Udayagiri Caves

Udayagiri Caves

Located near the historical town of Vidisha in Madhya Pradesh state of Central India, Udayagiri Caves are one of the most iconic historic sites in India and a fine specimen of the ancient Indian rock-cut architecture. Udayagiri means the mountain of the sunrise, and is a historical Hindu ritual site with home to 20 rock-cut caves. Also known as ‘Vishnu Padagiri’ meaning the ‘feet of Vishnu’, the intricately carved Udayagiri caves have iconographies of Hindu gods, particularly Vishnu, Durga, and Shiva depicting legendary stories of the gods and their shrines. Udayagiri hills hold twenty caves dedicated to Hinduism and Jainism sculptures from the Gupta era and were excavated from the 4th to 6th century AD. These caves were cut out to form residences and meditation halls for the Jain monks. Out of the 20 caves, the 5th cave is the most prominent one which is known for a spectacular statue of Lord Vishnu in his Varaha incarnation rescuing Bhudevi (earth).

These caves dating back to the 5th century CE are now protected by the Archaeological Survey of India. Most notable evidence to prove that the cave complex was excavated during the time of Chandragupta II, is the existence of Brahmi inscriptions on the walls of the caves. The Udayagiri Caves are an important historical and cultural site in Madhya Pradesh and attract many visitors every year. They are also a popular destination for archaeologists, historians, and scholars studying ancient Indian art and architecture.


The Udayagiri Caves, also known as the Udaygiri Caves, are a group of twenty rock-cut caves located in Vidisha, a town in the state of Madhya Pradesh in central India. The caves were excavated during the Gupta period, which is considered a golden age in Indian history, from the 4th to the 6th century AD.

The Udayagiri Caves were used as residences and meditation halls for Jain monks. They were excavated out of the sandstone hills on the eastern side of the Betwa River, about 13 km from the famous Buddhist stupa of Sanchi.The Udayagiri Caves are divided into two groups - the first group consists of fourteen caves, while the second group consists of six caves. The caves are known for their elaborate carvings and sculptures, which depict scenes from Jain mythology, as well as from daily life.

One of the most famous caves in the Udayagiri Caves is Cave 5, which is also known as the "Rani Gumpha" or "Queen's Cave". This cave is particularly notable for its elaborate carvings, which depict various scenes from Jain mythology. The carvings in the cave also depict the lives of women in ancient India, making it a unique site among other rock-cut caves in India.The Udayagiri Caves were abandoned in the 7th century AD and were rediscovered by British archaeologists in the 19th century. Today, the Udayagiri Caves are a popular tourist attraction and are an important historical and cultural site in India.


The architecture of the Udayagiri Caves is characterized by a mix of Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain styles. These were built during the reign of the Gupta dynasty in the 4th and 5th centuries AD and are known for their intricate carvings and sculptures.The caves were excavated out of solid rock and are arranged in two main groups, the Eastern Group and the Western Group.

The Eastern Group comprises of 18 caves, while the Western Group consists of 15 caves. The caves are interconnected by a series of steps and walkways.The most notable cave in the Udayagiri Caves is the Rani Gumpha or Queen's Cave, which is located in the Eastern Group. The cave has a double-storeyed facade and features carvings of women in various poses. The cave also has several inscriptions in Brahmi script, which provide valuable insights into the history and culture of the region.

Other notable caves in the Udayagiri Caves include the Hathi Gumpha or Elephant Cave, which has a large elephant sculpture at the entrance, and the Ganesh Gumpha, which is dedicated to Lord Ganesha and features intricate carvings of the deity.Overall, the architecture of the Udayagiri Caves is a remarkable feat of ancient engineering and artistic skill and serves as a testament to the rich cultural heritage of India.

Exploring the Caves: Highlights and Features

In the 19th century, Alexander Cunningham numbered the caves at Udayagiri, however, the Department of Archaeology, Gwalior State made a more detailed listing later. Here are the highlights of the caves in the Udayagiri caves complex -

