Literally implying the 'mountain of the sunrise', the name of Udayagiri Caves have been mentioned in the inscriptions of the 11th century and currently it is related to a tiny village near the foothills. Certain historians are of the view that the iron pillar, Delhi was initially a part of the Udayagiri Caves. If this is true, one of the inscriptions of the pillar depict that Udayagiri was termed as 'Visnupadagiri' or the 'hill of Vishnu's foot-prints' during the 5th century CE.
History of Udayagiri Caves
The Udayagiri Caves were remodified by the royal orders of Chandragupta II who reigned over Gupta Empire from 380 till 415 CE. According to an archaeologist Michael D. Willis, Chandragupta II went about this task since he was a great devotee of the Hindu God, Lord Vishnu. Alexander Cunningham was said to have numbered the Udayagiri Caves during the 19th century, starting from the south till north. However, a more detailed system of numbering was ushered by the Department of Archaeology, Gwalior. Visitors will notice Caves 1, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 13 which has been generally accepted by people, and which possess beautiful inscriptions and sculptures.
Cave I, Udayagiri Cave
Cave I of Udayagiri Caves consist of a natural rocky ledge on the anterior part of the hills, which acts as the root of the caves. There exists a series of four pillars carting the 'vase and foliage' design which is highly approved by historians.
Cave 3, Udayagiri Cave
The first group of shrines and reliefs are present in Cave 3 which greets visitors with a regular entrance and evidences of two pilasters on either sides of the cave entrance equipped with a horizontal cutting are present. Image of war God or Kartikeya or Skanda, carved on rock adorns its interiors.
Cave 4, Udayagiri Cave
An impressive Shiva Lingam is there inside Cave 4 over a rock-cut platform and one can access the cave through some delicate floral scrolls. Square moulded rocks are places near the door frames, and the cave is surrounded by two rock carved pillars and two 'dwara-palas' or door guardians.
Cave 5, Udayagiri Cave
The highly acclaimed rock-cut figurine of 'Varaha' or a divine avatar of lord Vishnu, which is a sculptural masterpiece, is present in Cave 5 of the Udayagiri Cave. The Varaha means boar.
Cave 6, Udayagiri Cave
One will find that Cave 6 is existent right near the Cave 5 and comprises a rock-cut cella which can only be approached through a T-shaped door. An image of a pilgrim known as Sivaditya is made upon the cave ceiling, apart from door guardians which exist near the cave entrance. The figurines of Siva Gangadhara and Lord Vishnu are there inside the cave. Another notable rock-cut figure is that of Goddess Durga assassinating the Buffalo Demon, besides the statue of seated Ganesha.
Cave 8, Udayagiri Cave
Cave 8 is located on the northern and eastern part of the series of Cave 6. It is characterised by a dome-shaped rock form over which is placed a great horizontal rock slab and rock erosion is said to have created this unique appearance of the cave. A destroyed inscription and a lotus are carved on the stone walls inside and those inscriptions were by the king's minister Virasena.
Passage of Udayagiri Cave
Right near Cave 8 is existent a giant passage which is a famous rock feature of Udayagiri Cave and certain stones have been added to this passage which also possesses shell inscriptions embedded on the upper walls of the passage. Niches and caves are part of this passage, and sculptures of Lord Vishnu (though majority of them are ruined) are observed in the passage.
Cave 12, Udayagiri Cave
A standing image of 'Narasimha', which represents yet another avatar of Lord Vishnu in his 'Lion-Man' incarnation exists in Cave 12 which is also famous for a brief Brahmi inscription. The idols have been carved through shell characters measuring about 2 metres in height.
Cave 13, Udayagiri Cave
Cave 13 is home to a grand figure of 'Narayana' incarnation of Lord Vishnu close to which is present the image of a devotee who is seen kneeling down before the image. Some historians have asserted that the figure is a portrayal of the emperor Chandragupta II himself, depicting his intense devotion to the deity Vishnu.
Cave 14, Udayagiri Cave
The very last cave of Udayagiri Cave is Cave 14 which is situated on the left side of the passage. One will discover a water channel pierced through the wall.
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