June 15, 2015

Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves

Site Name: Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves
Site Type: Ancient Jain rock cut and cave shrines
Location:  Near Bhubaneswar city, Odisha state, India
Highlights: The sites belong to 1st century CE; very rare and ancient site in Eastern India for Jain architecture
Nearest Railway Station: Bhubaneswar
Nearest Airport: Bhubaneswar
How to reach: Well connected by road, rail and air
Hotel: Go to Bhubaneswar where there are many options
Restaurants: Varieties of options - only in the nearby Bhubaneswar
Opening Time: Sunrise to Sunset
Entry Fee: INR 5 for Indians and INR 100 for foreigners
Caution Note: Beware of monkeys; hundreds of monkeys wander the site. Avoid the priests in Durga temple in Khandagiri caves if you do not want to hear false history and lose your money to them. Some caves are not easily accessible; if you are a lady or a person who does not speak local language, it's better to get accompanied by some local.

Bhubaneswar aka Bhubaneshwar is the capital city of Odisha (called as Orissa earlier) state of India. It has numerous architecturally beautiful temples and is also referred as the 'City of Temples'. Along with Puri and Konark, this city is called as 'Swarna Tribuja' (Golden Triangle). 

Around 7 kms from the historic city of Bhubaneswar, there are two historically significant sites called as Udayagiri and Khandagiri. Let us explore in detail about these sites.


On either side of the National Highway No. 5 in the outskirts of Bhubaneswar, the twin hills of Udayagiri and Khandagiri are located. These two hills represent one of the earliest Jain rock-cut architectural styles in the Eastern India. In the ancient times, Udayagiri was called as Kumari and Khandagiri was called as Kumara Parvata. These hills were discovered in 1825 CE by A. Stirling. 

There are 18 caves in Udayagiri hill and 15 caves in Khandagiri hill. The caves are meant for the residence of Jain ascetics and hence they provide hardly any amenities. Most of the caves consist of a row of cells open either to the verandah or to the open space.Some of the caves are double storeyed. Although all the caves were meant to be shelters for the Jain monks, some of them were converted into shrines and few relief and bas relief images were added in the later period. The caves in Udayagiri are in much better shape than that of Khandagiri hill. 


The Udayagiri and Khandagiri cave shrines were started by the great Kalinga Emperor Kharavela in the 1st century BCE. It appears that his successors also built some of the shrines later here. The activities continued till the period of Somavanshis in the 10th century CE. 

After losing the glory of Kalinga due to devastating defeat by Ashoka, the Mahameghavahana (Chedi) dynasty of Kalinga (present day Odisha state) became very popular and powerful during the reign of Kharavela. The main source of information about this King is taken from the Hatigumpha inscription found in Udayagiri caves. The caves in both the hills were built as shelters for the Jain monks by this Emperor who was practising Jainism. It is evident that this region was a powerful Jain center in those days.


The Udayagiri hills fall on your right side when you enter into this area from Bhubaneswar. There are 18 caves in Udayagiri. Compared to Khandagiri, Udayagiri offers more beautiful and better maintained cave shrines.

1. Rani Gumpha

Rani Gumpha is the largest and most popular cave among the caves of Udayagiri and Khandagiri. The word 'Rani' means Queen. Although it is not an architectural marvel, it has some ancient beautiful sculptures. 

This cave is double storeyed. Each storey has three wings and the central wing is bigger among all the three wings. The lower floor has seven entrances in the middle wing whereas the upper floor has nine columns. The upper portion of the central wing has relief images depicting the victory march of a king. Many of the cells have carved dwara pala images; some of them are disfigured. The area that connects the central wing with right and left wings have some panels where the sculptures of wild animals, fruit laden trees, human figures, women playing musical instruments, monkeys and playful elephants are found. The pilasters contain the toranas (arches) decorated with sculptures of Jain religious importance and royal scenes. 

2. Bajaghara Gumpha

Bajaghara Gumpha is very simple and small. It has stone bed and pillow and it was obviously used as the Jain monks' shelter in the ancient times. Apart from the plain rectangular shaped pillars, there is no other sculpture found in this cave.

3. Chota Hathi Gumpha

Chota Hathi Gumpha is small in size. It has six small elephant figures in the facade. The word 'chota hathi' means 'small elephant'.

4. Alkapuri Gumpha

Alkapuri Gumpha has a relief sculpture of a lion holding its prey in its mouth. The pillars with the human figures (divine beings) with wings are found in this cave. It is double storeyed. 

5. Jaya Vijaya Gumpha

Jaya Vijaya Gumpha is double storeyed. It has a relief image of Bodhi tree with umbrella on its top and flanked by people worshipping it.

6. Panasa Gumpha

Panasa Gumpha is very small and simple cave without any significant features.

