Cave Tradition in Eastern India

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Like in western India, Buddhist caves have also been excavated in eastern India, mainly in the coastal region of Andhra Pradesh, and in Odisha.

Image of Udayagiri And Khandagiri Caves In Odisha

Image of Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves in Odisha

Image of Udayagiri And Khandagiri Caves In Odisha

  • One of the main sites in Andhra Pradesh is Guntapalle in Eluru district.

  • The caves have been excavated in the hills along with the structured monasteries.

  • Very unique sites where the structured stupas, viharas and the caves are excavated at one place.

  • The Guntapalle chaitya cave is circular with a stupa in the circular hall and a chaitya arch carved at the entrance.

  • Relatively small when compared to the caves in western India.

  • A number of vihara caves have been excavated.

  • The main vihara caves, despite the small dimensions, have been decorated with chaitya arches on the exterior.

  • They are rectangular with vaulted roof and are carved single-storeyed or double storeyed without a large central hall.

  • These excavations date back to the second century BCE.

  • There are some excavations which were added in the subsequent centuries but all are of the vihara type.

  • Apart from Guntapalle, the other important cave site is Rampaerrampallam which has very moderate small excavations but there are rock-cut stupas on the hillock.

  • At Anakapalli near Vishakhapatnam, caves were excavated and a huge rock-cut stupa was carved out of the hillock during the fourth–fifth centuries CE.

  • A unique site as it has the biggest rock-cut stupas in the country.

  • Many votive rock-cut stupas all around the hillock have also been excavated.

  • The rock-cut cave tradition also existed in Odisha.

  • The earliest examples are the Udaigiri-Khandagiri caves in the vicinity of Bhubaneswar.

  • These caves are scattered and have inscriptions of Kharavela kings.

  • The caves were meant for Jain monks.

  • There are numerous single-cell excavations.

  • Some have been carved in huge independent boulders and given the shape of animals.

  • The big caves include a cave with a pillared veranda with cells at the back.

  • The upper part of the cells is decorated with a series of chaitya arches and narratives that still continue in the folklores of the region.

  • The image of the Buddha from the Katra mound belongs to the second century CE.

  • It represents the Buddha with two Boddhisattva attendants.

  • The sanghati (garment) covers only one shoulder and has been made prominently visible covering the left hand whereas while covering the torso, the independent volume of the garment is reduced to the body torso.

  • The Buddha head from Taxila in the Gandhara region, now in Pakistan, dates back to the second century CE and belongs to the Kushana Period.

  • It has Greco-Roman elements in the treatment of sculpture.

  • The Buddha head has typical Hellenistic elements that have grown over a period of time. Assimilating various traits of Acamenian, Parthian and Bactrian traditions into the local tradition is a hallmark of the Gandhara style.

  • The Gandhara images have physiognomic features of the Greco-Roman tradition but they display a very distinct way of treating physiognomic details that are not completely Greco-Roman.

  • The Buddha from Sarnath belonging to the late fifth century CE is housed in the site museum at Sarnath which has been made in Chunar sandstone.

  • The Buddha is shown seated on a throne in the padmasana.

  • It represents Dhammachakrapravartana as can be seen from the figures on the throne.

  • The panel below the throne depicts a chakra (wheel) in the centre and a deer on either side with his disciples.

  • The representation of the historical event of Dhammachakrapravartana or the preaching of the dhamma.

  • The image Vajrapani Bodhisattva has been painted, holds a Vajrapani his right hand and wears a crown.

  • This image also bears the same pictorial qualities as the Padmapani.

  • Cave No. 1 has many interesting paintings of Buddhist themes such as Mahajanak Jataka, Umag Jataka, etc.

  • The Mahajanak Jataka is painted on the entire wall side and is the biggest narrative painting. It may be observed that the paintings of Padmapani and Vajrapani and the Bodhisattvas are painted as shrine guardians.

  • Similar such iconographic arrangement is also observed in other caves of Ajanta.

  • However, Padmapani and Vajrapani in Cave No. 1 are among the best survived paintings of Ajanta.

  • The theme of Mara Vijaya has been painted in the caves of Ajanta.

  • This is the only sculptural representation sculpted on the right wall of Cave No. 26.

  • It is sculpted near the colossal Buddha image of Mahaparinibbana.

  • Mara represents desire.

  • Image of Maheshmurti at Elephanta dates back to the early sixth century CE.

  • It is located in the main cave shrine. In the tradition of western Deccan sculpting it is one of the best examples of qualitative achievement in sculpting images in rock cut caves.

  • The central head is the main Shiva figure whereas the other two visible heads are of Bhairava and Uma.

  • The central face is in high relief having a round face, thick lips and heavy eyelids.

  • The lower lip is prominently protruded showing a very different characteristic.

  • The all-inclusive aspect of Shiva is exhibited in this sculpture by soft-modelling, smooth surface and large face.

  • The face of Shiva-Bhairava is clearly shown in profile in anger with bulging eye and mustache.

  • The other face showing feminine characters is of Uma who is the consort of Shiva.

  • One of the shilpa texts mentions five integrated faces of Shiva and this image, despite being shown with only three faces, is considered as of the same variety and the top and back faces are deemed as invisible.

  • Each face has a different crown as per its iconographic prescription.

  • This sculpture has been sculpted on the south wall of the cave along with the sculpture of Ardhanarishwara and the Gangadhara panel. Elephanta sculptures are known for their remarkable qualities of surface smoothness, elongation and rhythmic movement.

  • The iconographic arrangement of this cave is replicated in Cave No. 29 at Ellora.