If you are anywhere near the cities of Vijayawada or Amaravati, in the state of Andhra Pradesh in India, you got to visit Undavalli Caves. This rock cut Hindu cave temple definitely deserves a few hours of your precious time. The moment I saw some of the photos from there, I was very sure that I wanted to visit it. This one is yet another archaeological gem and engineering feat from South India. I am glad my husband and I used one breezy Sunday to have a date with history. Here is a photo-story to make you curious around this monolithic structure, sandstone work, from the 4th -5th century. How about making it a part of your “Things to do in Vijayawada”?
How to reach Undavalli caves?
Don’t fret over this at all. You can go there on your own. Uber and Ola cabs ply in and around Vijayawada and this one isn’t far from the city but on the Vijayawada-Guntur highway. You may also use rentals car or hire an auto (three-wheeled vehicle). I booked an Uber from Currency nagar in Vijayawada and it costed me Rs. 370 from one side. The caves are located on the east of the Undavalli Village on the right bank of river Krishna, 5 kilometer southwest to the city of Vijayawada.
If you are around the Prakasham Barrage, you are quite close to them. You just have to be on the Guntur side of the barrage and take a local auto. Everyone knows the caves. They will either drop you there or direct you They run on sharing basis and will charge Rs. 20 or 30 at the most. I wanted to get an insight of this area and thus chose and auto-ride after I had seen the caves.
Timings and Fees of Undavalli Caves
The fee for Indian adult is Rs. 25 and the caves close at 5.30 P.M., so please plan your visit keeping the time in mind. You must reach the place atleast 2 hours before it closes to make the best of it. You can always cover it in an hour but if you appreciate Indian architecture, have an eye for sculptures and love photography, you definitely need lots of time in hand. Every wall, especially on the first and second floor has something intriguing. The carvings tell many tales of the people that may have got it built. And a lot of things go unexplained too so you can always find your own things.
The four Levels of the Undavalli Caves, the pillars, the mandapas and medallions.
Yes, it is a multi-storied cave and not below the ground but above it. It overlooks the Krishna river and has a front facade of nearly 28 meters in length and 15 meters in height. There are four levels and several panels and pillars at each level . They are called mandapas. The architecture, the structure of the caves shows influence from Chalukyas and Guptas, both. The reclining Vishnu, sculpted from single block of granite is marvelous. And I must tell you that it may be more popular as Hindu temple but a lot things suggest that these caves have served several faiths. It is believed to be the resting place of Buddhist monks and Jain Tithankaras as well.
And before you start, I must tell you just be careful with monkeys. There are not too many but don’t give them any food or water. The guard is there to offer help if they do come around.
Second, after you have seen the four levels, do walk around to the left side of the caves. You will see a better view of the city and also some more older versions of the caves.
Multi-storeys and their features!
1.The ground floor looks incomplete but has deep and wide bays.
2. A flight of steps usher you into the next level. It has four mandapams. Here, on the western wall, there is an inscription which states that Machama Reddy, son of Anna Reddy, used this land for various kinds of worship. One can find some figures of Brahma, a dwarapala, Narashimha killing Hirankasipa and Siva. On the front side, that look towards the road, one can find two elephant heads with suspended trunks (Gajamunda). You may also look for a panel depicting Shiva and Parvati in sukhasana.
3. Another set of flights lead you to the second floor that houses the shrine of of Anantasayana on the extreme right. There is a wall which has Hanuman too. In the back wall, one can see carved relief figures of 14 Alwars and Vaikunthanatha Vishnu. The reclining Vishnu is one to look out for inside a chamber on this floor. You will be asked to show your ticket to get inside. We found too many bats here in too. And then this floor is also known for the figures of seated saints or rishis sitting on the outside.
4. The top-most storey is not very interesting and is incomplete. You can simply stroll around to find some small hideouts. There is a board which reads loud and clear, “No entry” for further levels. There are no stairs either.
Overall, the whole experience of visiting the cave was very satisfying and enlightening. It left me in awe of Indian architecture with yet another example. There are lot of hidden gems. We just need to look around and explore.