Monday, 7 May 2018

Undavalli Caves, Andhra, 4th and 5th century rock-cut temple - a National Monument

The Undavalli Caves The Mysterious India
The Undavalli Caves Wikipedia
Rock-cut architecture is a unique  practice of creating a structure by carving it out of solid natural rock. India has innumerable rock-cut temples across many  states, depicting Hindu, Jain sculptures and Buddhist Vihara. These rock-cut temples are quite famous and  and are carved into huge blocks of rocks with care and proper planning. The rock-cut temple architecture varies from place to place, depending on the terrain. It is estimated that India has  more than 1,500 known rock cut structures, belonging to various period. Many of them  contain artwork of global importance, and most are adorned with exquisite stone carvings. They are typical examples of  structural engineering and craftsmanship, besides topology and petrology of the locality. Nature of rocks plays plays a key role in the rock-cut carvings.  In many parts of India, the caves are regarded as places of sanctity. Some kind of divinity is attached to them since ancient times. Some of them are pretty old dating back to 100 BC and 170 AD.
The Undavalli Caves in the village of Undavalli in Tadepalli Mandal in Guntur District, near the southern bank of Krishna river, Andhra state  are unique, following the principles of  Indian rock-cut architecture. They are just 6 km south west of  Vijayawada and can be accessed from NW of Guntur City, about 22 kilo meters.
The terrain where the caves lie is made of sedimentary rocks, in particular, sandstone. Obviously, the caves are cut into  solid sandstone on a hillside and they belong to  the 4th to 5th centuries A.D. Among the many caves, the popular and largest one has four stories with a huge statue of Lord Vishnu in a reclining posture ( Ananthasayanam) sculpted from a single block of granite inside the second floor. Inside the cave, there are other small shrines, dedicated to Trinity Gods (Trimurti): Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Main cave represents  the earliest examples of Gupta architecture, with primitive rock-cut monastery cells carved into the sandstone hills. The overall shape is that of  a Buddhist monastery, however, the first floor still retains  the style of Buddhist Vihara, including some Buddhist artwork. There are several  sculptures carved on the wall  by the  skilled craftsmen.
This four-story rock cut temple with East facing facade  measures  29 m long, 16 m wide. Each floor has its own depth of cut into the rock on the hill slope. The hall in the ground floor is incomplete with 8 pillars and 7 door openings on façade. On the first floor three shrines are located in the back, each with pillared hall in front, originally dedicated to the Trinity Gods. the fouth floor is incomplete  with a sculpted statue of lord Buddha in a reclining posture. Some sculptures  seem to belong to Chalukyan period. It is one of the centrally protected monuments of national importance.

It is strongly believed the caves at Undavalli   are closely linked to the Vishnukundina kings of 420 to 620 A.D as they happened to be ardent devotees of   Ananta Padmanabha Swamy and Narisimha Swamy.  Overlooking the Krishna River, the caves that exemplify Hindu architecture  are in the midst of serene greenery. Hence, the Buddhist monks, in those days, used this place for rest, relaxation and meditation.
http://guntur.nic.in/undavalli_caves.html
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Undavalli_Caves