While visiting Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh after staying in Chirala, we’d only one day in hand. So we settled on visiting the most well-known historical heritage around, Undavalli Caves Guide – Vijayawada.
Heading towards Amravati from Vijayawada, the caves stood greeting us after a few minutes of crossing the Krishna river by the Prakasam Barrage bridge. The sun was on its way down. But the heat lingered. The Undavalli Caves, however, put our minds off the scorching sun as it loomed before us in the sunset.
Let’s dive into all about the Undavalli Caves Guide right away.
Undavalli Caves Guide Vijayawada
There isn’t an exact date to when the Undavalli Caves were built. Thus, the tablet at its entrance mentions it was ‘probably‘ built in the 6th-7th century. Some sites, including its Wikipedia page, suggest that its Gupta style architecture indicates its built in the 4th-5th century.
It’s beautiful how the four levels of the caves get more intricate and well-cut as you climb up each floor. Unlike a museum exhibit, this temple was literally built over centuries, thus witnessing the modernizing of architecture.
Standing among the many heritage sites of Amravati and Vijayawada dating back to the Chalukyan period, Cholas, and the Vijayanagar empire, the Undavalli Caves are a haven for history enthusiasts.
Even as a common visitor myself, unaware of its history, the caves are one fascinating sight. It ushers one to learn more about the ancient local cultures all out of curiosity.
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Everything You Need to Know Before Visiting Undavalli Caves
Here are all the things to know before visiting, the thorough Undavalli Caves guide.
Undavalli Caves Entry Fee
- It cost 25 rupees per head.
Best Time to Visit
In most places I’ve visited, I involuntarily end up concluding that early mornings are best to visit. But for the Undavalli Caves, don’t miss out on its sunset!
Keep in mind the Caves close at 5:30 pm. The best time to visit the Undavalli Caves is 4 to 5 pm when the sun sinks on the horizon, leaving behind a blazing orange sky overlooking the rivers. The strong wind, while you watch from its peak, is a cherry on top.
- How much time does it take to visit Undavalli Caves? It takes 2 hours at most for an Indian Architecture enthusiast. But 1 hour should do fine for most people.
We visited the Caves at 3:15 in the afternoon and it was just too sunny! We hadn’t much choice but to bear it.
How to Get there?
How to get to Undavalli Caves – It takes 5-10 minutes to reach the caves from Prakasam Barrage bridge. It’s on the Guntur district side of the bridge.
With the caves connected by road, the best way to get there is either by bus or taxi. If you’re in Vijayawada, an autorickshaw is another efficient way.
- By bus – Take Bus No. 301 from Pandit Nehru Bus stand in Vijayawada from platform No. 47. Source Reference: TripAdvisor
- By taxi/autorickshaw – I’d prefer taking the autorickshaw when crossing the Prakasam Barrage – the waters are too intense to view through a small car window. Anyway, services like Ola are available here.
While returning to Vijayawada, we took one of the larger autorickshaws that had a larger capacity, basically pooling with others traveling in the same direction. It cost us lesser (around 60 rupees). I remember I used to go in these when I was younger – they were called Tum Tum.
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Undavalli Caves Structure
Eager to peep in everything, we started from the lower caves on the right.
Lower Cave Temple
We alighted the steps (from the railing you see on the right side) to a single ground-floor cave temple. The stone pillars as wide as its passages lead to a dark doorway at the end of the cave only meters from its entrance. It appeared to be a spot for a shrine considering its tiny space. But there was no idol.
Though the cave isn’t big, the stone faces carved at the cave entrance were quite a sight! Small triangular lamp spaces chiseled on the stone pillars made it look more distinguished.
Towards the right of the lower caves, there were more stone chiseled faces on the rocks. Most were unfinished and with no path further, we climbed back to the main caves.
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The Main Undavalli Caves: Witnessing encounters among Cultures
The multistorey Undavalli Caves at the center is the main attraction among all the other caves. Each level exhibits diverse pillar carvings, idols, and ancient text on its walls. Speaking of diversity, you’ll find Buddhism sculptures on one floor and a lying-down position of Shiva on the next!
Beginning from the ground level:
There isn’t much to the ground level. But with its pillars thick, unfinished raw cuts, one could tell it’s almost made its 1000 years. As the tablet (in the picture above) calls it a ‘pillared hall’, it leads no more than a few meters inside.
We weren’t allowed to go around the ground-level caves. While I took this sweet picture of the ancient interior built before the guard asked us to step out.
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The steps up to the higher levels appear to be more of recent renovations for visitors today. Towards the first floor, there were inscriptions engraved at its entrance. It led to a lobby with a beautiful panel structure over our heads inside.
With light falling from the cave opening, inscriptions were visible on its opposite side. While Anuradha Goyal makes a thorough explanation on her blog of its sculptures, details of Vishnu in his resting position, Hanuman idols, and even architectural design.
With the caves overlooking waters from a subsidiary of the Krishna River from a hill, the view from this floor was impeccable!
While the first floor held Hindu idols like Brahma, Narasimha, Shiva, and Parvati, the second floor’s open side sculptures begin with large sage sculptures. Some would say it represents Buddhist monks. But with no script on these structures, it’s hard to say.
Here, the cuts of idols on granite stones are improved. Along the wall at the back of the caves were the faces of 14 saints (also called Alwars who were devotees of Vishnu) and Vishnu himself at the center.
On the same floor is the main feature of the cave – the reclining position of Vishnu inside a chamber. The massive sculpture is said to be carved off a single granite block. We couldn’t stay long here with dozens of bats resting above inside the chamber.
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The Last Level
Apart from the cool evening breeze and the greenery view, there isn’t much to see on the 3rd level. Parts of it are unfinished. And climbing over the caves from there is prohibited.
Also, with no guard rail, it appeared dangerous. After a few clicks of the beautiful view, we alighted.
Undavalli Caves Guide: Walking through the Garden
Alighting from the main caves, we decided to explore the rest of the area. Through the lush greenery, we walked by a narrow path alongside the hill that took us to the last bits of the caves we hadn’t seen. This was a more ancient-looking raw structure.
There was our final point, we walked back and down the hill, heading to the entrance gate. With the weather calm and the well-kept gardens, families now sat around with kids playing on the lawns.
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I was afraid we’d mess up the last spot we visited in Vijayawada before we left. But the timing, the caves before the Krishna River, everything went perfect! That completes this Undavalli Caves guide :)
There isn’t much history written down to all the sculptures and inscriptions. Signs of vandalism on the old walls are seen around. But overall, with the gardens, calm nature of the place, and fewer crowds – it was a sweet evening! We stopped by to have ice cream at the caves’ gate entrance before we left.
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That sums up my visit to the Undavalli Caves :)
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