More than two thousand years ago, caves chiselled out of the malleable yellow sandstone of a pair of low hills 6km west of Bhubaneswar were home to a community of Jain monks. Nowadays, they’re clambered over by langur monkeys and occasional parties of tourists. Though by no means in the same league as the caves of the Deccan, Udaigiri and Khandagiri rank among Odisha’s foremost historical monuments.

Inscriptions show that the Chedi dynasty, which ruled ancient Kalinga from the first century BC, was responsible for the bulk of the work. There are simple monk’s cells, as well as royal chambers where the hallways, verandas and facades are encrusted with sculpture depicting court scenes, lavish processions, hunting expeditions, battles and dances. The later additions (from medieval times, when Jainism no longer enjoyed royal patronage in the region) are more austere, showing the 24 heroic Jain prophet-teachers, or tirthankaras.

From Bhubaneswar, the caves are approached via a road that follows the route of an ancient pilgrimage path. As you face the hills with the highway behind you, Khandagiri (“Broken Hill”) is on your left and Udaigiri (“Sunrise Hill”) is on your right.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

India features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Video: a 2 minute guide to India

Video: a 2 minute guide to India

India has been captivating travellers for centuries – and it continues to enchant to this day. It's a country that has it all: rainforest, desert, pretty beac…

20 Jul 2017 • Colt St. George videocam Video
Living the past: the ancient professions of Old Delhi

Living the past: the ancient professions of Old Delhi

Modernity is seeping into Old Delhi, a walled district that has long harboured the Indian capital’s traditional ways of life. But what does this mean for long…

13 Jun 2017 • Jack Palfrey local_activity Special feature
Video: the essence of India

Video: the essence of India

When Paris-based production company Bed & Breakfast reached out to us with a video that so perfectly captured the essence of India in all but a minute, we c…

04 May 2017 • Colt St. George videocam Video
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month