Friday, July 26, 2013

Trip to Dhauligiri,Udaygiri- Khandagiri Caves and Nadankanan : December 2012

In continuation of Bhubaneshwar - The Temple City

Our plan for the day was to visit Nandankanan Zoological Park and while returning, to visit Udaygiri and Khandagiri caves.  It dawned to me as well as to our driver in the morning of our schedule visit that it was Monday and Nandankanan was closed on Mondays. For the next day, we had planned to leave Bhubaneshwar for Konark and on the way we were to visit Dhauligiri. With Nandankanan closed on Monday, we had to change our itinerary substituting Dhauligiri for Nandankanan which we would have to cover the next day before proceeding to Konark.

Dhauligiri – Shanti Stupa and Ashoka Rock Edicts

After breakfast, we proceeded first to Dhauligiri which is about 8 kms from Bhubaneshwar city centre off Bhubaneshwar-Konark road. Being working days, there was some traffic on the road preventing an uninterrupted drive to Dhauligiri. Also, the work of upgrading the Konark road to four lanes was also in progress. All these added to some traffic chaos on the Konark road until we took a diversion to a two lane road to the right for a further 3 kms of drive for reaching Dhauligiri.

After climbing some steps to reach on the top of Dhauli hill, there were further steps to climb to Shanti Stupa ( also called Peace Pagoda). The whole complex is so peaceful and serene that one cannot imagine that the bloody Kalinga war was fought  on the banks of Daya river flowing below the complex. Now, not only a Peace Pagoda here, one can have a spectacular view of Daya river from Shanti Stupa flanked by farms on both sides of the river.

The Shanti Stupa was constructed by Japanese Buddha Sangh in 1972 as a symbol of peace and non-violence. It was here that Emperor Ashoka, after the bloody Kalinga war, laid down arms and accepted the principle of non-violence as taught by Buddhism.  The Stupa has four idols of Gautam Buddha facing the four directions in different poses. There are also some motifs on the stone panels on the walls of Stupa.

At the base of the Dhauligiri, there are shops of curios, dry fruits and spices. We found that dry fruits and spices were sold here much below the market prices. These appear to be of rejected qualities at the factory and sold here in sealed plastic covers preventing the checking of the contents. The tourists should be circumspect about the quality of dry fruits and spices sold here.

While returning from Shanti Stupa, we stopped for some time to see Ashoka Rock Edict which is about one km before Shanti Stupa. Presently, this giant rock edict is protected from the top by a cemented slab and covered on its three sides by fixed glass panels. So inscriptions on the rock can be seen only through the glass.

Some pictures taken at Dhauligiri with captions are uploaded below:
Shanti Stupa at Dhauligiri which is about 8 kms from Bhubaneshwar city centre off the road to Puri-Konark

Shanti Stupa has four Buddha statues in different poses facing four directions. This one is facing the stone staircase leading to the Stupa.
Standing Buddha in Shanti Stupa

Reclining Buddha in Shanti Stupa

Sitting Buddha in Shanti Stupa
View from Shanti Stupa Dhauli. The river in the middle is called Daya river. It is said that during the Kalinga war, the colour of this river turned red due to blood of the many dead persons. With this the realisation came to King Ashoka about the magnitude of horror came with a war.
Rock edict of King Ashok on the side of the road to Dhauligiri. This rock inscriptions belong to about 250 B.C. and are about the principles of Buddhism of peace and non-violence.
Udaygiri-Khandagiri Caves

From Dhauligiri, which is located south-west of Bhubaneshwar, we had to travel about 15 kms to the north-west to reach Udaygiri-Khandagiri caves. Both these caves hills are located opposite to each other bisected by NH-5 though the entry to both these cave hills is through a town road off NH-5. Both these caves are maintained by ASI and there is a entry fee of Rs.5/- per head for Indians and citizens of SAARC countries and Rs.100/- per head for foreigners. Entry for children below 15 years is free.

As soon as we entered Udaygiri cave complex, we were greeted by a group of langoors. Surprisingly, they were docile and did not bothered the visitors. There are 18  caves in the complex located on a hill but for those who are short of time, caves like Ranigumpha, Hathigumpha, Ganeshgumpha are worth spending some time. While Hathigumpha and Ganeshgumpha do not have many carvings, they are important for rock inscriptions. Ranigumpha is the only group of caves which are double story structure and the largest among other cluster of caves with intricate carvings on the top of the doors of the caves as well as on the walls. In my view, Ranigumpha is the most impressive cave among the caves of Udaygiri-Khandagiri cave complexes. Many of the wall carvings have been damaged probably over a period of time as they are made on sand stones which are delicate stones. The caves are very simple as these were probably used as dormitories for Jain bhikshus (monks).

On the top of Udaygiri hills is the remains of a apsidal ( semi-circular part of the base of a structure) belonging to C.1st B.C. which was excavated in 1958. Hence, it is assumed that Udaygiri caves may have been constructed during 1st B.C. The apsidal base reminded me of similar type of cave structure I have seen in Karla Buddhist caves in Lonavala (near Pune). Hence, this place may have been a prayer hall for Jain monks. From Udaygiri hilltop, Digambar Jain temple on the Khandagiri hills is visible  but not the caves underneath it.