7. Thakurani Gumpha

Thakurani Gumpha is double storeyd but is very simple in style. It has few tiny relief sculptures.

8. Patalapuri Gumpha

Patalapuri Gumpha is slightly bigger with a pillared verandah. However, there is no noteable feature in this cave.

9. Mancapuri and Swargapuri Gumpha

Mancapuri and Swargapuri Gumpha is double storeyed. It has a damaged Jain religious symbol which was probably used for worship.

There are three inscriptions found in this cave. One inscription talks about the chief queen of Kharavela. The other two inscriptions talk about Kudepasiri, the successor of Kharavela and Badukha, the son or brother of Kudepasiri.

10. Ganesha Gumpha

Ganesha Gumpha is one of the most important caves in Udayagiri. The cave got this name due to carved figure of Ganesha on the back of its right cell. Of course, it would have been carved in the later period and it cannot be the original work. The cave has two big statues of elephants carrying garlands at the entrance. Also, the carved figures of dwara palas are found at the entrances. The carvings in this cave narrate the story of the elopement of Bassavadatta, Princess of Ujjayini, with King Udayan of Kausambi in the company of Vasantaka. 

Above this cave, the ruins of an apsidal structure is found. It is believed that the legendary Kalinga Jina was placed here once. Kalinga Jina was the idol of Rishabhanatha, which had been taken away from Kalinga by Mahapadma Nanda. After 300 years, Kharavela won the Sunga King Bahasatimita and brought it back.

11. Jambesvara Gumpha

Jambesvara Gumpha is a very simple and small cave with one column and two pilasters. The inscription tells that it is the cave of Nayaki, wife of Mahamade.

12. Vyaghra Gumpha

Vyaghra Gumpha is one of the popular caves in Udayagiri. The cave, which is in ruins, has the entrance carves like a large mouth of a tiger. It is one of the most photographed site in Udayagiri. The word 'vyaghra' means tiger. The inscription found here tells that this cave belongs to the city judge Sabhuti.

13. Sarpa Gumpha

Sarpa Gumpha is unusually very small cave. There are two inscriptions found in this cave. The word 'sarpa' means snake.

14. Hathi Gumpha

Hathi Gumpha is a natural cavern. On the wall, the inscription erected by Kharavela is found. It is the main source of history of Kharavela.

The word 'hathi' means elephant.

15. Dhanaghara Gumpha

Dhanaghara Gumpha is a small cave which has two wide pillars and dwara pala sculptures carved at the entrance.

16. Haridasa Gumpha

Haridasa Gumpha is a small cave with three entrances and a verandah in the front side. There is an inscription found here.

17. Jagannatha Gumpha

Jagannatha Gumpha is roughly cut cave with three entrances.

18. Rasui Gumpha

Rasui Gumpha is unusually very small cave.


The Khandagiri hills fall on your left side when you enter into this area from Bhubaneswar. There are 15 caves in Khandagiri. 

1. Tatowa Gumpha

The parrots are carved above the entrance arch and hence it is called as Tatowa Gumpha. It has two dwarapala figures too.

2. Tatowa Gumpha

The cave sharing the same name with the first cave has a veranda with pilasters containing exquisite carvings.

3. Ananta Gumpha

The cave has sculptures of women, elephants, geese, etc.

4. Tentuli Gumpha

It is a small rock cut chamber with just one column. 

5. Khandagiri Gumpha

It is a roughly cut cell and has double storeys.

6. Dhyana Gumpha

It is a roughly cut cell.

7. Navamuni Gumpha

Navamuni Gumpha is a roughly cut cell with the sculptures of nine Jain Tirthankaras and Sasana Devis.

8. Barabhuji Gumpha

Barabhuji Gumpha has two relief images of twelve armed Sasana Devis, hence it is called as Barabhuji (meaning twelve armed) Gumpha. There are few Tirthankara sculptures also found in this cave. The Sasana Devis are worshiped as Hindu deity Durga nowadays. Funnily, the priests in this shrine claim some Jain Tirthankara sculpture as Surya.

9. Trusula Gumpha

Trusula Gumpha appears to be reconverted in the medieval times. There are three sculptures of Rishabha Deva who is found in the standing posture and look beautiful. Apart from these sculptures there are sculptures of 24 Jain Tirthankaras which look rough.  

10. Ambika Gumpha

Few relief images of Sasana Devis are found here.

11. Lalatendu Keshari Gumpha

The relief images of Mahavira, Parshvanath and few Jain Tirthankaras are found here.

Caves 12, 13 and 15 are unnamed. Cave 14 is very simple and called as Ekadasi Gumpha. 

When you go to Puri or Bhubaneshwar, ensure that you travel to this 2000 years old heritage and historical site too.

Happy travelling.


  1. what animal is that cave supposed to represent and what's that cave's name?