The 14th Monks, Caves and Kings under the aegis of Ekamra Walks at Udayagiri and Khandagiri was an interesting learning session with discovering probably the most earliest depiction of Sun God at Khandagiri hills and a lizard on the roof of Bagha Gumpha or Tiger Cave at Udayagiri.
While the group learned the stories behind the Rani Gumpha or Queen’s Cave and Ganesh Gumpha and the super structure atop Udayagiri representing a Buddhist influence over a Jain shrine, while descending the slope downhill towards Hati Gumpha (Elephant Cave), the Bagha Gumpha posed a surprise with the lizard carved on the roof of the beautiful cave on its left corner. A fellow heritage walker Ade first pointed out to the presence of this beautiful lizard to the group.
Fellow traveler and archaeologist and one of the founding members of Virasat-E-Hind Foundation Jitu Mishra, who also joined the Monks, Caves and Kings said “the depiction of snakes in various caves of the Twin Hills and this lizard, which is also a reptile, could be created to make the monks aware about the possible dangers around the caves as the place was infested with deep forests. The rock art in Hati Gumpha (Elephant Cave) also described some wild animals which were found around the Twin Hills.’’
It can be noted here that the Rani Gumpha (Queen’s cave) also had the depiction of man-elephant conflicts and one can even today, found such scenes around the Chandaka-Dampara Wildlife Sanctuary, which is on the outskirts of the city.
Jitu also pointed out to the Sun God’s image atop the Khandagiri Hills inside Ananta Gumpha could be the most earliest depiction of the God as the caves date back to 1st or 2nd Century BC. The same description was also found mentioned in the book titled “Udayagiri and Khandagiri’’ written by Debala Mitra, who had done extensive excavations during her stint with the Archaeological Survey of India.
Zehra Toorabally, originally from Vadodara in Gujarat, who is a Japanese language expert and currently on city tour, enjoyed her visit to the Twin Hills with the MCK participants and found the event educating and an enriching experience. Bratati Barik, a faculty member from Delhi University also joined the walk.