Sanchi and Bhimbetka are the two world heritage sites, Madhya Pradesh proudly showcases to Indian and international tourists. We all have read or heard about these two archaeological treasures … but on this blog we explore hidden gems with aesthetic grandeur as well as historic importance. If you are exploring the area around Sanchi … you cannot miss Udaygiri caves … which is just about 15-20 km drive from the great Stupa … Just one very special monument is adequate for me to rate this as a must visit site. The Varaha Avatar statue of Lord Vishnu in Cave no. 5 here
We did not have lot of time to explore all 20 caves here because I was on a quick business-fieldwork trip and we reached the location around 5pm with a few minutes over half an hour for sunset. These caves belong to the Gupta period … located in 5th century CE … so they are older than Hindu Shaiva caves of Elephanta too.
The sculpture on the Siva linga represents the story of Ganga and how its flow was broken by Lord Siva when the river descended from the heaven. Water channels have been created to ensure that water flows out smoothly. According to Wikipedia – experts believe that the iron pillar in Delhi actually stood at Udaygiri few centuries ago. Cave. 6 has perhaps the oldest sculpted Ganesha idol found according to available records. There is Dvarapala and Lord Vishnu as well here …
We see another form of Lord Vishnu in the cave no. 13 – the sleeping Narayana … Experts believe that Chandragupta II was devoted to Lord Vishnu and perhaps also the patron king of this sculpture.
I saw an interesting inscription but as usual there are no signages to help us understand the meaning or background of these things … internet data suggests that what I found was Sankha Lipi and it belongs to the pre-Gupta period and contains some names in Sanskrit (I could not find a confirmation on this)
According to researcher Frederick Asher the Varaha image is a visual allegory to signify the unification of North India under Gupta empire. I could not gather details about cave numbers and sculptural significance .. perhaps something I need to follow up on … in the next visit to the heart of India.
I hope there will be a chance to visit these caves again and I get more detailed and high-definition images with lots of stories … Before that I have to compile 3 MP blogs – 1) Sanchi 2) Bhimbetka 3) Mandu … coming soon I hope