Continuing with my Udayagiri and Khandagiri trail this blog is the second part and this blog takes you around the caves of Khandagiri. If you want to know more about Udayagiri then please refer to my previous blog.
Khandagiri is the twin hill located right next to Udayagiri. Unlike Udayagiri which requires a ticket to enter this hill though under ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) is not ticketed and not directly managed by ASI. This poses a different problem as some of the caves are used by locals and hermits to spend a leisurely day away from the sun. Some of them even dry their clothes on the stone cut sculptures and inscriptions without obviously understanding their significance. Some caves have also become makeshift shops and people sell peanuts and popcorn.
Caves at Khandagiri are a bit difficult to locate as they are numbered in a very odd pattern. I have tried my best to track all of them but out of the 15 caves I have tracked and visited 13 of them, the rest two caves are on the other side of Khandagiri Hill is a desolate location that I felt was unsafe to visit alone. I wanted to visit it last time that I was in Bhubaneswar but unfortunately, all the tourist sites were shut due to a pandemic.
Location of Udayagiri and Khandagiri
Locations of Each Caves At Udayagiri
Cave 1 – Tatowa Gumpha
This is the first cave but not the first cave that you will see once you enter Khandagiri and go up the stairs. To reach this cave you need to go right once you reach the first level and go till you get another flight of stairs taking you to the upper level. Instead of going up you will find another path leading downwards, follow this and you will reach this cave.
The name of this cave comes from the word parrot as you will find a stone-carved parrot at the entrance. However, I could not see this and assume that it was once visible but now weathered away. You will find two dvarpalas on both sides of the entrance. This cave has a single pillar and two entrances leading to a single chamber.
Cave 2 – Tatowa Gumpha
This cave also has the same name as the first one and is located at the junction from where you had gone down to see Cave 1.
This cave has two pillars and three doorway leading to a single cave chamber. On the walls, you will find some remains of stone cravings.
Cave 3 – Ananta Gumpha
To reach this cave you must take the flight of steps going up. This cave has netted barrier but sometimes it is kept open.
This cave has three pillars supporting the veranda with four entrances. Inside you will find some stone carvings on the wall. Once inside you will find three doorway leading to a single chamber.
Cave 4 – Tentuli Gumpha
To reach this cave you must come back to the lower section. This cave is located on the right of the main staircase leading you from the road.
This cave has a single column that has a symbol of an elephant on top. Inside there is two decorated entrance leading to a single chamber.
Cave 5 – Khandagiri Gumpha
This is the very first cave that you would see once you enter Khandagiri hill after climbing up the stairs. This is a very simple cave with a single pillar (restored) with a single open chamber.
Cave 6 – Dhyana Gumpha
The next set of caves are located towards the left of the main staircase. This is a very wide cave with not many interesting features.
Cave 7 – Navamuni Gumpha
Located right next to Cave 6 this cave according to me is the most interesting one. It looks very simple from the outside but what matters is what you get to see inside. On the right side of the back wall, you will get to see stone cut panels of Jain Tirthankaras. The word Nava means 9 and muni means hermit.
On the back wall, you will find images of 7 Tirthankaras on the top row. Rishabhanatha, Ajitanatha, Sambhavanatha, Abhinandannatha, Vasupujya, Parshvanatha, and Neminatha.
Below those 7 Tirthankaras on the back wall, you will find 8 images. The first one on the left is that of Ganesha followed by Yakshi of the individual Tirthankara.
On the right wall, you will find two Tirthankaras which are Parshvanatha and Rishabhanatha.
On the left wall, you will a solitary image of Chandraprabhu.
Apart from these images, you will find inscriptions around this cave. Around five inscriptions are found here.
The next two caves have now become a part of a temple complex. The locals come to this temple to worship the twelve-handed image of Durga which is known as Barabhuji.
Cave 8 – Barabhuji Gumpha
This cave has several Jain rock-cut panels inside but the most popular is that of Barabhuji or twelve-handed Durga which is worshiped and devotees come here in the hundreds to worship her.
Cave 9 – Trusula Gumpha
This cave is located right next to on the left of Barabhuji Gumpha. Most of the time the gate remains closed and I managed to see whatever was visible from outside.
Cave 10 – Ambika Gumpha
The next set of caves are located on the left of caves 8 & 9 which have been converted into a temple. The main cave is seen as the roof has collapsed. What you see three sculptures on the top. The three include two males (Rishabhanatha) and a female (Amara).
Cave 11 – Lalatendu Keshari Gumpha
This is the last cave in this section similar to the previous cave the portions of the original cave have collapsed and you can see most of the stone sculptures located on the top section with no visible floors.
The right chamber has three reliefs which consist of two Rishabhanth and one Parshvanatha.
The left chamber has five sculptures of two Rishabhanth and three Parshvanatha.
Cave 12 – Unnamed Cave
The next two caves are located on the south side of Khandagiri hill. Follow the small path from Lalatendu Keshari Gumpha going towards the left. After reaching a rock-cut tank which is known as Radhakunda. A little up ahead is this cave which now has no physical resemblance to a cave. What can be only made out is that once it had two chambers separated by a wall at the center. Now, however the ceiling or the walls nothing remains.
Cave 13 – Unnamed Cave
Just another 10 meters from Cave 12 you will find remains of another cave. The condition of this cave is slightly better as you can somehow find a portion of the ceiling while the pillars are gone and only remains its foundation.
Cave 14 – Ekadasi Gumpha
Unfortunately due to pandemic Udayagiri and Khandagiri site has been closed to tourists and only visitors to the Jain and Hindu temples are allowed. The location of the cave is near Shyamakunda which lies around the South-West of Khandagiri Hill. I will try to get photos of this cave whenever I get the opportunity to visit Bhubaneswar again.
Cave 15 – Unnamed Cave
I also could not visit this cave and is most probably located somewhere near a cave called Guptaganga. I will try to cover it during my next visit.
Digamber Jain Temple
One of the major tourist attractions at Khandagiri is the Digamber Jain Temple which is located right at the top of Khandagiri and can be easily spotted from all around. Historically it is believed that King Kharavela had built a temple at this very spot. However, the temple that you now see is a much newer structure due to its construction style and design. Photography is prohibited within the temple compound.
Overall it will take nearly half a day if you want to cover both Udayagiri and Khandagiri cave complex. Do give some time to each of the caves in both the hills as each one of them is unique in itself and has a story to tell if you look close enough.
The hills are completely open to nature which means during summer take precautions like a hat or an umbrella.
During monsoon make sure you carry umbrellas and be careful as the ground can become slippery.
Guides are available who tell you that they are official but there is no way to verify that. If you need a guide make sure you are clear about the guide charges and the duration of his service.
There are Langur monkeys around the hill which are usually brought there by their keepers for visitors to click photo. They usually ask you to buy peanuts from them to feed them so that you can click photos. Sometimes these monkeys tend to be a bit excited and grab food items from visitors.
Carry bottled water as the climb around the hill can be very tiring and you would surely need to rehydrate.
You can carry light snacks with you as there are several benches around the hill where you can rest and have a quick bite. Just remember not to throw trash around the site instead use the waste bin provided to discard anything.
You need to buy tickets for Udayagiri but Khandagiri does not require any tickets.
For pandemic physical tickets are no longer sold instead you need to scan a QR code and buy tickets online. While entering you need to show the e-ticket inform of a QR code which the official will scan and let you enter.