After haggling for fifteen minutes, the auto-rickshaw driver agreed to take me from Baramunda Bus Stand of Bhubaneswar to Khandagiri at a reasonable fare. I was off to visit the Jain caves (constructed between 146 – 75 BC during the regime of the Oriya King Kharavela) of Khandagiri and Udayagiri hills. I preferred to visit these caves early in the morning just to avoid the crowd.
The auto rickshaw dropped me on the Khandagiri-Chandaka road. Khandagiri Hill was on my left side and Udayagiri was on the other side. These two hills possess the second phases of Oriya Architectures. More than 120 caves were constructed in the two hills, among them, only 33 caves have been excavated. The rests had been buried by the sand of time.
First, I climbed the stairs and went up the Khandagiri Cave1. First, I Cave-2, Cave 1 was under it. These two caves are called Tattva Gompha. The word tattva comes from parrot (Tota in Sanskrit).
Ananta Gompha was next to this cave and decorated with swastika, triratna, gajalakshmi, sarpashirsha and bodhidrum.
After seeing Navamuni and Barobhuji Gompha, I went to Trisula Gompha. In this Gompha, the idols of Jain Tirthankaras are carved into the rock face. Their demeanour and facial expressions surprised me.
Few gomphas have lost their antiquity as they are used for regular worship. Even a Jain Temple have been founded top the Khandagiri Hill. I walked along the hill and reached at a long gompha (Gompha 15).
Leaving Khandagiri, I crossed the road and went to Udayagiri. Crossing the gateway, I like a time travel to the era of the King Kharavela. It was probably the highest piece of art and engineering that was used to cut the existing caves to give perfect shape.
First, I went to Hostee Gompha (Elephant Cave). Two amazing statues of elephants are standing in front of the cave.
Next, I found a cave looked like a tiger’s mouth. It was Byaghra Gompha (Tiger Cave).
Then Swargapuri Gompha, Nandpuri Gompha and Joyvijoy Gompha. A total of nine caves surround the Rani Gompha (Queen Cave). I felt that the artists had built the nine caves to protect the Queen.
Among them, one is Ganesh Gompha where few compositions have been depicted. One of these is the scene of the king going hunting. The king who was in a posture to kill a deer, suddenly realized that the deer sitting in front his feet.
The next one looked like a love story. Later I read from the article of Acharya Suniti Kumar Chattopadhyay, who identified the composition as the story of Basabdatta getting eloped by Udayan, the king of the state Koshola.
Then I reached in front of Rani Gompha. All the unique paintings are carved in this two-storied cave. The faces of the gatekeepers on both sides of the cave have been broken. But the inner design is still present. But due to lack of light, I could not take the photograph.
Climbing up the hill to the second floor, I felt like to be stepped into the Stone Age.
Suddenly I heard noise from below. A group of tourists were coming with the dangers of ‘Kalyuga’. The irritating sound of Mobile Phone and their howling broke the silence. I felt like the closing bell of my time travel. I moved out quickly and headed towards Bhubaneswar.
- Go early in the morning to avoid the crowd.
- Beware of monkeys, please keep eyes on your belongings and hold the valuables (camera, mobile) carefully.
- Visiting Khandagiri is absolutely free but Entry fee for Udaygiri is INR 10.
- Shared Auto rickshaw from Baramunda Bus Stand to Khandagiri-Udaygiri Crossing charges INR 30. A further walk of 5 minutes, you can reach the caves.
1. Karutirtha Kalinga by Narayan Sanyal