“Belum Caves : The second largest cave in Indian subcontinent and the longest caves in plains of Indian Subcontinent, known for its stalactite and stalagmite formations.”
Quoted from http://www.belumcaves.com/, this line was enough of a booster for me to plan a trip to the place.
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 to you, it is advisable to take the shorter route through Kurnool.
- But if you are more in the mood for a beautiful drive, I would suggest you make your way through Srisailam.
The caves are underground stretching for upto 3 kms but only 1.5kms 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 vapour 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 are a surreal experience.
As you enter in the campus, the first thing you see is a huge Buddha statue on a lotus flower, 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 in Museum at Ananthapur.
The entrance to the caves is beautiful. You descend a small, steep staircase and reach an open space with benches around.
From there you head on to the first prominent formation of stalactites (the caves are formations of limestone, stalagtites & stalagmites, hanging from the ceiling or growing upwards from the floor). It houses long passages, spacious chambers & fresh water galleries. Several portions of the caves have been named distinctly for ease like Dhyan Mandir (Meditation Hall), Patalaganga, Kotilingalu Chamber, Mandapam etc.
Strange cave shadows and light highlights make this place look all the more fascinating.
A few tips/ pointers if you plan to visit the place:
- The cave timings are 10-5PM and the entrance fees is Rs.50 for adults. No camera fees.
- It is super humid inside so I would recommend wearing breathable, comfortable clothing (preferrably cotton).
- Make sure to take water bottles inside.
- There is only one restaurant which caters to Andhra food only and is closed by 6PM, so carrying your own food or eating on the highway were our options.
- The only Resort around is APTDC Haritha, so if you plan on staying make sure to do reservations in advance.
With good lights, signs & security; it is becoming a popular tourist spot. You are sure to be left 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.
(P.C. Pranay Sharma)