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Udayagiri Caves in Vidisha

Vidisha located on the eastern bank of Betwa river in Madhya Pradesh is renowned for the Udayagiri Caves. The famous caves at Udayagiri dates back to5th century and are finest piece of rock architecture in Madhya Pradesh and India. They were carved and reworked under the command of Chandragupta II, Emperor of the Gupta Empire. Udayagiri is shaped like a substantial U-shaped plateau next to the River Bes. It is about 4 km from the town of Vidisha and 13 km from the famous Sanchi, where the Stupas are located.

Udayagiri Cave Vidisha

Out of many places of interest to visit in Vidisha, Udayagiri caves are the most famous. there are a total of 20 caves of Hindu and Jain pantheons. 14 caves are now protected by the Archeological Survey of India and the most famous structure of the cave is the incarnation of Lord Vishnu as the boar, the sculpture of Varaha. These rock shelters also have inscriptions and habitation moulds of the 5th century.

Caves, Sculptures and Inscriptions

In nineteenth century Alexander Cunningham gave numbers to the caves at Udayagiri . However, the Department of Archeology, Gwalior State made a more detailed listing thereafter. Most tourists and visitors are keen to view the sculptures, architecture and inscriptions found at Caves 1, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 13.

Cave 1 is the residue of the southern part of the Udayagiri hill with its frontage carved out of a natural piece of rock. This cave contains a row of four pillars which bear the 'vase and foliage' pattern.

Cave 3 is a cluster of shrines and reliefs. On both sides of the entrance are seen traces of two pilasters on both sides of the entrance and a portico like structure above the shrine. There is a rock-cut image of Kartitikeya or Skanda, the war god, on a monolithic plinth.

Udayagiri CavesCave 4 showcases a spectacular Siva linga with a rock cut plinth. The hair, tied into a topknot with long cascading locks on the sides potrays how Siva broke the fall of the River Ganga as the waters came down from heaven.

Cave 5 contains Visnu as Varaha and is a shallow nice more than a cave. The Varaha is Visnu in his boar-headed incarnation. It has been described as an 'iconographic center-piece of Udayagiri'.

Cave 6 consists of a rock-cut cella through an elaborate T-shaped door. The original sculpture inside is now missing but believed to be that of a Siva linga. On the ceiling of the cave is an undated pilgrim record of Sivaditya. A special mention is the figure of the seated Ganesa, to the left of the cave entrance. This is said to be the oldest Ganesa figure in India.

Cave 8 is to the north and east of the Cave 6 cluster. It looks like a dome-shaped rock surmounted by massive horizontal slabs. This was created due to natural erosion of the rock over time. Two abraded figures guard the entrance to the inner chamber. Inside, the cave is empty apart from a lotus carved in the ceiling and a damaged inscription on the back wall.

Cave 12 consists of a niche containing a standing figure of Narasimha, Vishnu in his 'Lion-man' incarnation. Below on either side are two small standing attendant figures.

Cave 13 contains a figure of Narayana, the recumbent figure of Visnu resting. There is also said to be an image of Chandragupta II himself, in a kneeling position symbolizing his devotion to Visnu.

Cave 14, the last cave on the left hand side at the top of the passage. It consists of a recessed square chamber of which only two sides are preserved.

For all those looking to explore the historical city of Vidisha it is wise to plan a trip to Udaygiri caves. Visiting these caves gives you insight into the marvellence on rock cut architecture during ancient period. Further it also gives out the message of dynastic rule in the region. Centuries gave passed but the caves have remained intact as was at that time. Today it is one of the most visited site in Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh.

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