Bhartrihari caves of Madhya Pradesh stand proudly on the bank of the Shipra River, near the revered Gadkalika Temple of Ujjain. Named after the famous sage ‘Bhatrihari’, the caves stand as testimony to the traditional wealth of India. Today, these caves are popular amongst tourists visiting Madhya Pradesh for their historical charm. The pellucid waters of Shipra cascades near the caves and add to the beauty of the place.
These caves, assigned to 11th century AD, are the exact site where Bhartrihari, stepbrother of King Vikramaditya, resided and meditated. Born a king, Bhartrihari renounced his affluent lifestyle and adopted the garb of an ascetic. The reason behind it was his disturbing relation with his wife, which gave way to many complexities that he could not endure. The heartbreak led him to give up all his palatial dreams and become a spiritualist.
The Legend According to legends, Bhartrihari had an extraordinarily beautiful wife who was very dear to him. However, the Queen yearned for the love of another noble. The noble, on the other hand, was besotted with a courtesan of the court. Ironically, the courtesan was in love with none other than King Bhartrihari. Enmeshed in such complexities in his conjugal life, Bhartrihari chose to be a hermit, adopted sainthood and cocooned himself inside these caves.
In fact, his wife’s infidelity so tormented him that he repudiated all his palatial pleasures and whiled away his time mediating inside these caves. Bhartrihari was also a great scholar and a renowned poet, known for his delicate use of Sanskrit in his verses. Some of his most famous works include Shringarshatak, Vairagyashatak and Nitishatak. One can still feel the beat of a lamented heart inside these caves that still glorifies the dedicated lover and spiritual poet.
There is a small temple inside the caves, which forms a holy shrine for people belonging to the Nath community. Every year, thousands of devotees frequent the place, to pay homage to the poet-prophet. In fact, Natha sadhus (religious shamans) camp in huge tents that surround the caves and one can often notice them sitting around ritual fires. The ancient site of Pir Matsyendranath located nearby heightens the religious aura of the caves.