Udayagiri caves, in Vidisha – INDIA

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    I just stumbled upon an article about caves situated at or close to the tropic of the Cancer in India, where the name of the area is translated as Mount of Sunrise, and on the summer solstice, the sun is directly overhead.

    The symbology and pictographs in one of the caves are about the story of Vishnu coming to the rescue of Mother Earth. Interestingly, the story reminded me of the Autumn Equinox, when in many ancient texts, it describes how the Spiritual Mother has to descend into darkness before being rescued (Inana, Persephone etc..).

    And in another cave, it is also directly linked to the warrior aspect of the Spiritual Mother, as there are depictions of her defeating the buffalo demon Mahishasura (made me think of the similarities to the defeat of the minotaur).

    It would be interesting to know if there are alignments to the Spring Equinox, but I haven’t looked much more into it as of now (for actual sunrise or sunset alignments) – but it seems it is promising.

    Here are some quotes from the news article – which you can find here: http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/where-varaha-saves-the-earth/article22645921.ece

    The Udayagiri caves, in Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh, are not as popular but they are worth a visit, for they contain some of the oldest Hindu temples and iconography. They were built during the Gupta period (350-550 CE).


    They lie on two low sandstone hills between the rivers Betwa and Bes. It is possible that when these caves were carved out, they fell directly on the Tropic of Cancer and thus the name translates to Mount of Sunrise. On the day of summer solstice, the sun would have been directly overhead, making this a place of worship.


    This site has iconography related to Vaishnavism, Shaivism and Shaktism (Durga), as well as important inscriptions from the Gupta period. Of all the caves, cave number 5 is the most famous with its colossal and iconic Varaha sculpture which represents the story of the rescue of Bhudevi (Earth).

    The story goes thus: Hiranayaksha, a demon, attacked and kidnapped Goddess Earth and confined her to the cosmic ocean. Vishnu appeared in his boar avatar Varaha, rescued her and restored her to her rightful position. She is shown hanging on to his right tusk.


    On both sides are carved rows of admiring divine figures: Brahma, Shiva on Nandi, and other gods with halos, heavenly musicians, demons, rishis and humans. Curved lines on the rock create the waves of the cosmic ocean.

    To the right of Varaha are other sculpted gods and goddesses. Of these, a majestic Durga slaying the buffalo demon Mahishasura, Ganga and Yamuna descending from the heavens, and Samudra standing in the waves are noteworthy.


    Matthew Butler

    Thanks for sharing Geraldine. It’s pretty amazing you posted that just now as we actually visited this site on our recent India trip 🙂

    The summer solstice alignment is formed by an open channel or passage cut into the hill. But because, like you mentioned, the location is on the tropic of cancer, the sun actually sun tracks over the channel as it moves across the sky on the summer solstice, setting at the other end of the channel/passage. If you stood there in the channel at noon there would hardly be any shadow cast, as the sun would be directly overhead on the summer solstice.

    There are a number of cave shrines cut into the side of the channel. At the end of the channel, to one side, is a rock cut cave shrine with a Vishnu relief, showing him resting on on a bed the cosmic ocean. The sun strikes this relief on the summer solstice. At first his feet are lit up, and then the light moves across the rest of him through the day.

    Interestingly, in antiquity the site was known as the hill of the footprint of Vishnu.

    The floor of the passageway has a ripple effect carved into it, representing the surface of the cosmic ocean.

    Interestingly there is a symbol of the three rings of creation on that relief of the avatar of Varaha which the article mentions, which was something I had not read about before going 🙂

    There are the ruins of a sun temple on the main hill at the site, above where the cave shrines are, and this faces due east, which means it would have aligned to the equinox sunrise.

    There is much more I could say but I’ll wait until I have the chance to do a proper blog 🙂 Thanks for posting the article.



    It looked like a really amazing site from what I had just read from this article, and from what you are describing it seems like a really powerful place. It must have been very special to visit and see it all first-hand. I find reading about certain places like this one can sometimes give me chills, to realize the significance of what the builders were trying to pass on and the hard work they put into it; the effort and meaning behind all these sites is just so mind-boggling and so very humbling at the same time. These people were truly amazing.

    I really look forward to your blog then, seems like there is so much more to this place, and it did feel really special imagining from the article, but even more so about what you just mentioned now 🙂

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