THE LEGEND OF CAVES IN 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

The Legend
The story seems to be as follows: A party, having come to a lotus-lake for sporting meets a herd of elephants, whose favourite resort it was. The consternation and panic created by this unexpected encounter are delineated forcefully. Three of the party- the man along with two women - are bravely trying to repulse the attack and also to drive the elephants away with whatever objects they could procure the man holding a staff-like object with both hands, the first woman, with dishevelled hair, throwing a ring-like object, which may even be her anklet (two such objects are already sticking to the body of the front elephant) and the second holding a twig.

Udayagiri Caves, OrissaSome, more timid, are running pell-mell, trying to drag others, including one of the fighting women, with them. One of the women is helping another who has dropped down. The women in the farthest right corner are crowding together with their arms round one another's neck out of fear.

The next scene also is laid in wild surrounding near a hill. On the extreme left is a pair of monkeys within a natural cave, apparently afraid of a hissing serpent moving towards them. Immediately after this is a rock-cut cave, in front of which is a man with his head resting on the palm of his left hand recling against the lap of a woman keeping watch; the latter's right hand is placed on the man's shoulder. Beyond them a woman, leading by her hand a stooping warrior armed with a sword and a shield, advances towards the cave.

Next is encountered a violent combat between a man and a woman with a hanging braid, both armed with swords and shield, advances towards the cave. The sheath of the sword is attached to the girdle of the woman. Near her feet is an animal. The scene ends with the defeats and forcible seizure of the woman: the assailant bodily carries off the woman, still holding in her left hand the shield, her outstretched right hand pointing towards some object. Near the finial of the arch are two lions. The story seems to have been popular at that time, as it is repeated without any material variation in Cave-10.

The next scene is faintly reminiscent of the story of Dushyanta's first meeting with 'Sakuntala'. On the left are shown three attendants, one holding an umbrella and a fly-whisk, the second a staff-like object or sword and the third a water-pot suspended from a rod carried over his left shoulder, and a groom by the side of a caparisoned horse, from which has just alighted a royal personage.

The king, decked in elaborate bejewelled head-dress, necklace, bangles and heavy ear-rings, has a sword in scabbard hanging by his left side and is aiming his bow towards a fleeing winged deer, followed by two fawns. The scene is laid in the woods, as indicated by a flowering tree between the king and the deer. In the trail of the deer the king, who is next hand in abhaya attitude, meets a woman, perched on the fork of a trees with her extended right hand evidently dissuading him from killing the deer, which now lies at the foot of the tree.

The next scene, partly effaced, centres round the performance of a dance accompanied by music, the spectators to which is a seated royal couple. The queen is depicted on the left with five attendants - three behind her - one holding an umbrella over her head, the second waving a fan, the third carrying a casket in her right hand and a flower in her left, the fourth, below the queen, holding a bowl and the fifth in front, holding a tray of garlands.

In the centre three women are dancing and three others are seated on the ground- one playing on a harp with plectrum, another beating cymbals and the third, with a mridanga in front, clapping hands. The figure of the king, seated on the extreme right, with his right hand held against his chest is mostly damaged; below him is an attendant seated with folded hands by the side of a conical karanda-like vase.

The sixth scene is completely obliterated. The seventh depicts an amourous scene, a couple repeated three times. The eighth, greatly damaged, is indistinct. The outlines of elephants on the right and the feet of two men on the left can only be made out. The ninth ends with a flying figure, holding a garland in his right hand and a tray of flowers in his left.

The verandah is guarded at each of the corners by a figure carved in high relief against the front side of the pilaster. The one on the right side is pot-bellied, wears a dhoti, bangles and a necklace and rides a lion. The other on the left is badly damaged, but the animal, which it bestrides, looks like a bull.

Right Wing
It consists of a single cell preceded by a benched verandah with the roof supported on a pillar (of modern restoration) and two pilasters. The guard carved on the left pilaster is a kilted foreigner in boots covering the leg to the middle of the calf and a fillet on the forehead. His right hand a kimbo rests on his thigh, and a sheathed sword hangs from his left side. The corresponding figure on the right pilaster is in Indian garb, bare-footed and clad in a dhoti. Its right hand is placed on its chest and a sheathed sword hangs from his left forearm by means of a strap.

Left Wing
The cell is not in front of the benched verandah but to its left. It is lighted by a small window. The narrow verandah had two pilasters but no pillar.

The workmanship of the friezes of this storey is superior to that of the lower.

CAVE-2 (BAJAGHARA-GUMPHA):
Retracing his steps towards the entrance the visitor comes to Cave 2, past a few dilapidated caves. It consists of two independent cells having separate verandahs. The front wall of the left cell is completely gone; so are the bench and the left pilaster. The top of the extant pilaster is relieved with a pair of animals, with the heads of the bird, standing back-to-back. Of the two pairs of animals on the pillar, one is winged.

The condition of the right cell, with its front wall knocked off, is no better. Its pilasters are intact, but the pillar is gone. The architrave is now supported on two modern pillars. The floor is also modern. The bracket of the right pilaster is relieved with an elephant.

CAVE 3 (CHHOTA-HATHI-GUMPHA):
Cave-3, immediately to the left of Cave-2, at a higher level, is a small cell with a low ceiling. It has no verandah. The entrance opening was originally provided with a single wooden door, of which the holes for the hinges exist below and above.

The façade of the cave is remarkable for the masterly carving of six vigorous elephants; three on either side of the arch, the latter decorated with lotuses and plants and pointed at the top. The younger elephants are bringing flowers with their trunks for depositing on the top of the arch. On the extreme right is a mango-tree. Below the elephants is a three-barred railing, the uprights of which are relieved with half-medallions. Winged animals crown the pilasters on either side of the sloping doorway.

The carvings were originally coated with chocolate colour. The painted design on the tympanum is now faded. There was a short one-lined dedicatory inscription on the tympanum, of which the last three letters (salenam) can alone be made out.



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