Journey to the centre of the earth- Belum Caves

A sunny day and as I drive towards my destination, I keep imagining the place I am about to visit.  Known as the second largest cave in Indian subcontinent and the longest caves in plains of Indian Subcontinent I wonder how they will be? How huge they will be!! I reach my destination only to be surprised rather shocked. I stand in middle of plain agriculture land that stretches far out of my sight. Am I in the correct location? There are no mountains surrounding where are the caves supposed to be?? Where are the BELUM CAVES I came to see? I walk up to the ticket counter and I am shown the way that leads to the caves- a spiral staircase that leads into the earth. Thus begins my journey into the center of the earth!

Belum caves are located in Belum Village in Kolimigundla Mandal of Kurnool District, Andhra Pradesh, India. These caves are 3229 meters long making it the second largest natural caves in Indian Subcontinent. Today, 3.5 km of the cave has been successfully explored, though only 1.5 km is open to tourists. It’s advisable to accompany a guide as it’s not safe to venture out alone into the caves. They are many restricted and unexplored areas in the caves. A guide will help make way through the caves safely, explaining you the various natural formations and guide you through all the special sections inside the caves.

On the ground only two pits are visible and a third one little farther away. This pit cave entrance has staircase that takes you 20 meters down into the earth from where the caves become horizontal. After descending I witness a large hall called the Gebauer Hall named after Speleologist Mr. H. Daniel Gebauer. The cave has long passages, spacious chambers, fresh water galleries and stalagmite formations which the caves are famous for. As I make my way through large halls into meandering narrow passages I get a feeling of adventure and expedition. These passages symbolize ages of erosion that has taken place to lead to formation beautiful caves that gave shelter to many Buddhist and Jain monks for years. The deepest point in the cave known as Pataalagangais 120 feet from the entrance level. Other main sections of the caves are the Dhyan Mandir or the meditation hall, the Thousand Hoods which appear like a hood of cobra, the Mandapam where the stalactite and stalagmite formations give an appearance of a hall with pillars, the Banyan tree hallwhich has a huge pillar with stalactites hanging from the ceiling which gives a look of Banyan Tree with its aerial roots when seen from below. The Koti Lingalu contains stalactite formations which are akin to shiva lingams, the Saptasvarala Guha or Musical Chamber also called chamber of seven notes have stalactite formations that reproduce musical sounds when these are struck with a wooden stick or knuckles and the Maya Mandir. Apart from these beautiful archways and passages are worth witnessing.

These caves are located around 320 km from Hyderabad. The nearest towns where one can find hotels to stay are Tadipatri (30 km) and Banganpalli (20 km). It is also well connected by road and rail to Kurnool (106 km) and Ananthapur (85 km) where good hotels are available. Since there is no other restaurant or eating joint available nearby it advisable to carry drinking water when visiting caves since it gets very hot and humid at certain sections.

Belum caves are a perfect example of nature’s beauty. It is an embodiment of nature’s wonder. The natural formations are astounding. They stand as evidence to the changes that have taken place over thousands of years. People who admire nature and its worth are bound to like this place for sure.

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