The rock cut cave temples of Udayagiri are believed to be sculpted in early 5th century during the Gupta dynasty’s rule, and are some of the oldest cave temples in India. Located a short drive away from Bhopal, these remarkable temples are known for their wonderful sculptures and carvings related to Hinduism and Jainism, apart from inscriptions about Gupta dynasty. There are in total 20 caves, most of which are dedicated to Vaishnavism, and a couple of them to Shaivism and Jainism. The sculptures and carvings in some caves have eroded over the years. Protected by the archaeological survey of India, these are probably the only caves from the Gupta period.
The most popular cave here is cave no.5 which has a huge figure of Vishnu’s third incarnation as Varaha (boar). There are extensive sculptures of various mythological figures across the panel. The peculiarly shaped cave no.7 has a flat plate roof and is referred as Tawa cave. The cave is known for its inscriptions about Gupta kings. cave no. 10 has a semi dilapidated sculpture of Vishnu. Cave no.12 is a small one and looks more like a niche. The sculpture carved on the rock is that of Narasimha, another incarnation of Vishnu. Cave no.13 is another popular one with the sculpture of reclining Vishnu. Some of the other caves are Veena cave, Kumara cave and Amrita cave. The inscriptions in Amrita cave are in Brahmi and Nagari scripts. Cave no. 20 is the only one dedicated to Jainism in Udayagiri.
Vidisha which was earlier known as Besnagar is a small town nestled between the Bes and Betwa rivers. The place is a historical one and was a trading centre during times of Mauryan Empire. Vidisha is popular for its many temples such as Bajramath, Dashavtar, Girdhari, Udayeshwara etc. However, beyond the temples, Vidisha has a couple of interesting places to visit.
Bijamandal is an uncompleted mosque which was supposed to have been built over an old temple. While the temple with its flight of steps, sculptures, carvings and inscriptions was built in 12th century, the unfinished mosque was probably built in 17th century. Only the base has withstood over the years and has carvings and sculptures on it. Only a few pillars remain of the mosque which too has inscriptions on it. There is also a museum next to Bijamandal which has collectibles from the 9th century. Khamba baba or Heliodorous pillar near Vidisha is a lone standing pillar with Brahmi inscriptions on it. The pillar was set up by a Greek named Heliodorous, in honour of Vishnu as a garuda stambh. The pillar which is more than 20 feet high is believed to have been erected in 2nd BCE.
How to reach:
Udayagiri is 57 Kms from Bhopal. Vidisha is 6 Kms from Udayagiri caves. Bhopal is well connected to other parts of India by rail network and flights. It is recommended to hire a taxi from Bhopal to visit Udayagiri and Vidisha.
Food and Accommodation:
Both Udayagiri and Vidisha are small towns. There are a couple of small restaurants on the highway from Bhopal. It is recommended to stay in Bhopal and make a day trip to both Udayagiri caves and Vidisha. Bhopal has a wide range of accommodation options.