Visit The Mighty Belum Caves In The Gateway Of Rayalaseema
My best friend is a historian, and she always prefers to visit the most historically rich places on this Earth. She has a constant desire to know the past and learn about our ancestors. Last January, she decided to pay a visit to the famous Kurnool caves in Andhra Pradesh, a state of Southern India. She asked me to be her travel partner to these caves. So, I started researching the caves and read somewhere that this place has been there for millions of years. So, I got really excited at the prospect of visiting these caves.
My friend got our tickets booked, and we were all set to discover the grandeur of the caves of Kurnool. We took a flight from Kolkata and reached Hyderabad in around 3 hours. The weather was just excellent and perfect for the trip. We then took a regularly operating bus to reach the city from the airport. We met a local family on our bus ride who told us about the different cultures and festivals of this state. We learned that the people of Kurnool celebrate Ugadi, Rayalaseema dance festival, PunnamiOravakallu, Lumbini festivals, etc. The stories and tales of this state made our journey very fascinating, and we reached our hotel in no time.
By the time we reached the hotel, it was already late afternoon, and so we decided to rest for some time. After that, we went out for a stroll in the evening. The next day, we were all set to go and visit the famous Belum caves of Kurnool. Before I share my excellent experience of visiting this place, let me introduce you to the history of Kurnool and its mighty caves.
Kurnool is the control center of the Kurnool district in Andhra Pradesh. This city is also called “The Gateway of Rayalaseema” and was the capital of Andhra Pradesh form 1st October ’53 to 31st October ’56. As per the census of 2011, this is the fifth most populated city in the state.
The place got its name from the Telugu word “Kandanavolu,” which is what it was commonly referred as in ancient literature and inscriptions. The last Mughal Emperor Aurungzeb ruled this area before letting the Nizams take control of this place. After their rule, this place got its first independent ruler, Nawab Alaf Khan Bahadur. His descendants ruled this area for over 200 years. Finally, after the 18th century, this place came under British rule.
The most popular attraction of this place is the giant caves that have stood here for over a million years.
The Kurnool Caves
Belum Caves are among the most significant and most advanced cave systems in India. They were constructed many years back with limestone. You are sure to get awestruck by an intricate network of water lines present in these caves.
Till today, only three and a half km of the cave have been successfully explored. Hence, the Indian government takes exceptional care of this place and has maintained this area for a long time. The depth of this cave goes as deep as 46 m, and this point is called the Pataalaganga. An underground watercourse flows through these caves all year round.
The Belum cave consists of many long passages, large cavities with freshwater galleries, and water tunnels. The caves are an absolute feast for Geologists as there are three spectacular sinkholes formed here due to the subterranean water flow. A giant 40 feet statue of Lord Buddha stands outside these caves. This statue commemorates the role played by the monks in the preservation of these caves.
History of the Belum Caves
These caves formed due to the continuous deposition of limestone over millions of years ago. The stories about this place state that maybe early cave dwellers used to live here. Geologists and archaeologists have discovered several remnants and old vessels that date back to 4500 BC. Later, the Jains and the Buddhists used this place for their meditation rituals.
British geologist and archaeologist Robert Bruce Foote first discovered this place in 1884. The state government declared the site as protected in the year 1988. However, this place was opened for tourists in 2002 and soon became extremely famous. After that, the government and people of Andhra Pradesh took great care to maintain this area well.
Structures Inside Belum Caves
There is a maze of 16 paths and an entrance chamber inside Kurnool caves. One of the most remarkable features of the cave is the stunning rock formations called Saptasvarala Guha. It means ‘the room of seven notes,’ and you can hear musical sounds here.
The doorway to the Almighty, Simhadwaram, is a spectacular archway in this cave, that gives an illusion of a lion’s head. The Kotilingalu Chamber has thousands of naturally made lingams. Voodalamari is a stalactite formation resembling a banyan tree. Dhyan Mandir is a rocky limestone formation shaped like a bed with a pillow. Local legend proposes that this place was used as a meditation spot by many saints.