  • Cave 1–This is the remainder of the southern part of the Udayagiri hill with its front end carved out of a natural piece of rock. The cave comprises a row of four pillars which bear the ‘vase and foliage’ pattern.
  • Cave 3 – This is a cluster of shrines and reliefs where traces of two pilasters on both sides of the entrance and a portico like structure above the shrine can be seen. It also houses a rock-cut image of Kartikeya or Skanda, the war god, on a monolithic plinth.
  • Cave 4–This displays a stunning Shiva ling with a rock-cut plinth. The statue has the hair tied into a topknot with long cascading locks on the side which depicts the fall of river Ganga from the heaven.
  • Cave 5 – It showcases Lord Vishnu in his Varaha form which is his boar-headed incarnation. It has been described as an ‘iconographic centerpiece of Udayagiri.
  • Cave 6–It consists of a rock-cut cellar through an elaborate T-shaped door. The original sculpture inside is missing but is believed to be a Shiva ling. The ceiling is carved with the pilgrim record of Sivaditya and a figure of seated Ganesh is carved on the left of the cave entrance which is considered to be the oldest Ganesh figure in India.
  • Cave 7 – This cave contains carved figures of eight mother goddesses, with each having a weapon above their head on the back wall of the cave.
  • Cave 8–It appears to be a dome-shaped rock mounted by massive horizontal slabs which is a result of natural erosion of the rock over time. Two grazed figures guard the entrance to the inner chamber while the cave inside is empty apart from a lotus carved in the ceiling and a dented inscription on the back wall.
  • Cave 9, 10, 11 – These are small excavation next to each other near cave 8. Their entrance opens northwest, and all have ruined Vishnu carvings.
  • Cave 12 – It comprises of a niche containing a standing figure of Narasimha, Vishnu in his ‘lion man’ incarnation. On either side of the niche below are two small standing attendant figures.
  • Cave 13 – This has a huge Anantasayana panel which showcases a resting figure of Vishnu as Narayana. Under the figure are two men – the kneeling one is king Chandragupta and the other one is his minister Virasena.
  • Cave 14 – This is the last cave on the left side at the top of the passage. It comprises a recessed square chamber of which only two sides are preserved.
  • Cave 15-18 – These caves are a bunch of small caves distinct only in design and their Hindu god figurines.
  • Cave 19 – It is the largest of all in the group and is known as ‘Amrita Cave’. It consists of numerous pillars and has carvings of four-horned and winged creatures and a Shiva ling. The door also is more elaborately carved than the others and the walls depict stories of Hindu mythology and epics.
  • Cave 20 – It is the only cave here dedicated to Jainism. The entrance is decorated with image of the Jain Tirthankara Parshvanatha sitting under a serpent hood. The interior has inscriptions about the Gupta king and Jain reliefs with carving of the chattras etched atop them.
How to Reach Udayagiri Caves
  • By Air: The nearest airport to Udayagiri Caves is the Raja Bhoj Airport in Bhopal, which is located about 62 km away. From the airport, one can hire a taxi or take a bus to reach Udayagiri Caves.
  • By Road: Udayagiri Caves are well-connected by road to all major cities in Madhya Pradesh. One can take a bus or hire a taxi from Bhopal or Vidisha to reach the caves. National Highway 46 and State Highway 14 pass through Vidisha and provide easy access to Udayagiri Caves.
  • By Train: The nearest railway station to Udayagiri Caves is Vidisha Railway Station, which is located about 4 km away. It is well-connected to major cities in Madhya Pradesh and other parts of India. From the railway station, one can hire a taxi or take a rickshaw to reach Udayagiri Caves.
  • Hotel Pushpak - This is a budget hotel located just 2.5 km from Udayagiri Caves. It offers clean and comfortable rooms at an affordable price.
  • The Lalit Golf & Spa Resort - This is a luxury resort located about 7 km from Udayagiri Caves. It offers luxurious rooms, multiple dining options, and a range of recreational facilities.
  • Zeebo Suites - This is a mid-range hotel located about 5 km from Udayagiri Caves. It offers spacious and well-appointed rooms, a restaurant, and a 24-hour front desk.
  • Pramod Convention & Beach Resort - This is a beachfront resort located about 8 km from Udayagiri Caves. It offers comfortable rooms, a restaurant, and a range of recreational activities.
  • Mayfair Palm Beach Resort -This is a luxury beachfront resort located about 12 km from Udayagiri Caves. It offers well-appointed rooms, a restaurant, and a range of recreational facilities including a spa and outdoor pool.
  • The Pavilion - This is a multi-cuisine restaurant located about 2 km from Udayagiri Caves. It offers a variety of Indian and international dishes, including vegetarian options.
  • X’cuse Me - This is a casual dining restaurant located about 4 km from Udayagiri Caves. It offers a variety of Indian and Chinese dishes, including vegetarian options.
  • Pabitra Restaurant - This is a family restaurant located about 3 km from Udayagiri Caves. It offers a variety of Indian and Chinese dishes, including vegetarian options.
  • Hotel Raj - This is a budget restaurant located about 5 km from Udayagiri Caves. It offers a variety of Indian and Chinese dishes, including vegetarian options.
  • The Fisherman's Wharf - This is a seafood restaurant located about 10 km from Udayagiri Caves. It offers a variety of fresh seafood dishes, including fish, prawns, and crabs.
Places to Visit Near Udayagiri Caves
  • Khandagiri Caves - These caves are located just a few kilometers from UdayagiriCaves and are also a popular tourist attraction. They feature several Jain rock-cut temples and offer stunning views of the surrounding area.
  • Dhauli Hill - This historic hill is located about 5 km from Udayagiri Caves and is famous for its rock edicts that were inscribed by Emperor Ashoka. It also offers beautiful views of the surrounding landscape.
  • Odisha State Museum - This museum is in Bhubaneswar, which is about 7 km from Udayagiri Caves. It features a vast collection of art, artifacts, and sculptures that showcase the rich cultural heritage of Odisha.
  • Lingaraj Temple - This ancient temple is located in the heart of Bhubaneswar and is one of the most revered temples in Odisha. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva and features stunning architecture and intricate carvings.
  • Mukteswara Temple - This historic temple is in Bhubaneswar and is famous for its beautiful sculptures and carvings. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is one of the finest examples of Odisha's temple architecture.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

Where are Udayagiri Caves located?

Udayagiri Caves are located 6km from the town of Vidisha in Madhya Pradesh.

When to visit Udayagiri caves in Madhya Pradesh?

The Udayagiri Cave complex is open to the public from 9am to 6pm daily.

What is the entry fee to the Udayagiri caves?

The entry fee for Udayagiri caves is INR15 for Indians and INR200 for foreigners.

What are Udayagiri caves famous for?

Udayagiri caves are known for their rock carved iconography of Hinduism and Jainism figurines and shrines and were made as residences and meditation halls for the Jain monks.

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