Excellent Jain architecture and sculpture can be seen in their Stupas and rock-cut caves found in Mathura, Bundelkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa cave temples. A number of rock-cut caves have been discovered in Udaigiri and Khandagiri, twin hills in Puri District of Orissa and in Ellora in Maharashtra.
The Udayagiri Hill
(Picture courtesy Archaeological Survey of India)
Excavated mainly as retreats for Jaina ascetics, they belong to the first century and second century BC. The eighteen Udaigiri and fifteen Khandagiri caves differ in plan from the rock-cut viharas of the Buddhists. The Jain viharas here do not have the assembly or prayer hall surrounded by cel1s nor a sanctuary like the Buddhist viharas. Excavated at different levels, the cells are narrow with low ceilings. There are no niches in the walls. The cells are small and plain, in keeping with the rigorous asceticism of Jain monks. Some of the cells have shelves cut across the walls. The doorways are small and one has to bend or crawl to enter a cell. In some of the cells the floor is raised at the rear end to serve as a pillow. Some cells have low raised platforms for beds. The lay-out of the cells is such that they get sufficient light – the cells opening on to a verandah. The Udaigiri caves are double-storeyed and have a courtyard in front.
The largest and finest of the Udaigiri caves is Cave 1 called the Rani-Gumpha or Rani cave. (Gumpha the local word tor cave). The Rani-Gumpha is important for its heavily sculptured friezes. The architecture of the cave is simple, having been excavated on three sides of a quadrangle. The roof of the verandah projects outwards like an overhanging cornice (eave). Pillars have been cut to support the roof giving the caves an effect of structural houses. The right wing of the lower storey has one cell with three small entrances and a pillared verandah. Two armed dwarapalas stand guard on either side of the verandah. Though the pillars have collapsed, the capitals with sculptured bulls and lions are to be seen intact. The entrances to the cells are arched with motifs of the lotus and creepers coming out of the mouths of animals. The back wall of the verandah is covered with a frieze of elaborately carved figures. The left wing has three cells and the main wing has four cells. The doorways of all the cells are decorated with sculptured pilasters and arches. Carved friezes depicting the reception of a king returning victorious from a battle adorn the rear walls of the verandahs. In the upper storey also, the plan is the same – with four cells in the main wing and one cell each on either side. Each cell has two doorways with curved arches and engraved pilasters Symbol, auspicious for the Jains are carved in the space between the arches. The workmanship in the upper storey is superior to that of the lower. On the whole the figures are shown in easy natural poses with their faces in various profiles and moods. The designs on the pillars are similar to those used in Buddhist caves. The inscriptions on the cave walls give valuable information about the rulers and dynasties of that period. The cave is a good exhibit of the water supply system at the time. As there was no worship of images then, there is no Jain thirthankara in the original carving. Figures of thirthankaras carved on the walls of the cells are a later addition to the Khandagiri caves which were redone in about the 11th and 12th centuries A.D. to serve as sanctuaries.
The Hathigumpha is important for its rock-cut inscription of King Karavela of Orissa which describes chronologically the events of his rule.
Jain architecture reached the peak of excellence in the 11th and 12th century AD as can be seen in their temples in Rajgir in Bihar and Palitana in Kathiawar.