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Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves: Intricate Jain Monuments to Faith


Oct 18, 2022

There’s an unimaginable archaeological website simply outdoors town of Bhubaneswar in Odisha, India that pulls 1000’s of vacationers annually. The Udayagiri caves are half pure, half man-made caves that function a temple. Nestled within the hills simply outdoors town, the temples are lavishly embellished with ornate carvings. They date again to the first century BC, however even the intricate sculptures have been preserved extremely nicely.

The caves are located on two adjoining hills: Udayagiri and Khandagiri. They have been become temples throughout the reign of King Kharavela of the Mahameghavahana dynasty, which dominated the traditional kingdom of Kalinga from the 2nd century BC to the fifth century AD. There are thirty two caves in whole which have been remodeled into temples. The caves are all Jain temples apart from one temple which is devoted to Hinduism.

Panaromic view of Udayagiri caves from Khandagiri ( Pbedekar / CC BY SA 3.0)

What’s Jainism?

Jainism is likely one of the world’s oldest religions, originating round 2,500 years in the past. It’s nonetheless an integral a part of Indian tradition and life right now, with round 4-5 million followers. Jainism promotes enlightenment by means of excessive non-violence, encouraging folks to cut back hurt to dwelling issues, together with crops and animals, as a lot as doable. Jainism additionally has 4 different vows that practitioners should comply with: all the time converse the reality, present sexual restraint (ideally celibacy), don’t steal, and don’t turn out to be hooked up to worldly issues.

Followers of Jainism worship a number of deities, particularly the Jinas. These have been non secular leaders who had achieved enlightenment and due to this fact escaped the cycle of rebirth. There are 24 of those Jinas, though Jains predominantly worship 4: Mahāvīra, Parshvanatha, Neminatha and Rishabhanatha. Jains additionally worship numerous completely different gods and goddesses.

The Udayagiri caves and Khandagiri caves have been made particularly for Jain ascetics. An ascetic is somebody who practices the self-denial of worldly issues. This apply normally features a lack of any possessions, even garments, in addition to fasting, penance, and self-mortification. Ascetics additionally chorus from any human cravings, similar to intercourse, and apply yoga and meditation. The explanation for that is to realize moksha, or liberation, from the cycle of rebirth. To attain this, one has to free their soul from any earthly needs. It is because of this that the caves have been made. It supplied ascetics a spot to worship, meditate, and keep away from distractions.

Sculpture in Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves near the city of Bhubaneswar in Odisha, India (Wirestock Creators / Adobe Stock)

Sculpture in Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves close to town of Bhubaneswar in Odisha, India ( Wirestock Creators / Adobe Inventory)

The Astonishing Udayagiri Caves

The Udayagiri cave system options 18 caves. Rani Gumpha, additionally known as cave primary, is the biggest, and extensively thought-about to be essentially the most lovely cave within the complicated. It’s believed that it was occupied by the Queen of Lalatendu Kesari. This cave is double-storied with 32 cells. Every of those cells is intricately embellished with reduction sculptures. Rani Gumpha accommodates sculptures depicting the victory march of King Kharavela, ‘dwarapala’ or guards of the temple, wild animals and girls taking part in devices.

Cave 6 of the Udayagiri Caves, showing a dwarapala guardian, Vishnu, and Ganesh (ZippyMarmalade / CC BY SA 4.0)

Cave 6 of the Udayagiri Caves, exhibiting a dwarapala guardian, Vishnu, and Ganesh (ZippyMarmalade / CC BY SA 4.0 )

One other notable part within the Udayagiri caves is that of Hathi Gumpha. The structure is just not spectacular; nevertheless, the inscription carved onto the forehead of the cave is essential. The inscription is the one supply of data we now have on King Kharavela, who dominated the area when the temples have been constructed. The inscription is seventeen traces lengthy and begins with Namokara Mantra, a Jain mantra recited to at the present time. That is vital, because it offers us affirmation that Jainism was the faith of the time. The inscription then goes on to supply a biographical overview of King Kharavela and his achievements.

A decorative relief at the Udayagiri Cave Complex, Odisha, India. (Milosk50 / Adobe Stock)

An ornamental reduction on the Udayagiri Cave Advanced, Odisha, India. ( Milosk50 / Adobe Inventory)

Ganesha Gumpha is one other of the essential sections of the Udayagiri caves. This cave is known as after Ganesha, an essential deity who options on the again proper cell of this cave. That is one of some of the caves that had carvings added to them at a later date, throughout the medieval interval. The cave has two giant statues of elephants carrying garlands on the entrance, the earliest instance of sculpture animals getting used as a guard to an entrance. The elephants are every holding branches of a mango tree over a lotus. The identical ‘dwara pala’ that function within the Rani Gumpha cave additionally function on this cave. The carvings on this cave additionally inform the story of the elopement of Bassavadatta, Princess of Ujjayini, with King Udayana of Kausambi.

Some trendy students are of the opinion that Udayagiri additionally served as a theater complicated. King Kharavela was an enthusiastic patron of culture and the arts , and so it’s doable that he had the complicated constructed not only for Jain ascetics but additionally for public performances.

Panoramic view at the Rani Gumpha caves of Udayagiri caves complex in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India (Milosk50 / Adobe Stock)

Panoramic view on the Rani Gumpha caves of Udayagiri caves complicated in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India ( Milosk50 / Adobe Inventory)

The Khandagiri Caves and the dedication of Kharavela

On the other hill from Udayagiri is Khandagiri. The Khandagiri cave system is comprised of simply 15 caves. These caves are less complicated in type than the Udayagiri caves, and have medieval carvings of the 24 Jain ‘Jinas’, also called ‘Tirthankaras’. Essentially the most notable cave at Khandagiri is cave quantity 3, often known as Ananta Gumpha. It’s named after the dual serpents which can be caved onto the doorways’ arches. The cave incorporates a carving of the goddess Gaja-Lakshmi in a lotus lake, with lotus stalks in her arms. Gaja-Lakshmi is taken into account a logo of prosperity in Jainism.

The Udayagiri caves and Khandagiri caves are extremely vital as a result of they’re one of many uncommon examples of historic Jain rock-cut caves on the Indian subcontinent. Additionally of nice significance are the inscriptions that affirm Jainism as the faith of the time, and describe how deeply non secular King Kharavela was. The inscriptions and sculptures define how Kharavela lived a life that adhered to the core rules of Jainism, with the complicated virtually serving as a reminder to his ancestors of his dedication to his faith.

Prime picture: The doorway to the Ganesha Gumpha part of the Udayagiri cave complicated. Supply:  Paramanu Sarkar / CC BY SA 4.0

By Mark Brophy

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