ALAKAPURI-GUMPHA CAVES ORISSA

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» East India
» Orissa
Location : 6-km from Bhubaneswar Railway Station, District Puri, Orissa
Locally Known As : Gumpha
Famous As : A Jain Pilgrimage Centre
Architectural Style : Rock-cut Architecture

CAVE-4 (ALAKAPURI-GUMPHA):
Adjoining Cave-3, Cave-4 consists of two spacious cells, with convex ceilings, one above the other.

As result of ruthless quarrying, the lower cell has been rendered destitute of its front wall and verandah and presents a bare appearance. The floors of the cell and the verandah have been dug down to a depth of more than a metre. Three small pits, one oblong and deeper, probably for storing water, and the other round and shallow, probably for keeping pitchers, may be seen on the left side of the original floor. The extant pilaster of the verandah has on the top two winged horses galloping back to back.

The upper cell is approached by a flight of steps, originally rock-cut, in front of Cave-5. The major portion of the pillars of the benched verandah is of modern construction. Of the two extant inner brackets, one is relieved with a royal elephant flanked by attending ones, one holding an umbrella and the other fanning with a fly-whisk, above floral bands bordered at the top by a bead-and-reel motif; the other bracket has a lion holding a prey in its mouth.

Two sides of the tops of the pillars are relieved with pairs of winged animals, some of them human - and some bird-headed. The left pilaster has near its top a man carrying a woman with his left hand and holding the trunk of an elephant with his right. The corresponding place in the right pilaster depicts an elephant entwined by a serpent (naga-pasa).

The cell is entered by three doorways. The wall between the first and second doorways has fallen down. The raised portion of the floor has been chiselled off. On the right of this cell is a smaller one with a closed verandah, entered from the side.

CAVE-5 (JAYA-VIJAYA-GUMPHA):
This two-celled monastery, with a benched verandah in front, is contiguous to the upper cell of Cave-4. Its pillar is modern, built at the spot of the old one. The front sides of the left and right pilasters are occupied respectively by a male and female figure. The former, clad in a dhoti and scarf, is badly damaged. The bracket above its head is relieved with a lion.

The sparsely draped female is tall and slender and wears heavy ear-ornaments, bangles and a girdle. With her hairstyle decorated with a flower and a leaf, she fondles a parrot perched on her figures. The bracket above her has taken the form of a salabhanjika climbing a tree.

The cells have one door each. Both of them are decorated, as usual, with pilasters crowned by addorsed-winged animals, four of which are single-horned. Connected by a three-barred railing, the arches are relieved - one with lotuses alternating with honeysuckles and the other with a creeper, both issuing from the mouths of makaras.

The space between the arches depicts a sacred tree with in a railing, being worshipped by a couple on either side. Both the men are with folded hands, while their consorts, with scarves on, carry trays of flowers and garlands. The high sanctity of the tree is shown by an umbrella over it and two banners by its sides. The perspective rendering of the railing is noteworthy. A flying figure holding a tray of flowers may be seen at the outer ends of the arches. The left one has in its right hand the stalks of three buds.

Below this cave is an austerely plain cell with a spacious entrance and a fairly high arched ceiling. Note the two holes near the base of the ceiling, probably to take the ends of a stick for hanging clothes.

Above also are two badly damaged cells, open in front. Laterite pillars, the fragment of one of which is still to be seen, originally supported the roof of the verandah of the left cell.

CAVE-6 (PANASA-GUMPHA):
Beyond the steps, beside Cave-5, is a tiny scooping. Immediately after this is Cave-6, now open on the front. Large-scale quarrying has brought the original floor down to a depth of more than a metre. The name is due to the panasa (Artocarpus integrifolia) tree in front.

CAVE-7 (THAKURANI-GUMPHA):
Further to the left is Cave-7, with two storeys. The lower cell is comparatively spacious and high, with a convex ceiling. The benched verandah has a pillar of the usual type. The inner bracket, which is better preserved, has a pair of winged animals, galloping with their backs turned to each other. The tops of the pillar and pilasters are relieved with addorsed makaras, a winged animal, some having the heads of birds.

The upper cell, approached by a flight of modern steps, is a smaller one, preceded by a closed benched verandah with a semicircular opening. Its floor has the usual pillow-like inclination. The verandah has no pillar.

CAVE-8 (PATALAPURI-GUMPHA):
Cave-8, next to Cave-7, consists of four dwelling cells, two at the back and one on either side of the benched verandah. There were originally two pilasters and three pillars, of which the central one has ceased to exist. The tops of the pillars are relieved with crude representations of winged animals standing back-to-back. The only extant bracket depicts a man, armed with a spear and a shield, fighting a lion.

