Here is the historic neglect of the 7th century AD Jain temple in Ambapuram which calls for attention. Vijayawada was earlier called Vijaya Vatika and Bezawada and was known for its cultural harmony. While the period between 1st century B.C. and 4th century A.D. saw Buddhism thriving here attracting a good number of monks from the north and south directions, a gradual decline of Buddism around 5th century A.D. gave way to Saivism. These were appropriated by the Vaishnavas in the 6th century A.D. which reflects in sculptures of Krishna, Sita and Anjaneyulu on the pillars of caves.
But the advent of the eastern Chalukyas or Vengi Chalukyas in the 7th century A.D. witnessed a U-turn towards a non-Vedic religion. The Jammi Doddi area, next to Akkanna and Madanna caves at the foot of Indrakeeladri hill, nestled a Jain monastery called Nedumbi Basadi which received the patronage of Ayyana Mahadevi, the queen of Kubjavishnu Varadana and founder of the Eastern Chalukyan kingdom. Jain establishments are also found at Kolanukonda, Kanur and Guntupalli villages located on Vijayawada suburbs. “The hills on the north-east corner of the city, locally called Ambapuram and Adavi Nekkalam hills were repositories of Jain caves of the 7th -8th centuries A.D. They are wrongly called Bairlingeswara Swamy temple because of the presence of a rock-cut miniature Jain stupa which the locals still believe to be a Siva Linga.
The caves are affiliated to the Jaina pantheon represented by the Tirthankara and Ambica sculptures,” says archaeology expert E. Sivanagi Reddy. These caves, lying in ruins, can be approached either from the Vijayawada-Nunna or milk factory-Adavi Nekkalam route. They have an open scooped out platform that leads to three cells one after the other namely—verandah preceded by an antharala and garbhalaya The verandah has plain walls and ceiling devoid of sculptural representations. The arthamandapa is decorated with figures of two male attendants carved on either side of the doorway of the garbhalaya. A nude image of Parsvanatha, the 23rd Tirthankara of the Jain pantheon is canopied by a five-hooded Nagadevatha. The identity of another image carved on the wall on the eastern side is not clear.
The principal attraction is carved on the rear side wall of the rock-cut Garbhalaya—the image of Vardhamana Mahaveera, the 24th and the last Tirthankara attested by lion symbols seen on the pedestal. Seated in padmasana, the image contemplates meditational absorption. “The female attendant on the arthamandapam walls is supposed to be Ambica, the sasana devata, on whose name the village is called Ambapuram that perpetuates the Jaina faith to future generations,” says Prof. Nagireddy. There is no proper pathway to the caves from Ambapuram. The least the authorities can do is to create a path and enable people to visit this ancient Jaina monument.