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My decision to visit Vijayawada and its nearby places raised a lot of eyebrows just like Rameshwaram. Friends and family were a little confused as Vijayawada isn’t much of a travel destination. Also, the timing was bad, the place is a furnace in the month of October. But I had all the details figured out already and time is not a luxury for people who have a full-time job. So I can’t sit and wait for the weather to be in my favour and then plan. I did my research and came up with a list. Along with Kondapalli and Dhyan Buddha Park, Undavalli Caves was also high on my list.
Precisely Undavalli Caves are located at the bank of Krishna River in the Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh. I booked a cab for the entire day and Undavalli Caves was the first spot which was ensued by a visit to Kondapalli Village. The huge board at the entrance of cave by Archeological Survey of India read
“ Rock Cut Cave Temple – Undavalli. An impressive four-storeyed rock cut temple probably commenced in the 6th – 7th Century AD. It was under continuous royal patronage till 16th Century AD. The ground floor more or less is an unfinished pillared hall, while the first story house the Trinity, the second was dedicated to Anantasayana Vishnu and the top storey was intended for a triple shrine but unfinished, some of the extant sculptural specimens, on the stylistic grounds were attributed to the Chalukyan period.”
The caves showcase striking features of Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism. The 29 metres long and 16 metres wide caves are one of the finest monolithic examples of Indian rock-cut architecture. If you are a history lover and architecture excites you then this solid sandstone cave will get your adrenaline going. The moment you enter the premises the façade of the caves hold your sight. The four-storeyed caves appear like a row of cells partitioned out with pillars. There are three levels in the cave. The lower level has many chambers and Thirthankara Sculptures which makes it resemble the Jain abode.
The second level has a lot of carvings associated with Hindu deities. You can easily spot Lord Ganesha carved on one of the walls.
However, the highlight of the second level is the reclining statue of Lord Vishnu. Though it’s not confirmed that the deity is Lord Vishnu but the locals believe that it represents the mighty Lord Vishnu. I believe that because the reclining statue is very similar to what I saw in Padmanabha Swamy Temple in Trivandrum. It definitely has to be the high point of the caves. People have offered their prayers and you can spot flowers and kumkum adorning the statue.
This level also showcases huge Elephant trunk protruding from the pillars. It adds so much to the aesthetics of the caves.
The third level is a gush of fresh breeze. You can see the Krishna river flowing and the whole of Guntur district.
It also houses giant statues of saints and some mythological animals. The identity of both is unknown.
While the first two levels lack light, the third level is just the opposite. There are makeshift stairs inside the cave to move among the levels.
As mentioned already, the four-storey caves are said to be found in the 7th century. They are believed to be associated with the Vishnukundin Kings of AD 420- AD 620. These exotic caves of Undavalli were dedicated to the Anantapadmanabha and Narisimhaswami. There are historical pieces of evidence which support the fact that, Madhava Reddy, who ruled this region as the subordinate under the Reddies of Kondaveedu, gifted the caves to the temple of Anantha Swamy. Another of the many beliefs is that the Buddhist monks used to use the caves for resting purpose. The cave was initially a Jain cave with an architecture of Udayagiri and Khandgiri. The motifs and carvings on the first floor monumentally support this fact since it represents the Jain style.
Undavalli caves are around 10km from Vijayawada and 40km from the town of Guntur. Undavalli Caves are located on the banks of Krishna River in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh.
By Bus: There are several state-run buses to reach Vijayawada and Guntur. You can take local transport or private buses to reach Undavalli Caves from Vijayawada or Guntur.
By Train: Vijayawada Railway Station is the nearest railway station.
An entry fee of Rs 25 per person is applicable for all adults.
The attraction remains open from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM on all weekdays.