“Located at the top of the high hills f acing the Krishna River in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh, the rock-cut architecture of Undavalli Caves presents an amazing achievement of engineering.”
Undavalli Caves are the most magnificent and largest monolithic example of Indian rock-cut architecture with four-storey high rock-cut temple with numerous sculptures and murals. They are located at a distance of 8km from the city of Vijayawada and 32km from Guntur. Carved out of solid sandstone on a hillside in the 4th to 5th centuries A.D., the caves speak volumes of the inconceivably advanced architectural skills of the ancient Viswakarma sthapathis (temple architects and builders). Associated with the Vishnukundina Kings of A.D. 420 – 620, these exotic caves were believed to be dedicated to the Anantapadmanabha and Narisimhaswami. According to the historical evidences Madhava Reddy, the ruler of Kondaveedu, gifted the caves to the temple of Anantha Swamy. It is also believed that these caves were extensively used by the Buddhist and Jain monks as Viharas.
The influence of Gupta and Chalukyan architecture is clearly visible in the formation of the caves. They showcase striking features of Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism and present an amalgamation of different faiths at different time intervals. The 29 metres long and 16 metres wide caves are considered as the finest example of the rock-cut architecture of Buddhists in India. A five metres long statue of Lord Buddha in the reclining position is the most striking feature of these caves. One cave is dedicated to Hindu Trimurti: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. The whole enormous structure, divided into four stories, is cut in a monolithic sandstone cliff. The lower level has many chambers and is more like a pillared hall. The second level has a lot of carvings associated with Hindu deities. Believed to be erected in 7th & 8th century A.D., its walls are adorned with frescoes showing scenes from Hindu mythological stories. Though, some paintings belong to later time periods. Facade of the third floor is adorned with numerous sculptures, including depictions of lions and elephants. The fourth floor, though unfinished, offers a panoramic view of the Krishna river flowing and the whole of Guntur district.
Words: Mia Gandhi