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Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves

Khandagiri, Bhubaneswar

"Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves, formerly called Kattaka Caves or Cuttack caves, are partly natural and partly artificial caves of archaeological, historical and religious importance near the city of Bhubaneswar in Odisha, India.The caves are situated on two adjacent hills,Udayagiri and Khandagiri,mentioned as Kumari Parvata in the Hathigumpha inscription.They have a number of finely and ornately carved caves built during the 1st century BCE.It is believed that most of these caves were carved out as residential blocks for Jaina monks during the reign of King Kharavela.Udayagiri means "Sunrise Hill" and has 18 caves while Khandagiri has 15 caves.

"The caves of Udayagiri and Khandagiri, called lena or leṇa in the inscriptions, were dug out mostly during the reign of Kharavela for the abode of Jaina ascetics. The most important of this group is Ranigumpha in Udayagiri which is a double storeyed monastery. Other important caves include Hathi gumpha, Ananta gumpha, Ganesha gumpha, Jaya Vijaya gumpha, Mancapuri gumpha, Bagha/Byaghra/Vyaghra gumpha and Sarpa gumpha.

"Archaeological Survey of India has listed Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves in the list of "Must See" Indian Heritage.

Count of the caves

"B. M. Barua, based on a reading of line 14 of the Hathigumpha inscription, declared that a total of 117 caves were excavated by Kharavela and others on the Kumari hill (Udayagiri). Marshall has counted more than 35 caves in both the hills, while M.M. Ganguli has enumerated only 27 caves.

"The number of existing caves at Udayagiri is 18, while Khandagiri has 15.The local names of the existing caves are listed below, numbered according to the enumeration of the Archaeological Survey of India.

The famous caves

"In Udayagiri, Hathigumpha and Ganeshagumpha are especially well known due to art treasures of their sculptures and reliefs as well as due to their historical importance. Raninka Na'ara (Queen's Palace cave, cave 1) is also an extensively carved cave and elaborately embellished with sculptural friezes.Khandagiri offers a fine view back over Bhubaneswar from its summit. The Ananta cave depicts carved figures of women, elephants, athletes, and geese carrying flowers.

Caves at Udayagiri

"The Udayagiri hills fall on your right side when you enter into this area from Bhubaneswar. Compared to Khandagiri, Udayagiri offers more beautiful and better maintained cave shrines. There are 18 caves in Udayagiri :

"1. Rani Gumpha "Cave of the Queen",Rani Gumpha is the largest and most popular cave among the caves of Udayagiri and Khandagiri.The word 'Rani' means Queen.Although it is not an architectural marvel, it has some ancient beautiful sculptures.

"This cave is double storeyed. Each storey has three wings and the central wing is bigger among all the three wings. The lower floor has seven entrances in the middle wing whereas the upper floor has nine columns. The upper portion of the central wing has relief images depicting the victory march of a king. Many of the cells have carved dwara pala images;some of them are disfigured. The area that connects the central wing with right and left wings have some panels where the sculptures of wild animals, fruit-laden trees, human figures, women playing musical instruments, monkeys and playful elephants are found. The pilasters contain the toranas (arches) decorated with sculptures of Jain religious importance and royal scenes.

"2. Bajaghara Gumpha,Bajaghara Gumpha is very simple and small. It has stone bed and pillow and it was obviously used as the Jain monks' shelter in the ancient times. Apart from the plain rectangular shaped pillars, there is no other sculpture found in this cave.

"3. Chota Hathi Gumpha,Chota Hathi Gumpha is small in size. It has six small elephant figures in the facade and a statue of a guardian.

"4. Alakapuri Gumpha,Alakapuri Gumpha has a relief sculpture of a lion holding its prey in its mouth. The pillars with the human figures (divine beings) with wings are found in this cave. It is double storeyed.

"5. Jaya Vijaya Gumpha,Jaya Vijaya Gumpha is double storeyed. The cave has carving of a female wearing heavy earrings, bands, beautifully decorated hair. On one hand of the carving is a parrot and other resting on her waist.

"6. Panasa Gumpha,Panasa Gumpha is very small and simple cave without any significant features.

