Being born in the 80s has its advantage. We have seen the transformation of black & white television to OTT streaming services on your mobile. Others have also witnessed this change but for us, it was a transition that we saw from childhood to adulthood. The one thing that made every child crazy was mega television serials like Ramayan, Mahabharat, Chandrakanta, etc.
For many of us including me mythology being played out on television was something really enjoyable especially the war sequences. We were mesmerized by the scenes where one would launch an arrow and then it would multiply and sometimes transform into a thunder or a snake. So one thing that these two mythological television serials did was to solidify the main characters into our minds.
I simply happen to chance upon this site by mistake. I was traveling and this signage had crossed me which pointed to something called “Panchu Pandav Caves”. It was easy to understand that it had everything to do with the five Pandavas and I decided to read about it when I get back to my guest house.
History of Panchu Pandav Caves
According to the epic Mahabharata which revolved amongst its central character of the five Pandava brothers (Yudhishthir, Bheem, Arjun, Nakul, Sahadev) who were sent to exile for 13 years along with their mother Kunti. Now here comes the problem wherein you will find various caves across India claiming to be the place where the Pandavas had taken refuge inside a cave.
One such cave can be found in Bhubaneswar which is known as Panchu Pandav Cave. The word Panchu can be easily translated to Panch or five. Unlike the rest of the heritage structures in and around Bhubaneswar, this place does not feature amongst its popular tourist trails.
According to various reports, this place was left to nature and a few years back even entry to this site was difficult as it was completely covered in shrubs and other vegetation. This place has been recently restored and beautified and thankfully it is now possible to visit these historic caves.
The signage outside the caves tells us the date of 5th – 6th Century AD which does not match up with the timeline in which the original Maharabhat was written which historians put somewhere as early as 400 BC. So there is a thin line between history and beliefs thus will let that matter be not judged and let each person decide what they want to.
Location of Panchu Pandav Caves
How To Reach Panchu Pandav Caves
Address: Badagada Brit Colony, Pandav Nagar, Bhubaneswar
Since this is not a popular tourist destination thus do not be surprised if Auto and Cab drivers do not know the route. It’s better to pinpoint the exact location on your phone map and then book a mobile app-based cab or auto. Since this place is located within city limits thus you do not need to keep the vehicle booked you can always book your return journey with your mobile app.
What To See at Panchu Pandav Caves
This archaeological site is under ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) but there are no entry tickets to this site. Finding a parking spot near the entry gate can be tricky as this is a residential locality and all along the roadside you will find private vehicles parked. What is more shocking is that they have not spared the entry gate also as you will be able to see private vehicles blocking the main entry gate.
Even though this place is called Panchu or Panch (five) Pandav you will not find five caves instead you will find only three caves out here. The first cave has been converted into a temple and high chances you will find the temple priest out there either performing puja or spending time out there.
Not many tourists come here so the temple priest gets excited whenever he sees someone in the compound and will surely approach you to ask if you want him to perform puja and get blessings. It’s completely up to you and don’t feel pressured, just keep in mind that you will surely have to give some offerings in terms of money if you ask them to perform a puja.
The caves are relatively small in terms of space and the first one being the largest of the three still feels small. As you enter the first cave you will be able to see the images of Navagraha on top of the entry door. As you enter the cave chamber you will find a series of idols and images on your left. At the center of the cave, you will find a stone cut Nandi facing towards the gods.
On the main altar, you will find images of Jagannath, Subhadra & Balaram since this being Odisha so this is a common deity. At the center, you will find a Shiva Linga surrounded by snakes (Naag) made out of metal. Next to this, you will be able to see a stone image of the Pandavas. Yudhishthir can be seen sitting and surrounded by his four other brothers. Next to that, you will find a female deity that can be possible of Draupadi. There is another altar right next to it towards the interior and that has a Durga idol.
Apart from the main chamber in the first cave, you will find another smaller chamber to the left which remains locked behind a gate. Peeping through it most likely looks like a portion of the cave has been converted into a storage section.
Outside this first cave, you will find a well that now has been covered. According to the locals, this well is also ancient and was used by the Pandavas during their stay at this place.
The next two caves are up ahead around ten meters from the first cave. The second cave is smaller than the first one and is empty. There is an iron gate in front of the cave to keep outsiders going in. This depth of the cave is around 10 feet in depth with a height of around 5 feet and a width of around 15 feet.
The last one being the smallest would measure around 10 to 12 feet in width with a height of 4 and a half feet and a depth of around 6 feet.
All three caves have been extensively supported with additional concrete roofs and additional pillars to support the concrete roof. The entire area has good landscaping however I feel that too much concrete has been used especially around the tile flooring around the three caves which makes this site look a little artificial. A little bit of greenery would have merged the stone caves with their natural surroundings.
Overall this is a small place to cover and it would at the max take around 30 to 45 minutes.