Udayagiri Cave Complex – Ganesha-gumpha


Fergusson1 mentions that the name of the cave is apparently derived from the two elephants flanking the entrance, R L Mitra also agrees with him on this point. However Debala Mitra2 is appropriate in stating that the name is derived from the figure of Ganesha carved on the back of the right cell.


The cave has two cells, preceded by a verandah supported on fiver pillars. The partitioning wall between the cells has a window. The height of the roof is low and the floor rises backwards. Two pillars on the right have been removed, probably intentionally, during the period when an image of Ganesha was carved on the wall. Two elephants, carved in front of the cave, in alignment with the removed pillars, are also dated from the same period. These elephants were broken and restored by Bengal Public Works  department in early 1900s. Only one guard remains now, carved on the left pilaster in high relief. He holds a spear and stands akimbo. A recumbent bull is carved above his head.

Elephant flanking the cave

The cells on the rear wall are approached through two entrances each. Doors are decorated with two pilasters having capital of addorsed animals, deer, bull, lion and horse. On the pilasters is supported an arch crowned with a Srivatsa or nandipada symbol. Façade of each cell on the spandrels, is decorated between the doors. The remaining space is decorated with railing supported by dwarf figure brackets.

Abduction scene

The first scene, between first and second door, is a duplicate of a theme also depicted in Rani-gumpha cave. The scene starts with a man resting near a cave, while a woman sits near him. Next is shown a lady leading a man towards the cave where the first couple is resting. The next is shown a lady and a man in combat with sword and shields. The last scene is where a man carries off a woman. The theme of this relief is still not satisfactorily identified.

Vasavadatta eloping with Udayana

The second relief, between third and fourth door, shows a story of Udayana, king of Kausambi, carrying away Vasavadatta, princess of Ujjayini. Agrawala3 tells that the identification of this relief is founded upon the three terracotta plaques discovered from Kausambi, now deposited in Bharat Kala Bhavan, Varanasi. These plaques illustrate the story of the flight of lovers, Udayana and Vasavadatta, on the back of a female elephant in company of the court jester, Vasantaka.

As per the drama4, Pratigya-yaugandharayana of Bhasa, Udayana was the ruler of Vatsa, ruling from Kausambi as its capital. While Avanti was ruled by Pradyota from its capital Ujjayini. Both the rulers were equally powerful and commanded a large army. Pradyota wanted to defeat Udayana however did not have enough courage to wage a war. Therefore he planned a scheme and captured Udayana. Ghoshavati was the favorite lute of Udayana, which Pradyota gave to his daughter Vasavadatta. Once, Bhadravati, the favorite she-elephant of Pradyota got loose and created havoc in the city. Udayana was requested to control the elephant, he accepted and succeed. This way he won favor of Pradyota, who released him from captivity. However, during captivity, Udayana and Vasavadatta fell into love. Securing an opportune moment, Udayana eloped with Vasavadatta, along with his court-jester. Vasantaka.

Udayana and Vasavadatta over an elephant, chased by an army

The first scene in the relief shows three people, one female and two males, on the back of an elephant being chased by a party of soldiers. The man seated in the middle, over the elephant, is in shown shooting arrows over the soldiers behind, while the man next to him is throwing coins from his money-bag to lure soldiers. The female over the elephant is playing mahout.

All alighted from the elephant

The next scene shows all three figures alighted from the elephant, suggesting that they have reached a safe place, probably Kausambi, the capital of Udayana. In the next scene, a male figure holding his bow is shown leading the other two, the female and the other male. This other male figure is shown holding his money bag.

Vasavadatta in remorse

The last scene is where the female is in remorse while the male is trying to console her. The female here is Vasavadatta while the male figure is Udayana. The other male figure, standing at a distance, holding a bow and money-bag, is Vasantaka. This story of Vasavadatta is available in Buddhist, Jain and Brahmanical literature, however, as the theme of the story is of romance, there is no major difference in the story among different renditions.

Inscription of Bhauma-kara king Santikara

The left cell rear wall has an image of Jina while the rear wall of right cell has an image of Ganesha. To the right of Ganesha image is an inscription, dated ninth century CE. It records donations by physician Bhimata, son of Nannata, during the reign of the Bhauma-kara king Santikara.

Next: Cave 11 to Cave 13

1 Fergusson & Burgess (1880). The Cave Temples of India. Oriental Books Reprints Corporation. Delhi. p 86
2 Mitra, Debala (1960). Udayagiri & Khandagiri. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi. p 39
3 Agrawala, V S (1946). Vasavadatta and Sakuntala scenes in the Ranigumpha cave in Orissa published in Journal of the Indian Society of Oriental Art vol. XIV. pp 102-109
4 Kala, S C (1980). Terracottas in the Allahabad Museum.Abhinav Publication. New Delhi. ISBN 8170171253. pp 58-59