Undavalli Caves, named after the village they are housed in the heart of the Tadepalli Mandal, Guntur district, are credited for being one of the finest ancient sculptures among the many Buddhist sites in the country.
Encompassed by the Krishna river with its southern bank, the area is believed to have been ruled by the Vishnukundina dynasty, after which it was excavated out of a sandstone between the 4th and 5th centuries A.D. The first level of the cave is a Vihara showcasing some of the best Buddhist artworks seen till date in the country’s history.
A Multitude of Religious Influences
Though the Vishnukundinas were firm followers of Buddhism, wherein they had brought several Buddhist monks on-board at Undavalli, the region was later taken over by Hindus.
Even if the Buddhist influences too exist till date, a significant section of the artwork now has a major mark of Hinduism, as a form of tribute to the great Anantapadmanabha Swamy and Narisimha Swamy, two major Vishnu Avatars.
The Heart of The Caves Is Here
- The most enticing of all the caves in Undavalli happens to be a four-storeyed one that bears the statue of Lord Vishnu in a reclined posture, apparently sculpted from a single block in the second floor. This was sculpted in place of a Buddha statue in Mahaparinibbana Mudra.
- The incomplete hall in Undavalli comprising of eight columns boasts of three individual sanctuaries for Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, the Trimurtis of the Hindu mythology, each having a pillared hall in front.
- A section of the cave, enveloped by scenic hills and palm-stands all around, also accommodates space for a series of animalistic sculptures, mostly that of lions and elephants.
Bit of Trivia to End it All
The architecture of Undavalli shows a bulk of Gupta-period inspirations whereas the Chalukyan signatures in the site can’t be totally ignored either.
An interesting trivia surrounding the site reveals an underground passage, spanning 9 kms, leading directly into the Mangalagiri mountain. This passage was, however, closed down later by the then ruling kings to avoid any uncalled mishaps.
How to Reach The Undavalli Caves
Distance from Vijayawada- 6 kms south-west
Distance from Guntur- 22 kms north-east
Nearest Railway Station : Vijayawada (4 km)
Nearest Airport : Vijayawada
Bus Stations : Vijayawada, Swathi Theatre, Gollapudi