Oru Gallu - 3 Undavalli Caves - Vijayawada

The Satavahana express reaches Vijayawada by 9.30PM and after a late check-in the Haritha Berm Park (which is nothing to write about or even talk about) crashed for the day.

Got up late next day and was stunned by the view of river Krishna from where I was standing. It was huge and it was absolutely beautiful. There were boats and islands but couldn't see the other bank of the river. Amazing!
River Krishna
  After a late breakfast, started for the Undavalli caves. If you thought the Autodrivers in Chennai are bad, then you haven't been to Vijayawada. The two instances I took auto, I ended up in arguments with the driver when dropping off. The pre-paid counter in the station gave a receipt for 30 Rs as auto far to the hotel and I gave 40Rs and ended up arguing as the driver was asking for 50Rs. I flatly refused and then he started shouting in Telugu. I ignored and went to the hotel. And the same happened when I was asking for an auto to the Undavalli caves. I was asked anywhere from 200-250Rs for a 7Km ride. I ended up getting an auto for 150Rs and he started asking for 180Rs when we reached the caves. So to avoid all this, took the APSRTC bus while returning back and the female conductor started shouting in telugu for asking the 2Rs return on a 10Rs note for a 8Rs ticket (she did not return the 2Rs!). Overall, pretty bad experience in all modes of transport in Vijayawada. In a way, I was happy that at least in Chennai, I can shout back.

Undavalli Caves

Undavalli caves lie in the middle of palm trees and fields of paddy on one side and in a naturally elevated area in a hill. Thus you can see the caves from a distance and the caves cut a beautiful picture against the backdrop of beautiful black hill on which it was carved.

The caves
One of the intact ones
Carved into the hill as a three storeyed structure, they date back to the 4-5 centuries AD and probably had a beginning as a Buddhist or Jain origins. There are very similar to the Jain caves but apparently somewhere along, they got converted into a Hindu 'cave' or temple.

The first floor (or the ground floor) is a pillared structure, probably used as a night-stay as the place is full of pillars and nothing else. The second floor is suppose to house the Trimurti and the third floor has a huge stone statue of Vishnu in the anantha sayana pose, which is where the puja and rituals take place. One can go above the third floor which looks like an unfinished floor.

The third floor also has three big statues of 'muni's which the local guy said to be Narada and Thumbura(no idea who that is). Somehow I felt that they looked like pictures from the Jataka tales and might be again Jain statues converted to Hindu sages. But I am not the expert here.

The caves show evidences of damages either from an invading army or just vandalism. Not many of the statues survive outside the big one listed above. The pillars are full of defaced statues and/or broken ones. The ones that are there show clear Buddhist/Jain inflences in the way they are sculpted.

And in some places, ASI has restored the faces of the sculptures with mortar/white cement etc to show us how beautiful they might've been. I, somehow, felt that it was better to leave these defaced than attempting to fix the originals. The fixes were hideous to say the least.

This is the true for the Ramappa and Hanamkonda temples as well. While the original structures were suppose to have not used any mortar/cement etc, but built by carving stones one over the other (the interlocking mechanisms were beautiful), the ASI restoration is full of mortar and cement to stick together the stones which basically is like taking the souls of these temples away. It looks awful and probably a disservice to the future generations.

View from the top
Back to the caves, the view of the area from the top of the caves is best seen than described. Although river Krishna is suppose to be only a stone throw away, one couldn't see it from the top of the caves (probably because the river is in the back of the hill!).  

There are some small carvings around and I am sure there may be some messages and inscriptions if only we can do a proper check of the hill (just like in every other Jain/Buddhist/Hindu caves) and they might tell some interesting stories. Unfortunately, there is not even a guide around from ASI.

Walked around a little and decided to go to the Kanaga Durga temple by Bus. Like I mentioned earlier, took the bus and after crossing the Prakash barrage, found that the temple is perched on a hill top. Tried walking to the top and after some time, gave up and started to the Vijayawada station to catch the afternoon Jan Shatabti to Chennai.


Anandha Raman said...

Hi muthuprakash , still remember annadurai, vijayan, inbarajan, Anandharaman ?

Muthu Prakash Ravindran said...

Ofcourseda.. namma pannathatha? enga irukka? enna panre?

Anandha Raman said...

Now I am in Singapore +6590502947 is my contact. Just gimme a ring.

ram ana said...

Sir, what about other places in Vijayawada. i.e., Kanga durga temple, Panaga Bavani Island. If you have in details kindly share it



Muthu Prakash Ravindran said...

I went to Kanaga Durga temple. This is just a normal temple and is crowded. I did not go to the island as I'd little time.

Nick Halden said...

Undavalli Caves,the cluster of 64 caves of black rock are truly spectacular.The most notable is the stunning image of a reclining Vishnu. They most certainly attracts a lot of tourists. There are some more places to visit in Vijayawada that I'd like to suggest.

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