Why You Should Visit The Caves In Bhubaneswar

Why You Should Visit The Caves In Bhubaneswar
The Udaygiri and Khandagiri Caves,

Meditate away and find your moment of peace in the Temple City of India

Meenketan Jha
January 04 , 2019
03 Min Read

Classy, culturally diverse, an architectural wonderland - the city of Bhubaneswar is an absolute spectacle. For a history aficionado the capital city of Odisha is a divine experience. The centre of economics in Eastern India, Bhubaneswar, along with its old town is often depicted as the Ekamra Kshetra (Temple City). A confluence of Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist heritage, the city is host to some of finest Kalinga temples. Dhaulgiri is a symbol of his transformation from Chand Ashoka (Cruel Ashoka) to Dharma Ashoka (Kind-hearted Ashoka). A rapidly emerging informational technology and education hub, Bhubaneswar is a city building up a gateway to the future using its rich history as its foundation. 

The Old Town of the capital city, which is where the Kalinga temples, are located date back to the 3rd Century BCE. Referred to as the Temple City of India, along with Puri and Konark it is a part of the Swarna Tribhuja (Golden Triangle). The three cities together are some of the holiest in the country and welcome devotees in large numbers every year.  

The chambers at the caves designed especially for the monks

While the temples in the city such as the Lingaraja and Mukteswara often are on top of a tourist's wish-list, I would highly recommend a short trip to the Udaygiri and Khandagiri Caves. Tracing their roots to the 1st Century BCE, these caves are largely empty chambers. King Kharavela reshapes the Kingdom of Kalinga as he rises leaning towards Jainism. His desire was to build a shelter for the hermits, who were nomads and didn't like to stay in one place for more than day. This craving was his inspiration to the creation of the Udaygiri and Khandagiri Caves. Over two thousand years ago when the caves were built, the monsoon months lasted four months and it was during the rainy season that the monks required a place to settle down. The chambers in the caves were resting places for the monks. Overlooking the forest and the lush greenery of the region, the monks would feel right at home steps away from nature. Kharavela's genuis was also paramount for he built he chambers on a slight incline to allow the the monsoon water to flow down and not congregate within the confines of the shelter.

For other than those four months though, the caves served the purpose of an amphitheatre. Kharavela would call upon a congregation of his subjects and listen to their troubles as well as host cultural performances here. As you walk along the ruins, you'll notice that a lot of the sculptures have eroded. Interestingly, the stones from the cave were used in the creation of many Kalinga styled temples hence, the damage. 

The love affair of King Kharavela with his second wife is depicted through these carvings at the caves

The carvings that are still intact are extraordinarily detailed and narrate the King's love story with his second wife. You'll see how the King comes to the forest in search for a hunt and rescues his future wife who has escaped from her kidnappers. It is in these carvings where you see Kharavela go through a change of heart as did Ashoka when Kharavela's to-be wife tells him not to kills the animal - an integral principal of Jainism. In an another astounding sculpture, you can comprehend the interactions between Alexander the Great and Kharavela. 

Other examples of fine marksmanship from Kharavela's time

One of the greatest things about the place is the space it provides for one to connect with their soul. You can sit in any of the caves and take in a couple of minutes to just observe your serene surroundings. Away from the hustle of a modern day cosmopolitan, the two sets of caves are as useful now as they were made to be in the past. 


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