Middle Kingdoms of India, Part 32


Undavalli Cave Temples, Andhra Pradesh

May 24, 2015 — CANADA (SUN) — A serial presentation of India's great history, religious movements and temple architecture.

The Vishnukundinas

Among the marks of antiquity left by members of the Vishnukundina dynasty are the cave temples of Andhra Pradesh. 'The hills around Vijayawada are rich with rock-cut architecture, but the most magnificent and largest among these monuments are the Undavalli Caves. The caves are an amazing achievement in engineering, being four floors high and ornamented with numerous rock-cut sculptures and murals.

The caves , which are associated with the Vishnukundina kings, were dedicated by a local governor, Madhava Reddy to the Anantapadmanabha Swamy and Narisimha Swamy temples, who oversee the temples. Lord Chaitanya visited this area, taking darshan of Sri Pana-nrsimha at Mangalagiri, very close to Undavalli.

The Vishnukundina kings were known as supporters of Buddhism, and the Undavalli Caves started out as Buddhist temples. In later years of the empire, however, Vaisnava traditions came to the forefront, as evidenced by the major artworks in these rock-cut temples.

The Undavalli Cave is said to be 9 kilometers long, starting from an underground passage that leads to the sacred Mangalgiri mountain.

While there are several smaller rock-cut chambers nearby, the large four-storied caves of the Undavalli temple domainte. From a distance the rock-cut structure resembles an abandoned fort, but in fact the entire enormous structure is cut into a monolithic sandstone cliff.

The Undavalli Caves have four stories, and each successive floor recedes into the structure. The facade is 29 meters wide. The general architecture of the Caves is an early example of Gupta architecture, although a number of details on the second floor show the influence of Chalukyan architecture. The third floor has beautiful ornamented pillars, shown below.

Undavalli caves, ornamented pillars in the third floor

The first floor of the Caves may be entered through one of the nine roughly shaped openings, which are separated by massive square rock columns. The first floor's plan is like that of a Buddhist vihara, and some of the chambers are rock-cut monastery cells.

The main hall was not completed, but contains 8 columns. There are three separate sanctuaries for Trimurti deities, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, and each has a pillared hall in front. The walls on the first floor are adorned with frescoes showing various scenes and transcendental pastimes. Most were done in the 7th to 8th c. A.D., but some paintings were done later.

The second floor contains the most amazing temple sculpture, shown in our last segment -- the 5 meter long image of Lord Vishnu in his Padmanabha aspect, reclining on Sesanaga. Lord Visnu is cut from a single block of granite. On the wall behind the Lord are numerous other sculptures including Lord Brahma, the devatas, etc.

The facade of the third floor caves is adorned with numerous sculptures, including depictions of lions and elephants. These rock-cut spaces open out to a beautiful view of the green hills and stands of palms below.

Source: Wiki, CC BY-SA 2.0


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