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Khandgiri Caves, Orissa
Modelled by the great Jain king Kharavela, who ruled from 168 to 153 B.C., these coarse grained sandstone caves were meant as dwellings for Jain monks. Udayagiri (Hill of the Sunrise) and Khandagiri (Broken Hill), which rise 40 meter above the lateritic and parched plain surroundings, are just steeping compartments with low roof, ratifying the austerity and sobriety of the monks.
Located at 6 km from Bhubaneswar, these 113 caves were built around 2nd century B.C. Archaeologically significant, because of the Pali records engraved in the Hathi Gumpha, these caves display the 13 year megalithic record of king Kharavela.
Major Tourist Attractions
To the south of the hill, the Udayagiri caves are situated in a very compact area and are numbered. At the base of the hill to the right, is the double-storey "Rani ka Naur" or Queen's Palace. Both levels have 8 entrances with beautiful carved sculptures on pillars, arches and to the rear of the courtyard, depicting rampaging elephants, petrified monkeys, sword fights and women. Circle round the hill to the right to the Ganesh Gumpha -10, which is directly above the Rani ka Naur, depicting the elephant-headed Ganesh on the rear wall of the cell. retrace your steps to cave 14 then on to Pavana Gumpha (Cave of Purification) and the small Sarpa Gumpha ( Serpent Cave), the tiny door to which is surmounted by a three-headed cobra.
The exit is channeled via the Chhota Hathi gumpha -3, with carvings of elephants coming out from behind a tree. Back at the entrance ascend the hill to the Swargapuri -9 and Hathi Gumpha -14. The latter holds an inscription in 117 lines, the exploits of its builder, king Kharavela together with sculptures showing lion holding its prey, elephants with snakes wrapped around them and pillars topped by pairs of bizarre winged animals.
A shortcut from the Hathi Gumpha takes you to cave -17. To the right is Ananta caves -3 with carved figures of athletes, women, elephants and a snake carved at the top of the entrance, definitely awe generating site. To the left are cave 1 (Parrot cave) and cave 2. As the name suggests, the former has carvings of birds on doorway arches and the latter has some ancient Brahmi script engraved on its walls. The steep path continues to the hill top where there is a 18th century Jain temple. The Khandagiri hill provides an enthralling view of Bhubaneswar from its summit. You can see the airport, the tower of the Lingaraj temple rising behind it and further away, the Dhauli Stupa.
The nearest airport is Biju Patnaik Airport, Bhuwaneswar, which is 6 km away. Well connected by rail to all major tour destinations of the country. Bhubaneswar is on the National Highway linking Kolkata (480 km) to Chennai (1225 km). There are only a few buses specifically plying to the caves but there are plenty going by the nearby road junction. Otherwise you can also avail private cars and taxis from Bhuwaneswar station.
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