Odisha is well known for the ancient caves Udaygiri (meaning the hill of the sunrise) and Khandagiri. They are situated near the capital city of Bhubaneswar. Udaygiri caves are approximately 135 ft high and Khandagiri caves are 118 ft high. The caves are reminiscent of influence of Buddhism and Jainism in Odisha. The origin of the rock cut caves of Udaygiri and Khandagiri dates back to the 2nd century B.C.
The caves on the Khandagiri, can be reached either by the walking from the road, or cutting directly across from Hathi Gumpha via steps that drop down from cave 17. The latter route brings you out at caves 1 and 2, known as the “Parrot Caves” for the carvings of birds on their doorway-arches. Cave 2, excavated in the 1st century B.C, islarger and more interesting. One can find some faint lines in Brahmini script in one of the caves, which are supposed to be 2000 years old. The Ananta Gumpha or Snake Cave has a decoration in the shape of a serpent at the entrance. It contains the best of the sculpture on Khandagiri hill. The best place to wind up a visit to Khandagiri is the modern Jain Temple at the top of the hill.
Udaigiri caves occupy a fairly compact area around the south of the hill. Cave 1, the Queen’s Cave, is tucked away around the corner. The best sculpture can be seen on the pillars, arches and to the rear of the courtyard, and across the back wall of the upper storey. A long annulet shows rampaging elephants, panicking monkeys, sword fights and the abduction of a women. These carvings seem to illustrate the life of Kalinga’s King Kharavela.