As our stay continued in Bhubaneswar we decided to visit the renowned Udayagiri and Khandagiri caves of Odhisha. These are one of the most ancient rock cur shelters of the Jain community.
The two rock-cut caves of Udayagiri which means the hills of sunrise and the Khandagiri which means broken hills have great historical and architectural significance. They are also eminent from the point of view of art and religion of the ancient times. These two hills are located at the coastal plains of Bhubaneswar and are separated via a highway.
In the inscriptions these caves are referred as Lena and are mentioned to be the cells or dwelling retreats of the Jain ascetics. The caves or cells open into a verandah which is an open space in the front of these structures.
The Udayagiri and Khandagiri rock- cut cells depict the very simple and non luxurious lives of the Jain followers. The caves are mostly excavated at the top of the boulder and served as meditation or prayer rooms for the Jain ascetics. It just provided them with dry shelter and minimal comforts. The roofs are so low that a man can not even stand erenct inside the caves.
In the ancient era each of these cells were tenanted by several monks who lived a life of utter austerity which is also depicted by the architecture of the cells. The facades of the caves are encrusted with sculptures that portray the auspicious objects of worship of the Jains, royal processions, court scenes, scenes of daily life as well as hunting expeditions. The caves also portray the lives of the 24 Jain Tirthankaras who lived a life of simplicity and austerity when Jainism no longer enjoyed royal patronage.
In order to avoid confusion in nomenclature the caves have been numbered in serial order. People from local as well as far off places come in huge volumes to visit this site of archeological heritage. It is also a preferred site for picnickers and those who enjoy spending time with their families.