s Guide to Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves
The Khandagiri and Udayagiri caves are open on all days of the week from 8am to 5pm. The entry fee per person for Indians is Rs 15 and for international tourists is Rs 200.
The caves are at a distance of 7km from the city of Bhubaneswar. Reaching this place is not an issue. A number of public transport vehicles are available. There a number of hotels nearby too. One can book hotels online at affordable prices. In case you are famished then that’s also not a big deal here. A range of restaurants are available in and around the place. One can hire a guide and enjoy the beauty and antiquity of the place.
It is a very popular tourist spot. Even the city dwellers visit this place once in a while for peace of mind. It is the best place to take pictures. The place also provides beautiful picture perfect spots. The best time of the day to visit Khandagiri and Udayagiri caves is during the evenings. Bhubaneswar being a coastal area enjoys mild breeze in the evenings. The scene and aura on top of the caves is scenic and soulful. Fluttering of hair accompanied by the mild breeze is enough to make a stressful day all happening.