Udayagiri Caves are a group of rock - cut cave sanctuaries, carved into
a sandstone hill that stands, sentinel like, on the horizon. Situated
in Sunpura and Udaygiri villages of Vidisha district of Madhya Pradesh,
these are the finest example of classical gupta arts. Literarily
means hill of sunrise, Udayagiri was mentioned as Kumari Parvat in Hathigumpha
An inscription in one of these, states that it were carved during the
reign of Changragupta II (382 -401AD), thus it is estimated that these
were carved during 4th to 5th A.D. The caves represents all the distinctive
features of Classical Gupta art - its simplicity of expression, the beautifully
moulded capitals, the treatment of the intercolumniation, the design of
the entranceway and the system of continuing the architrave as a string
course round the structure, religious virtuosity etc.
There are about twenty rock cut caves carved into an
outcrop of sandstone and most are just niches however some form columned
temples. These caves have been numbered according to the sequence in which
they were excavated. In Caves four, six and nineteen, one can observe
that the shrines become larger and more ornate and cells appear more spacious.
Cave 1, which has a frontage adapted out of a natural ledge of rock, thus
forming both the roof of the cella and its portico. The row of four pillars
bear the vase and foliage pattern. Characterised by richly carved facades
and doorways, the shrines are progressively more spacious and more ornate.
Dates back to early 5th century, Cave no 5 depicts Vishnu in a massive
carving depicts Vishnu as Varaha (Boar) incarnation. It is also called
as Varha Gupha. The sculpture is holding the earth goddess Prithvi aloft
upon one tusk. Yet another large sculpture is of the reclining Vishnu.
Rows of Sages, divinities and two male musicians can be seen at the back
and on the sides of the panels, images of river goddesses Ganga and Yamuna
with figures of attendants. It is claim that these scenes represents the
unification of northern India by the Guptas.
Taken as a whole, this stupendous group is a rich representation
of the vitality and strength of Gupta art and architecture.
Known as Bina Cave, a stage in process can be seen in
cave number four.
Cave 6 has a doorway ornately carved with figures of river goddesses standing
on makaras, aquatic monsters, and two pillars with fluted capitals. On
the walls, there are elaborately carved sculpture panels of deities on
either side, depicting guardians and images of Vishnu as Varaha and Durga.
There is also an inscription of Chandragupta II above.
Cave no. 9 is famous for its large cella and massive, 8 feet high pillars,
its long portico and pillared hall. Throughout, there is evidence that
the master craftsmen of Besnagar practised their art with skill and artistry
under the Guptas, four centuries later.
Cave no.13 is a open cave of 12 ft long, remarkable for its large rock-cut
sculpture of Lord Sheshashayi Vishnu.
Dates back to mid -5th century Cave19 shows distinct features of architectural
value. The cave is notable for its figures of Ganga and Yamuna with small
figures and imposing patterns. A mural depicting the myth gods and demons
were churning the Ocean of Milk to obtain amrita (water of immortal life),
is carved over the lintel. A number of lingas and a Nandi image can be
seen, which are indicating that the cave is Shaivite. There are four columns in
the sanctuary which have square shafts. The roof is supported by four
massive pillars, 8 feet high and 1 foot 7 inches square, also hewn out
of the rock. They have richly-ornamented capitals, but instead of the
usual turn-overs at the four corners, they have four horned and winged
animals standing upright on their hind legs, and touching their mouths
with their forefeet.