Udayagiri Caves, Vidisha (Madhya Pradesh) – a relatively unexlpored 4th century marvel

Just 10 kms from the Unesco World Heritage Site of Sanchi Stupa in Madhya Pradesh,  Udayagiri caves are located near the small town of Vidisha.  Udayagiri  caves are known for a series of rock-cut caves, sanctuaries and images excavated dating back to the Gupta Period when the city was a provincial capital of the Gupta Empire (4th- 5th century AD).

Udayagiri is located about 4 kms from Vidisha and about 13 kms from the Buddhist site of Sanchi and 62 kms from Bhopal, the state capital of Madhya Pradesh.

Interesting things to know:

  1. Udayagiri literally means the ‘mountain of the sunrise’.
  2. The site has important inscriptions of the Gupta dynasty belonging to the reigns of Chandragupta II and Kumaragupta I.
  3. The complex consists of 20 caves, of which one is dedicated to Jainism and 19 to Hinduism.

Important caves, sculptures and inscriptions:

Cave 4 Veena Cave: Another noteworthy cave famous for the sculpture of Ekmukhalinga Shiva. The arrangement of the hair depicts the story of how Śiva broke the fall of the River Ganga as the waters came down from heaven.

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Cave 5 : Udayagiri is famous for its ancient monumental sculpture of Hindu god Vishnu in Cave 5, in his incarnation as the boar-headed Varaha, rescuing the Bhudevi (earth) symbolically represented by clinging to the boar’s tusk as described in Hindu mythology. One can observe gods and demons observing in awe the boar-headed Varaha and the water  waves depicted as lines on the right side below.

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Cave 6: Cave 6 is dedicated to Hindu god Shiva and there is a small Shiva linga inside the cave. Noteworthy is the sculpture of Hindu goddess Durga outside the cave, slaying the Buffalo Demon at the entrance with her feet on the head of Buffalo demon and holding his leg with her hand.

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Hindu goddess Durga on right slaying the Buffalo demon

Cave 7 Tawa Cave : Cave 7 is known as Tawa cave due to the the shape of the cave roof resembling  tawa ( a saucepan). The cave is emply and there is a incription  record on the cave wall that Chandragupta himself visited Malwa during his conquests.

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Cave 7 Tava Cave outside view 

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Cave 7 Roof carvings

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Inscriptions inside Cave 7

Cave 13: Cave 13 is famous for the recumbent sculpture of Hindu god Vishnu

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Cave 13 Recumbent figure of Hindu god Vishnu

Cave 19 Amrita cave: The cave derives it’s name because of the Amrathmanthan scene carved on the lintel of the doorway with Meru moutain at the centre with mythical snake coiling around the mountain and forming a rope with which gods and demons are churning the ocean. The cave contains a shiva linga and Nandi. The cave contains many inscriptions – one written in sanskrit language.

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Cave 19 entrance with Amrathmanthan scene on the entrance door

 

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Sanskrit inscriptions inside Cave 19

Tips:

  1. Best time to visit : Oct – March
  2. One can plan to visit Udaygiri caves along with visit to Sanchi Stupas which is at a distance of 1o km from Udaygiri caves.
  3. One can also visit Heliodorus Pillar and Bija Mandal in Vidisha which I could not cover in my trip.

 

 

 

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