Those who live in Hyderabad would know that there aren’t many options to travel nearby on a weekend or make a one day drive. So when a group of my friends were coming over for the weekend, I was sad that I had the task of planning a drive to someplace no one would have seen before. The first thought naturally came to me of Hampi, but then it was already done twice. Luckily I landed on a page about Belum Caves. The Intro read, “The second largest cave in the Indian subcontinent and the longest caves in plains of Indian Subcontinent, known for its stalactite and stalagmite formations.” Well, that was enough for me to get planning.
Belum caves are located around 301 km from Bangalore & 365 km from Hyderabad. For people going from Hyderabad there are 2 possible routes to take:
- If time is of constraint, it is advisable to take the shorter route through Kurnool.
- But if you are more in the mood for a beautiful and scenic drive, I would suggest you make your way via Srisailam.
We actually did both, we went through Srisailam enjoyed the amazing forest greenery and monkeys en route and returned back via Kurnool making a quick stop there at the Orvakal Rock Garden as well.
The caves are underground stretching for up to 3 km but just 1.5km of stretch is open for tourists as the rest is very low-roofed. Inside the caves is a network of underground tunnels glowing in the light of sodium vapor lamps along with ducts for fresh air. There is a water source at about 150ft below. It is said that these caves were formed by the constant flow of Underground River that eroded the soft limestone from rocks around. The stalactite and stalagmite formations and the cuts in stone made by water are just amazing to see.
As you enter the campus, a huge Buddha statue on a lotus flower greets you reflecting the areas long association with Buddhism. Apart from geological importance, there are indications that Jains and Buddhists monks occupied these caves centuries ago. Many Buddhists relics were found inside the caves. These relics are now housed at Ananthapur museum. The entrance to the caves is beautiful. You descend a small, steep staircase and reach an open space with some benches around.
From there you head on to the first prominent formation of stalactites and continue to see long passages, spacious chambers & fresh water galleries. Several portions of the caves have been named distinctly like Dhyan Mandir (Meditation Hall), Patalaganga, Kotilingalu Chamber, Mandapam etc. Strange cave shadows and light from sodium lamps make this place look all the more fascinating.
A few tips/ pointers if you plan to visit:
- Cave timings are 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM and the entrance fees is Rs.50 for adults.
- It is super humid inside so I would recommend wearing breathable, comfortable clothing (preferably cotton).
- Carry water bottles.
- There is only one restaurant around which caters Andhra food only and is open till 6:00 PM, so carrying your own food or eating on the highway are your options.
- The only resort around is APTDC Haritha, so if you plan on staying make sure to get reservations done in advance.
You are sure to enjoy the drive and be amazed by the powerful force of nature that could pierce through mighty rocks, leaving behind these sublime caves. Nature sure can humble even the greatest of artists.