The humongous Udayagiri Hills, earlier known as Kumari Parvata, hold caves at different levels of the hill. Udayagiri Hills mean the ‘Sunrise hills’. These hills are 135 feet tall. Starting from the base of the hills, there are 18 caves in these hills. All the caves are numbered and some of them are also named. The Khandagiri hills were known as Kumara Parvata in the past. These hills are 118 feet high and house 15 caves and some Jain temples. These caves are also numbered with a few being named. One thing to notice in the Khandagiri Caves is that these caves are named according to the carvings on the walls of the caves.
The most interesting and attractive cave in the Udayagiri Hills is at the base itself. It is called ‘Rani Gumpha’ or the ‘Queen Cave’. It is a double storied cave and the largest cave in the Udayagiri Hills. Rani Gumpha has undergone extensive repair work. The carvings in the cave are usually that of celebration after king’s victorious return. You will find religious carvings as well as scenes from the royal courts. There are also some Jain carvings.
Another important cave in the Udayagiri hills is the ‘Ganesh Gumpha’. It is situated directly above the Rani Gumpha. The hall of the Ganesh Gumpha resembles a Buddhist chaitya hall. It can be inferred from the images in the caves that they were inhabited by Jain monks. Other important caves in the Udayagiri Hills are the ‘Bagh Gumpha’ and ‘Hathi Gumpha’. The Bagh Gumpha has an entrance in the shape of tiger’s open mouth. This is visually quite splendid. The Hathi Gumpha is not very attractive but is of great importance historically. A 17 line Brahmi inscription tells us about the tales and victories of King Kharavela.
The Ananta Cave is the most impressive cave in the Khandagiri hills. Caves 1 and 2 in the Khandagiri Caves are called the ‘Totawa Cave’ because there are carvings of 2 parrots on the doorway of these caves. In the caves of the Khandagiri hills, there are figures as well as inscriptions on the walls of the caves. The Ananta Cave is called so because there are 2 serpents on the doorway of this cave. Many additions have been made to the Ananta Cave because of the restoration work in the cave. In this cave there are carvings of figures of children, women, lions, athletes, bulls and many other animals. The carvings in all the caves are different. It can be inferred from the carvings and the structure of some of the caves that they were inhabited by Jain monks. There is nothing like visiting the ancient Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves. You will be awed by these splendid caves. The caves depict rich cultural heritage.