Many thanks to Sri Dhivakar for visiting this amazing cave and sharing his experiences and photographs with us. We need to do some more study of the sculptures and would be grateful if readers near Vijaywada can assist in some closeup, high resolution images of the same. Now over to the author for a wonderful guest post:
Its hard to separate Vijayawada from Kanaka Durga, even in our dreams, but today we are not going to see the famous Kanakadurga seated on the sacred abode of Indrakilaadhri, but a 1400 year old sculpted stone Durga and the rock cut caves of Mogalrajapuram (situated in the center of the city only). Some scholars account this to early 5th Century which is quite mind blowing.
In the midst of the sprawling town of Vijayawada, there are two caves which have barely survived, carved into a low hillock not higher than 10 feet. These caves which are under the upkeep of ASI, hold these surprising treasures.
The sculptors have cut into live rock and created a small room to host the main sculpture. The sculpture is much worn out and we have hardly make out the features. We can clearly make out a tail and an animal - a lion behind the sculpture.
As per the ASI board this is Durga.
Can a mere lion mount characterise a sculpture as Durga, the posture and the body proportions create enough doubts in our minds.
Taking the ASI stand that this is indeed Durga, this could be earliest depiction of Her in South India. Dr Kalaikkovan in his lovely work ` Mahendra Kudavaraigal’ lists the vallam ( near chengalpattu) Kotravai sculpted by Gommai as the oldest depiction of Her in South India. The above could make a strong contention to that stand.
The next hillock have some interesting sculptures and designs. The pillar designs are very familiar and the kudus on top contain some very advanced sculptures apparently of the Trinity.
There is a wonderful row of alternating lions and elephants above them and then there is a very badly worn sculpture right on top of this row. You can see the Demon being pressed down by a foot and then only the top portion with only 6 hands wielding various weapons n attributes. The posture and the silhouette of the weapons seem to suggest that this could be a depiction of Mahishasuramardhini but the popular contention is that this is Nataraja. Will present the early chalukya sculptures of Aihole, Badami - natraja ( is he depicted with the asura underneath Shiva as Nataraja) and Mahishasuramardhini ( with Mahisha being trampled ..) later on.
We might need some very detailed closeups of the weapons held in the hands to come to a clear verdict. But the technique is quite advanced and these could be dated to late 6th or 7th Centuries. Compare the kudus with those of Mahendra’s Dhalavanur.
Sadly these unique caves have not quite got the publicity they deserve and hardly anyone visits them. When will people realise the greatness of these treasures and give them the respect that is due to them.