Udayagiri and Khandagiri, magnificent caves of the ancient times

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.

Udayagiri caves still holding itself, built more than 2000 years ago  at Bhubaneshwar, Odissa, India by Gautam Lahiri
Udayagiri caves still holding itself, built more than 2000 years ago

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.

Squinted eyes trying to evade the sun rays, look at Bhubaneswar as we stood on Udayagiri  at Bhubaneshwar, Odissa, India by Gautam Lahiri
Squinted eyes trying to evade the sun rays, look at Bhubaneswar as we stood on Udayagiri 

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.

ASI board give us a good snapshot view of what we will be seeing inside  at Bhubaneshwar, Odissa, India by Gautam Lahiri
ASI board give us a good snapshot view of what we will be seeing inside

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 climbed this road created from rock and took us near the Rani Gumpha  at Bhubaneshwar, Odissa, India by Gautam Lahiri
We climbed this road created from rock and took us near the Rani Gumpha

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.

Rani Gumpha, the cave 1, as they say, has exquisitely designed sculptures and offered air-conditioned ambient air when we climbed into it  at Bhubaneshwar, Odissa, India by Gautam Lahiri
Rani Gumpha, the cave 1, as they say, has exquisitely designed sculptures and offered air-conditioned ambient air when we climbed into it
Rani Gumpha explained down to every detail  at Bhubaneshwar, Odissa, India by Gautam Lahiri
Rani Gumpha explained down to every detail

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.

Dwarpals engraved and stand tall beside the doorway  at Bhubaneshwar, Odissa, India by Gautam Lahiri
Dwarpals engraved and stand tall beside the doorway

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?

Carved out of rock, these figures depict king Kharavela's conquests  at Bhubaneshwar, Odissa, India by Gautam Lahiri
Carved out of rock, these figures depict king Kharavela‘s conquests 
Figures of geese holding flowers, athletes in various poses, elephants..every bit still near intact and curved with precision  at Bhubaneshwar, Odissa, India by Gautam Lahiri
Figures of geese holding flowers, athletes in various poses, elephants..every bit still near intact and curved with precision
Each room or chamber had partitions and what we learned acted like motels for traveling Jain and Buddhist monks. Built by Kharavela, the famous Kalinga ruler  at Bhubaneshwar, Odissa, India by Gautam Lahiri
Each room or chamber had partitions and what we learned acted like motels for traveling Jain and Buddhist monks. Built by Kharavela, the famous Kalinga ruler

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.

I had to take this picture sitting on the stone bench, and the environment was so cool and calm. I sat there for an hour thinking about the very bench...who sat and built these so many years ago..sheer thought gave me the creeps  at Bhubaneshwar, Odissa, India by Gautam Lahiri
I had to take this picture sitting on the stone bench, and the environment was so cool and calm. I sat there for an hour thinking about the very bench…who sat and built these so many years ago..sheer thought gave me the creeps!
A view from the ancient veranda overlooking the rocky first floor..perhaps the king sat here, or roamed around and spoke to the subjects whom he ruled  at Bhubaneshwar, Odissa, India by Gautam Lahiri
A view from the ancient veranda overlooking the rocky first floor..perhaps the king sat here, or roamed around and spoke to the subjects whom he ruled 

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.

Rocky passages in the stone floor which probably supported the circulation of water to the monks who stayed here  at Bhubaneshwar, Odissa, India by Gautam Lahiri
Rocky passages in the stone floor which probably supported the circulation of water to the monks who stayed here
Elephant carvings on the rock face in one of the chambers  at Bhubaneshwar, Odissa, India by Gautam Lahiri
Elephant carvings on the rock face in one of the chambers
Partly damaged but more or less intact, a victory scene in one of the caves where we saw figures of soldiers with bows and arrows pushing a horse coming back from a battle  at Bhubaneshwar, Odissa, India by Gautam Lahiri
Partly damaged but more or less intact, a victory scene in one of the caves where we saw figures of soldiers with bows and arrows pushing a horse coming back from a battle
Water and air passages dug on the floor to the entrances to provide supplies to the Jain monks who stayed in these cave quarters  at Bhubaneshwar, Odissa, India by Gautam Lahiri
Water and air passages dug on the floor to the entrances to provide supplies to the Jain monks who stayed in these cave quarters
A cave with an opening in the rock bed to circulate cool air to both the floors was created for the comfort of the Jain monks.. an example of ancient air conditioning  at Bhubaneshwar, Odissa, India by Gautam Lahiri
A cave with an opening in the rock bed to circulate cool air to both the floors was created for the comfort of the Jain monks.. an example of ancient air conditioning

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.

We came across another set of caves called Ganesa Gumpha with rock elephants as if welcoming the Jain monks who stayed in these chambers  at Bhubaneshwar, Odissa, India by Gautam Lahiri
We came across another set of caves called Ganesa Gumpha with rock elephants as if welcoming the Jain monks who stayed in these chambers
A veranda in front with two solitary elephants are seen holding mango trees with a lotus in the center, perhaps a welcome gesture to the Jain monks  at Bhubaneshwar, Odissa, India by Gautam Lahiri
A veranda in front with two solitary elephants are seen holding mango trees with a lotus in the center, perhaps a welcome gesture to the Jain monks
Intricately curved rock buttress holding the rock roof above, seen here ravaged by elements of nature but still strong enough and better engineered than today's marvels we see with computer-aided designs  at Bhubaneshwar, Odissa, India by Gautam Lahiri
Intricately curved rock buttress holding the rock roof above, seen here ravaged by elements of nature but still strong enough and better engineered than today’s marvels we see with computer-aided designs
The low ceiling cave quarter had a unique capability here, anyone standing on this bench and speaking could be heard far away due to the resonance the sound created.The tick was a vacuum created on the roof which spread the sound waves  at Bhubaneshwar, Odissa, India by Gautam Lahiri
The low ceiling cave quarter had a unique capability here, anyone standing on this bench and speaking could be heard far away due to the resonance the sound created.The tick was a vacuum created on the roof which spread the sound waves
A huge rock outcrop had these 117 line inscriptions from 4th century BC, probably Brahmi script conveying historical facts about the Karavela king  at Bhubaneshwar, Odissa, India by Gautam Lahiri
A huge rock outcrop had these 117 line inscriptions from 4th century BC, probably Brahmi script conveying historical facts about the Karavela king

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 were seeing the Udayagiri rock caves from Khandagiri hill, entombed in its rocky layers amidst trees  at Bhubaneshwar, Odissa, India by Gautam Lahiri
We were seeing the Udayagiri rock caves from Khandagiri hill, entombed in its rocky layers amidst trees

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.

Khandagiri's present inhabitant, very polished and tourist friendly..it will be a good idea to meet them in a group rather alone  at Bhubaneshwar, Odissa, India by Gautam Lahiri
Khandagiri’s present inhabitant, very polished and tourist friendly..it will be a good idea to meet them in a group rather alone

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.

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