Many researchers have found relics and remnants of both Jains and Buddhists inside these caves. They have discovered a saint’s bed, a meditation den, and several other such relics in this area.
The Geography of the Land of Mysterious Caves
Kurnool lies at 78.05° east and 15.8333° north and stretches along the coast of the Tungabhadra River. The Neeva and Hundri rivers flow through the city of Kurnool. The Dutch constructed the Kurnool–Cuddapah canal for transportation, and it’s now used for providing water to the fields.
The climate is hot and humid with temperatures ranging from 26 °C-46 °C (summers) and 12 °C- 31 °C (winters). The usual yearly rate of rainfall is around 28 inches.
How to Travel to Kurnool Caves?
Kurnool is well connected to all the cities and states of India. You can use any mode of transport to reach this beautiful place from any part of the country.
By Rail: The Kurnool railway station falls on the Hyderabad – Bengaluru railway route. You can also take a train to the Kotla station and travel to Kurnool from there.
By Air: The nearest airport is the Green Field Kurnool Airport, near Orvakal. The Ministry of Civil Aviation & Andhra Pradesh airport Development Corporation Limited inaugurated this site on 8th January 2019.
By Road: National Highway 44 is the connection between Kurnool and Hyderabad, and the State Highway 51 links it to Vijayawada, Vinukonda, Guntur, and Srisailam. National Highway 40 runs from Kurnool to Chittoor with well-developed bus services plying on it.
Once you have reached the town, you can take a cab to the nearby caves. But once there, you need to walk around the caves to witness the marvelous beauty of the caves.
Other Famous Places of Kurnool
The town of Kurnool is famous for its mighty caves, temples, and for being a historical hub of India. Although Belum caves will always be very special to my heart, there are some other excellent historical places to visit in this town.
Some of the other well-known sites that I visited during my stay here were:
- Yaganti, a renowned temple of Sri Yagantiswamy. This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and dates back to around the 5th century. You can see the fused idols of the great Shiva and Parvathi, which is called the “Ardhanareeswara.” You will get awestruck by the artwork and the fascinating icon of the deities. Tourists from all over the world come to see the festival of “Maha Shivratri” held here.
- I visited the Rollapadu Wildlife Sanctuary, home to the Lesser Florican and The Great Indian Bustard. Many exotic varieties of reptiles, birds, and other animals are found here. You can spot Bonnets, Blackbucks, Russell’s vipers, and the Indian cobras here.
- Do not forget to visit the famous Konda Reddy Fort or KondareddyBuruju of this city. This fort was built during the reign of the Vijayanagar Empire. It is renowned for its majestic watchtower that gives an overall view of the town. Stories say that once, this fort had a mighty tunnel that connected the Tungabhadra river with the fort.
- Venugoplaswami Temple is also a very famous tourist attraction of this city.
Best Time to Visit the Kurnool Caves
The Belum caves require a lot of hours of continuous walking. So, it is better to travel here in the autumn or winter season to avoid discomfort during the trip. However, many suggest that it is best to visit the city of Kurnool from October to March. One can also visit during the rains if they want to enjoy the heavy rainfall in the vicinity of nature in the city of Kurnool.
Where to Stay?
You will get a lot of options for budget as well as luxury hotels to stay in the city of Kurnool. But if you want to pay a visit to the Belum caves, then I would suggest you stay in places close to it. It is a bit difficult to get the perfect place around these caves. Luckily, the Andhra Pradesh Tourism has a 32-bed dormitory for travelers near this place. You can also get accommodations in locations like Banganpalli and Tadipatri, which are 30 km away from the site.
Do not forget to pack essentials like water, snacks, comfortable shoes, and a proper guide book before visiting the famous Kurnool caves. This place is of great historical importance and will surely leave you mesmerized and enthralled by its beauty.
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