Udayagiri, historically known as Madhavapura Mahavihara, is a Buddhist Complex in Odisha and is composed of monasteries or Viharas and major stupas. It is similar to Ratnagiri, and together with Lalitagiri, form part of Puspagiri University. Perhaps what makes the place well known is its numerous caves with their unique inscriptions. While some of them are natural, a good number are man-made or artificial. They hold historical, religious as well as archeological importance to the city of Odisha. The caves, situated on two adjacent hills known as Khandagiri and Udayagiri, are mentioned in the Hathigumpha inscription as Kumari Parvat. The hills are well known for their fine and ornate curves that without doubt, bespeak of a unique culture.
Many excavations conducted from 1958 till date, have generated plenty of findings. Most of these caves are believed to have been curved out as residential blocks during the reign of Kharavela for Jain monks. Udayigiri in Hindi means “Sunrise Hill” and has up to 18 caves. Khandagiri on the other hand, has 15. Most of the caves are believed to have been dug out during the reign of Kharavela to safely house Jaina ascetics. Of the groups, the most important is Ranigumpha which is a double storey monastery. All the caves have local names with ancient meanings.
For ease of visitors understanding, the caves have been numbered. The first one or cave number one is known as Rani Ka Naur or the Queens Palace Cave. It is an extensively curved cave with elaborate embellishments of sculptural relics. Cave number three depicts curved figures of varying animals like the elephants, geese carrying flowers; and people e.g. athletes and women. There is the elephant cave known as Hathigumpha. It is believed to have been inscribed by Raja Kharavela who was the king of Kalinga during the 2nd century BCE. The inscriptions in these caves consist of 17 lines cut in deep Brahmi letters in the south side of Uyadigiri on the overhanging brow of a natural cavern known as Hathigumpha.
Udayigiri offers visitors plenty of sightseeing as well as historical explanations. Lovers of nature will find the hills and surrounding environments awesome, not to mention the inscriptions on the caves that speak of ancient history. One of the most important places worth a visit is Bhubaneswar. Its caves are unique ancient settlements of the Jains, and were carved out of several rocks. The inscriptions are age old, with a small trek to the top of the hill completing the tour. During summers, the heat may be stifling and ideal for those who love plenty of sunshine. If you are not a sun lover, you could as well plan for the winter.
There are museums too in Udayagiri. The Museum of Tribal Arts and Artifacts has several gems that date back many years ago. At the edge of Bhubaneswar Airport, there are man-made cliffs that depict life during the olden days. On the tall trees next to the caves, there are very friendly monkeys that are eager to be fed. Most tourists give them nuts and bananas. During the day, the caves are usually crowded and therefore people who do not like crowds can visit in the early morning or evening.
To get to Udayagiri, there are good roads that easily connect to Bhubaneswar. It is better to use taxis than buses for convenience. To get to the place by air, Bhubaneswar Airport is close by. There is also the Ratnagiri train station if travelling by train appeals to one. There are plenty of hotels for all classes of people. During the peak months, it is better to make early bookings to avoid being inconvenienced.