Udayagiri Caves: Hills of the Sunrise


After a satisfying and an informative trip to the Regional museum of Natural History, I decided to visit a very popular historical site situated near the city of Bhubaneswar, the Udayagiri caves. The Udayagiri and the Khandagiri caves of Odisha are one of the most ancient rocks cut shelters of the Jain communities. The Udyagiri caves are translated as the hills of the sunrise. The architecture and archaeological structure of these caves have historical and religious significance. Adjacent to the Udayagiri caves are the Khandagiri caves and these two are separated by a highway.

The caves in the inscriptions are referred as the Lena, and served as the dwelling retreats of the Jain ascetics. The caves or cells have a verandah or an open area in front of these structures. These caves are a live example of the minimal lifestyle of the Jain followers. The roofs of the caves were so low that a person can barely stand erect inside. The Jain ascetics used to live a non luxurious lifestyle inside these caves.

Udayagiri Caves

Udayagiri Caves | Image Resource: wikimedia.org

In the ancient time these cells were used by the hundreds of these Jain followers for prayers and meditation. The architecture of these cells portrays the austerity of the ascetics. The facade are decorated with sculptures that depict the auspicious symbols of worships used by the Jains, the royal court scenes, hunting expeditions and most importantly the life of the 24 teerthtankars of Jain sect who lived an utter minimalist and austere lifestyle when those saints received no patronage from the Royal families.

Elephant cave

Elephant cave | Image Resource: wikipedia.org

The hathigumpha or the Elephant cave (Cave 14) and the Ganeshagumpha or the Ganesha Cave (Cave 10) is the most popular and artistically, the most beautiful of the cells in the Udayagiri caves. The caves have been named in serial order in order to avoid confusion. All the 18 caves of the Udayagiri are embellished with sculptural beauties.

There were a large number of tourists as well as picnic goers who had thronged this place. Overall the experience was very good. The next destination after Udyagiri caves where I went was the Dhaulagiri Shanti Stupa.

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