The Statue of Varaha in Udayagiri Caves of Madhya Pradesh

The mere mention of Udayagiri caves over the lunch at Sanchi instantly transported me to Undavalli caves of Vijayawada and I was reminded of the impressive 5 inch reclined statue of the Vishnu, which left me mesmerised then.

The massive 5 inch reclining statue of Vishnu at Undavalli Caves in Vijaywada
The massive 5 inch reclining statue of Vishnu at Undavalli Caves in Vijaywada

Honestly, I am a fan of such places and always look forward to visit one. You know why? Because, it is the architecture at these caves that forms a major chunk of Indian heritage and showcases the talent that the country possessed. These caves does not merely document the history of the time but also reflects the imagination, vision of the rulers who built them, along with the hard work and skills of the artisans who put them in place

the First look of Udayagiri Caves
That’s the First look of Udayagiri Caves

Udayagiri Caves of Madhya Pradesh

5 kilometres drive from Vidisha is Udayagiri caves, which is a perfect example of showcasing the exquisite local art form of its time. Udayagiri caves homes the extensively carved iconographies of Vishnu, Durga and Shiva, cautiously reflecting the legendary stories of the gods and their shrines built during the 5th century. It is a marked monument of national importance under the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)

The carvings of deities on the caves at Udayagiri
The carvings of deities on the caves at Udayagiri

The name Udayagiri translates to the mountain of sunrise but why it is called so is not really known. It is said that while these caves were built, they directly fell in place on the Tropic of Cancer and hence came its name. Udayagiri caves are also known as Vishnu Padagiri which means “the feet of Vishnu”

According to the Brahmi inscriptions, it is thought that these caves were established by Chandragupt Vikramaditya, after defeating Shak’s’ in the 4th and 5th Century A.D, to promote Jainism among the people through the construction of the deities. There are in total twenty caves here, out of which two are related to Jainism, while the rest eighteen are linked to Hinduism. I checked 9 out of these 20 as I was short on time and hence couldn’t explore it fully.

The carvings of deities on the caves at Udayagiri
The carvings of deities on the caves at Udayagiri

But, of the all the caves that are there at Udayagiri, Cave number 5 is said to be the most prominent one, which is famous for the ancient monumental statue of Lord Vishnu in his incarnation as the Boar-Headed Varaha rescuing Bhudevi (earth). It has an interesting tale attached to it

The story of Varaha in Udayagiri Caves

While we entered the Udayagiri caves, we were directly taken to the cave no. 5 where from a distant sight you would spot this huge statue, built in open, which looks like an avatar (reincarnation) of a god in an animal form. Turns out that it is Lord Vishnu in his incarnation as a boar

Lord Vishnu in boar avatar at Udayagiri Caves
Lord Vishnu in boar avatar at Udayagiri Caves

The Hindu legend has it that once the goddess earth was in an existential crisis after she was attacked and kidnapped by an oppressive demon Hiranyaksha, where neither she nor the life she supports could survive. She was drowning in the cosmic ocean, when Vishnu emerges in the form of a man-boar avatar, descended into the ocean, finds her and rescued her by hanging her onto his tusk. The hindu legends symbolise this story as good vs evil or someone willing to go to the depths and do what is necessary to rescue the good

Spot the Ganga on Crocodile and Yamuna in tortoise. There are other prominent figures here as well, which highlights that this statue is indeed of Vishnu
Spot the Ganga on Crocodile and Yamuna in tortoise. There are other prominent figures here as well, which highlights that this statue is indeed of Vishnu

Apparently, this statue of Vishnu as a boar is the most prominent one in the caves of Udayagiri

What else to see inside

Like I mentioned, I wasn’t able to explore these caves fully but there are about twenty caves inside and requires some up hill climbing as well. So, make sure to come here with ample time in hand and only if you have interest in heritage, else the site of Udayagiri might sound a bit uninterested

The incomplete shivling in Cave 6
The incomplete shivling in Cave 6

Travel Tips:

Make sure that you wear comfortable shoes, since you would be required to walk a lot

Carry hat, sunglasses and a bottle of water along since it tends to get hot here

There is a nominal fee involved. Rs. 25/- for Indians. Rs. 300/- for the foreigners. Rs. 25/- for using video camera. The entry is free below the age of 15

You should club this visit with Sanchi Stupa which is about 13 kilometers from here

The best time to visit the Udayagiri Caves is during the winter months of October – March. Summers gets very hot in Madhya Pradesh and it is not very conducive to travel

How to reach Udayagiri Caves

By Flight: The nearest airport is Bhopal from where it is a 45 kilometers drive. You can book a taxi to reach further here

By Train: I think that’s the most convenient way to reach Udayagiri Caves, since there are regular trains to Vidisha from where it is a 4 kilometers drive. You can fix an auto to show you both Sanchi and the caves

Bu Bus: There are regular buses from Bhopal to Vidisha

P.S: I was invited as a blogger to attend the Times Passion Trails in association with Madhya Pradesh Tourism Board. However, the observations and opinions are all mine and expressed unbiasely

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