We were making a full circle of a drive around the historic places that dot the land of Odisha, especially around the state capital, Bhubaneswar. Having had our exposure to a slice of rock beauty abundant at Konark, we made a plan to see just one more ancient relic of this place.
Too many would dilute the beauty of history.
Here we go…Drove from Puri to Bhubaneswar and traveled further 8 kilometres to see these caves. I came with my parents, about twenty plus years ago and all I remembered was the names. Little interest I had when in school so it was just like a checklist to me..ok, we visited this and this and this …However, with far more historical data points pumped in me over the years, I had to see these caves of a bygone era.We picked up the wrong time though to visit; the heat coupled with the salt and water-laden air, the weather was far from perfect…the calendar page fluttered around early October.
Typically, what I have seen in India, the old historic structures stay far from the modern cityscape. These caves stand amidst the current vibrant times and present the visitor, a unique feeling. We were standing on a 1st to 4th century BC rock piece and looking at the skyscrapers that have mushroomed on the capital city’s horizon of 2015.
As you drive down Khandagiri temple road, the Udayagiri caves fell on our right and the Khandagiri caves were bang opposite Udayagiri on the left. It has decent parking in front, and we parked our Swift and crossed the road.
From the road, the caves do not have any presence..all we could see was a rocky mount with a lot of trees around it.
The first thing that attracted our attention was the board from ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) which welcomes you with a host of historical data.
The enclosure within which these caves reside is very neatly decorated and we saw a rocky road with a gentle gradient…quite comfortable for visitors to walk it.
We trudged along with it and came to an opening which had a flat U shaped structure or excavation which was jutting out of the rocks and was two-storied held with evenly placed pillars that supported the heavy rock bases.
Every entrance or opening has a human structure engraved into the rock body, and our guide told us that these are ‘Dvarapala‘ or sentries guarding the entrance to the chambers inside.
The walls were ornate beyond comprehension, both inside and outside, some places were devastatingly beautiful. It kept us wondering how before the metals were present, these were created with rock pieces with bare hands…can you imagine?
The height of the caves, the space from the floor to the roof was quite less. A tall person will have a challenge to move around. This points to a data point, I guess, the monks or whoever stayed in these caves had short stature.
In one room, we saw a well dug into the floor which was in turn connected to another upright passage..this indicated the reason why the caves were so cool during the summer. It had state of the art engineering in those days..by way of these passages the water was circulated along with the structure and the power came through gravity as electric power was a far cry in ancient days.
The engineering marvel that we saw in these caves were present such a long time ago shows the skills the artisans had and used to create these structures. Even today in the heat outside rising to about 42 degrees centigrade; the caves were cooler by twenty degrees which we experienced ourselves.
After a brilliant historical joyride through a passage of time, 2000 years ago we came to the hill of Khandagiri. We did not find much to be seen, apart from huge broken rock pieces. We did come across a Jain temple on the hilltop.
We felt quite young at this point after climbing, jumping, and experiencing such a vivid sculpture on rocks. The physical activity definitely helped all of us to shed at least a kilo of excess fat that we usually carry.
After having gallons of water, we retired into our metal cave of Swift and drove back to Puri.
Hope you enjoyed the eclectically designed rocky system, the dwellers carved out in an era where no one of us existed.