Only a few buses go specifically to the caves,
but there are plenty which pass the nearby junction, the main Calcutta
to Madras highway.
The caves on the opposite hill, Khandagiri, can be reached either
by the long flights of steps leading from the road, just up from
the main entrance to the Udaigiri caves, or cutting directly across
from Hathi Gumpha via steps that drop down from cave 17. The latter
route brings you out at caves 1 and 2, known as the "Parrot Caves"
for the carvings of birds on their doorway-arches. Cave 2, excavated
in the first century BC, is the larger and more interesting.
On the back wall of one of its cells, a few faint lines in red brahmini
script are thought to have been scrawled 2000 years ago by a monk
practicing his handwriting. The relief's in cave 3, the Ananta Gumpha
or "Snake Cave"- serpents decorate the doorways - contain the best
of the sculpture on Khandagiri hill, albeit badly vandalzed in places.
Caves 7 and 8 both house relief's of Tirthankaras on their walls
as well as Hindu deities which had, by the time conversion work
was done, become part of the Jain pantheon. The best place to wind
up a visit to Khandagiri is the modern Jain Temple at the top of
the hill. Aside from some old Tirthankars in the shrine room, the
building itself, erected during the nineteenth century on the site
of a much earlier structure.
Near Bhubaneshwar. Udaigiri caves occupy a fairly
compact area around the south of the hill. Cave 1, the Rani Gumpha
or "Queen's Cave", is tucked away around the corner. Its best sculpture
is to be found over the pillars, arches and to the rear of the courtyard
on the lower level, and across the back wall of the upper storey,
where a long frieze shows rampaging elephants, panicking monkeys,
sword fights and the abduction of a women.
Nobody, as yet, has managed to string all these scenes into a coherent
narrative, though some are thought to illustrate episodes from the
life of Kalinga's King Kharavela. As you return along the same path,
the first caves of interest are numbers 3 and 4 - a double-storied
cave containing sculptures of a lion holding its prey, elephants
with snakes wrapped around them and pillars topped by pairs of peculiar
Its popular name, Ganesh Gumpha, is not derived from the elephants in front of the cave, but from the appearance on the rear wall of the cell on the right of the elephant-heades Ganesh. From here, follow the path to the ledge at the very top of Udaigiri hill for good views and the ruins of an old chaitya hall. This was probably the main place of worship for the Jain monks who lived below and may even once have housed the legendary .