"7. Thakurani Gumpha,Thakurani Gumpha is double storied but is very simple in style. It has few tiny relief sculptures.

"8. Patalapuri Gumpha,Patalapuri Gumpha is slightly bigger with a pillared verandah. However, there is no notable feature in this cave.

"9. Mancapuri and Swargapuri Gumpha,Mancapuri and Swargapuri Gumpha is double storeyed. Manchapuri cave depicts two male figure and 2 female figure worshipping to the Kalinga Jina that Kharval brought back from Magadha.It has a damaged Jain religious symbol which was probably used for worship.

"There are three inscriptions found in this cave. One inscription talks about the chief queen of Kharavela. The other two inscriptions talk about Kudepasiri, the successor of Kharavela and Badukha, the son or brother of Kudepasiri.

"10. Ganesha Gumpha,Ganesha Gumpha is one of the most important caves in Udayagiri. The cave got this name due to carved figure of Ganesha on the back of its right cell. Of course, it would have been carved in the later period and it cannot be the original work. The cave has two big statues of elephants carrying garlands at the entrance and is the first example of sculpture animals used as guard to the entrance.Also, the carved figures of dwara palas are found at the entrances. The carvings in this cave narrate the story of the elopement of Bassavadatta, Princess of Ujjayini, with King Udayana of Kausambi in the company of Vasantaka.

"11. Jambesvara Gumpha,Jambesvara Gumpha is a very simple and small cave with one column and two pilasters.The inscription tells that it is the cave of Nayaki, wife of Mahamade.

"12. Vyaghra Gumpha,Vyaghra Gumpha is one of the popular caves in Udayagiri. The cave, which is in ruins, has the entrance carves like a large mouth of a tiger with single cell in cave acting as Tiger's throat.It is one of the most photographed sites in Udayagiri. The word vyaghra means tiger.The inscription found here tells that this cave belongs to the city judge Sabhuti.

"13. Sarpa Gumpha,Sarpa Gumpha is an unusually very small cave. There are two inscriptions found in this cave. The word sarpa means snake.

"14. Hati Gumpha,Hati Gumpha is a large natural cavern.On the wall, the inscription erected by Kharavela is found. It is the main source of history of Kharavela.The cave is known as Hati Gumpha due to its exquisite carvings of elephant. The word hati means elephant.

"15. Dhanaghara Gumpha,Dhanaghara Gumpha is a small cave which has two wide pillars and dwara pala sculptures carved at the entrance.

"16. Haridasa Gumpha,Haridasa Gumpha is a small cave with three entrances and a verandah in the front side.There is an inscription found here.

"17. Jagannatha Gumpha,Jagannatha Gumpha is roughly cut cave with three entrances.

"18. Rasui Gumpha,Rasui Gumpha is an unusually very small cave.

"Hathigumpha inscription,The Hathigumpha inscription starts with a version of the auspicious Jain Namokar Mantra venerating Arihant and Siddhas for in Jainism.

Caves at Khandagiri

"The Khandagiri hills fall on your left side when you enter into this area from Bhubaneswar. There are 15 caves in Khandagiri.These caves were renovated during the reign of Uddyotakeshari of Somavamshi dynasty.

"The Hathigumpha cave ("Elephant Cave") has the Hathigumpha inscription, written by Raja Kharavela, the king of Kalinga in India, during the 2nd century BCE.The Hathigumpha inscription consists of seventeen lines incised in deep cut Brahmi letters on the overhanging brow of a natural cavern Hathigumpha in the south side of the Udayagiri hill. The inscription also refers to the Kharaval's feat of bringing back Jain image which was taken by Nanda empire.It faces the rock edicts of Asoka at Dhauli, situated about six miles away.

"1. Tatowa Gumpha 2. Ananta Gumpha 3. Tentuli Gumpha 4. Khandagiri Gumpha 5. Dhyana Gumpha 6. Navamuni Gumpha 7. Barabhuji Gumpha 8. Trusula Gumpha 9. Ambika Gumpha 10. Lalatendu Keshari Gumpha.