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Khandagiri

The caves on the opposite hill, Khandagiri, can be reached either by the long flight of steps leading from the road, or by cutting directly across from Hathi Gumpha via the steps that drop down from Cave 17. The latter route brings you out at Caves 1 and 2, known as Tatowa Gumpha (“Parrot Caves”) for the carvings of birds on their doorway-arches. Cave 2, excavated in the first century BC, is the larger and more interesting. On the back wall of one of its cells, a few faint lines in red Brahmi script are thought to have been scrawled two thousand years ago by a monk practising his handwriting. The reliefs in Cave 3, the Ananta Gumpha (“Snake Cave”), contain the best of the sculpture on Khandagiri hill, albeit badly vandalized in places. Caves 7 and 8, left of the main steps, were former sleeping quarters, remodelled in the eleventh century as sanctuaries. Both house reliefs of tirthankaras on their walls as well as Hindu deities which had become part of the Jain pantheon by the time conversion work was done. From the nineteenth-century Jain temple at the top of the hill there are clear views across the sprawl of Bhubaneswar to the white dome of Dhauli.