Khandagiri caves are located on a hill just opposite Udaygiri cave hill across the road. Unlike Udaygiri caves which can be reached on the stone stairs, Khandagiri caves and the Jain temple atop can be reached by ascending on a rocky/stony path after an initial short distance on a stony stairs. Here also, we encountered a big group of langoors at the entrance but they did not trouble us. 

Khandagiri caves are simple and its carvings depict stories of day to day life. On Khandagiri hill top is an active Digambar Jain temple which was reconstructed sometime in 19th century. From the hilltop, one can see the south-east part of Bhubaneshwar city and the airport. 

After the completion of our visits to Udaygiri-Khnadagiri, we took a break for lunch at Dalma Restaurant to try Odiya thali meals. It was first time for all of us to taste some Odiya cuisine. We ordered for vegetarian thali meals and liked it so much that  we repeated the same on the next day on our way to Konark.

After lunch, we returned to our hotel room around 3.00 p.m. With some afternoon siesta followed by tea, we were ready for some shopping trip in the evening. 

Some pictures taken at Udaygiri-Khandagiri with captions are uploaded below :  
Approach to Udaygiri caves

Ranigumpha Cave, Udayagiri

Carvings on the door head of one of the caves of Ranigumpha Cave

Ranigumpha caves seen from the roof of the caves.

Hathigumpha Cave. This cave has not much carvings but it has some very old inscriptions on the rock.

On way to the top of the cave hills there is Baagh cave (left) known as tiger cave (Cave No. 12) due to its resemblance of tiger's face.
On the top of the cave hills lies an excavated apsidal Jain Shrine believed to be of 2nd Century BC

A langoor with her kid in Udaygiri caves

Jain temple atop Khandagiri hills seen from Udaygiri caves. Below the temple on the right side are Khandagiri caves

Carvings on the top of a cave door in Khandagiri caves

A bird's eye view of Udaygiri caves  from Khandagiri caves. Both these hills are located opposite to each other intersected  by a road

View of Bhubaneshwar city from Khandagiri caves. Airport runway is in the background.

A typical vegetarian thali meals with Odiya cuisine in Dalma Restaurant, Bhubaneshwar

Nadankanan Zoo and Botanical Gardens

In the previous day, we had arranged for an Innova (instead of Indica) for taking us to Nadankanan and thereafter to drop at Konark. Next day, after breakfast, we checked out from the hotel and commenced our trip to Nadankanan at around 9.00 a.m. The 20 kms journey from our hotel took about 30 minutes to reach the destination. There was a big queue for ticketing as only one counter was opened. Fortunately, another counter was soon opened and we got the entry tickets quickly. The entry fee is Rs.20/- per head for Indians and Rs.100/- per head for foreigners. In addition, there is a camera fee of Rs.10/-. The zoo and botanical garden are open between 8.00 a.m. and 5.30 p.m. Those who do not wish to walk can hire the battery operated open van to see the zoo. We decided to walk and hired a guide (Rs.150/-) available from the pool of guides authorised by Nandankanan Zoo.

The Zoo is divided into two parts – animals in enclosures and animals freely roaming in the Zoo. After watching some caged animals, birds, reptiles etc, we got into the Safari bus (Rs.40/- per head) for watching lions and tigers freely moving in the park. At one place, we got to see a pair of lion and lioness very close to our bus. When our bus stopped for watching them, the lion started roaring as if to show his displeasure of our intrusion in his privacy! The only disappointment was that we could not see any white tiger while on safari though we did see one white tiger in an enclosure. All in all, we were happy to note that the zoo was kept neat and with natural paths. We also found that all the animal and birds’ enclosures were very clean. After completion of the safari tour, we visited the aquarium (entry fee Rs.10/- per head) having some exotic marine lives. All these activities took us about 2 hours 30 minutes.

In fact, one should plan a full day visit to Nandankanan  as the place has lot of things to do especially if children are accompanying. A round of botanical garden which is a part of Nandankanan Sanctuary may take at least one hour to complete. Then are facilities for boating, toy train and ropeway to cross the lake etc. I noted that most of the local visitors had come for a day’s picnic in the Botanical garden where there are designated places for picnic. There is a separate charge for day picnickers depending upon the number of people in a group. In addition, there are a few guest houses inside the Botanical Garden area.

There is a restaurant inside the Zoo. We thought of taking lunch there before proceeding to Konark. However, lunch order has to be placed well in advance. So we decided to skip the lunch here. Instead we took lunch at Dalma Restaurant on our way to Konark.

Some pictures of Nandankanan with captions are uploaded below:

Nandankanan - A fountain on the junction soon after entering the zoo set the positive mood for the visitors.

Nandankanan - A Battery operated mini van for those who do not wish to take a long walk to see the zoo animals, reptiles and birds. This vehicle is specially a boon to senior citizens and children

Nandankanan - Brahminy Kite

Nandankanan - Mandarin ducks

Nandankanan - Close up of a Painted Stork. Its beak is so sharp that it can crack bones.

Nadankanan - A lone chimpanzee, his mate having left him.

Nandankanan - A gharial is out of the artificial lake to have a 'sun bath'

Nandan Kanan - A lion and lioness resting just outside our Safari bus.

NandanKanan - This White tiger refused to give a pose for my camera.

Nandankanan - A tiger on its round

Nandankanan - Full grown leopard resting on a stone slab inside the enclosure.

Next Blog : Trip to Konark-Puri

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