Undavalli Caves

Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh

#Historical and Heritage


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The Undavalli Caves, a monolithic example of Indian rock-cut architecture and one of the finest testimonials to ancient viswakarma sthapathis, are located in Undavalli of Guntur district in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. The caves are located 6 km south west from Vijayawada, 22 km north east of Guntur City of Andhra Pradesh. It is one of the centrally protected monuments of national importance.

These caves are said to be found in 7th century. They are associated with the Vishnukundi kings of 420-620 A.D.. These caves are dedicated to Anantha Padmanadha and Lord Narashimha. Buddhist monks used these as Rest Houses.

These caves were carved out of solid sandstone on a hillside in the 4th to 5th centuries A.D. There are several caves and the best known largest one has four stories with a huge recreated statue of Vishnu in a reclining posture, sculpted from a single block of granite inside the second floor. Undavalli caves are an example of how many Buddhist artifacts and stupas in Andhra were converted into Hindu temples and deities. It was originally a Jain cave resembling the architecture of Udayagiri and Khandgiri. The main cave is one of the earliest examples of Gupta architecture, primarily primitive rock-cut monastery cells carved into the sandstone hills. Initially the caves were shaped as a Jain abode and the first floor abode still retains the Jain style; the vihara exhibits Jain monastics and includes tirthankara sculptures. This first level of the cave is a carved vihara and includes Buddhist art work. The site served as the Bhikkhu monastic complex during ancient period. The walls of the caves display sculptures carved by skilled craftsmen.

The caves are surrounded by the green countryside. From the high hill above the cave overlooking the Krishna River many fine specimens of rock cut architecture can be seen.

Architecture

It is an Impressive Four storey rock cut temple with East facing facade of 29m long, 16m wide. There are variation in depth of each floor. Ground floor is an unfinished low pillared hall with 8 pillars and 7 door openings on façade. First storey accommodates triple shrine at back, each with pillared hall in front, originally dedicated to the Trinity (Siva, Vishnu and Brahma).

Sculptures on the walls represents Vaishnava deities. Second storey has a pillared rectangular shrine of Lord Vishnu on a Serpent. Sculptures of Shiva and Vaishnava and a few like the Vaishnava Alwars are sculptured later on. Top floor was unfinished with a Triple Shrine. Some of the sculptural specimens are attributed to Chalukyan Period. It has 5 meter long statue of Lord Buddha in reclining position.

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