The cells are high enough for a man to stand erect. Their ceiling is arched. The back cells now form one room with the fall of the partition-wall. The façade of the cells is devoid of carvings. The walls between the door-openings of the back cells are of modern construction. The walls of the back cells have, below the ceiling, holes at regular intervals, probably to receive the ends of the rods of the partition-screens.

CAVE-9 (MANCHAPURI AND SVARGAPURI):
Beyond Cave-8 and past a quarried cave, the visitor will find Cave-9 to his right. This is a double-storeyed cave, the lower one called Manchapuri and the upper Svargapuri. The cells of the upper storey do not rest immediately above the lower. This storey is to be reached by the ramp.

THE LOWER STOREY
The lower storey consists of four cells in two wings. The main wing has three cells, one on them being on the right side of the benched verandah. The ceiling of the back cells is slightly arched. Both the wings are guarded by armed dvara-palas, carved in high relief, against the front faces of the pilasters.

The figure of the left doorkeeper of the main wing is the best-preserved of the four: wearing a turban, dhoti, scarf and heavy ear-ornaments, it stands bare-footed with its right hand placed on the chest and left on the waist, the long sword in a covered hanging by its left side. The major portions of the four pillars are modern reconstructions after the original ones. The outer brackets are all gone; the two central inner brackets are shaped in the form of a pair of cavaliers and the remaining two are each relieved with the figure of a woman.

All the doorways are framed with pilasters (plasters !!), having ghata-bases above stepped pedestals and capitals consisting of addorsed animals, and semicircular arches, crowned either by a srivatsa or nandipaa. The arches are relieved with floral motifs and in one case a creeper containing in alternate compartments animals and chasing boys. Below the arches are the representations of beams.

The space between the second and the third doorways contains an important but badly damaged relief, the subject of which is no doubt the worship of some Jaina religious symbol. In the centre on a high pedestal rests the object of worship, obliterated beyond recognition, under an umbrella. The pedestal is flanked on either side by a kneeling figure, also blurred. The assemblage on the right is a group of four standing votaries with folded hands, who evidently came there on an elephant depicted on the further right.

The second figure from the left, wearing a turreted crown, may stand for a king. The arrangement of his scarf is distinct from that of the others. All are in long dhotis, scarves and heavy kundalas. Above the figures is suggested the aerial region by the symbol of the sun; two flying gandharvas are seen carrying celestial musical instruments and a flying vidyadhara, in the extreme right corner, hastens towards the object of worship in the attitude of scattering flowers from a tray held in his left hand.

Below the figures is a projected two-barred railing supported on bracket-figures and beams, suggesting the venue as a balcony. A similar assemblage must have existed on the left side of the pedestal, but it is now thoroughly wiped out, only the feet of the flying vidyadhara being preserved.

The remaining space between the arches is relieved with a three-barred railing above, the posts of which have a half medallion above and below, and the representation of the roof, supported by bracket-figures, below. On this roof-line, between the third and the fourth arches, is an inscription recording the dedication of the cave by a king of the 'Mahameghavahana' family of Kalinga, whole name has been read as 'Kudepasiri' or 'Vakradeva'. While it is not known whether he was a predecessor or successor of king Kharavela, it may reasonably be thought that the royal figure in the assemblage described above depicts that king.

A similar dedicatory inscription of a prince (kumara), named 'Vadukha', who was either a brother or a son of Kudepasiri, occurs on the roofline of the façade of the cell to the right side of the verandah. The name of the donor of the left cell, who also probably belonged to the royal family, is lost and only two letters (sa le) of this damaged inscription are now extant on its façade. The right wing consists of a single cell and a verandah supported on two pilasters and a single pillar, the base-portion of which is alone old; it is shorn of ornaments.

In front of the courtyard has recently been exposed a ruined cave, which seems to be earlier than Cave-9.

THE UPPER STOREY
Approachable by the terrace to be negotiated by the ramp, the upper storey consists of a long back cell with a low ceiling and three doors, a smaller side-cell with one entrance and a benched verandah in front. The last has lost the greater part of its roof and also the two pillars, which supported it. The doorways are decorated with pilasters crowned by winged animals (horse and deer being recognizable) and arches, filled with floral patterns and creepers issuing from the mouths of makaras.

The arches are connected by the representation of a roof, with bracket-figures below and finals above. Though comparatively unadorned, the cave is important for the three-lined inscription that it bears on the façade between the second and third arches, recording the dedication of the cave by the chief queen of King Kharavela.

The cave is further distinguished for the open terrace edged with a parapet, the latter relieved on its outer face with a three-barred railing crowned by an architrave. At the base of the railing is depicted a procession of elephants and other animals, below which is a recess. The uprights of the railing are relieved with half-medal-lions containing half-lotuses above and below and full medallions with flowers in the centre. These carvings are almost effaced now. The post-holes abutting the parapet suggest the existence once of a wooden superstructure over the terrace.



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