The minuscule fame of these caves is not justified by the ethereal beauty they possess. The dark subterranean cavities with a labyrinth of passages make it difficult for photographers to capture the eccentric beauty of caves. But on the bright side, these caves are among the few landscapes that remain unscathed by human presence.
The thought of going inside a cave and that too a kilometre-and-a-half-long one is exciting and spooky at the same time. Situated in the state of Andhra Pradesh (India), Belum Caves, apparently is the second largest cave in the Indian subcontinent. Unlike the usual expectation that caves are narrow channels formed inside a mountain, Belum Caves exist entirely below plains. Voluminous chambers right at the entry of the cave are inviting in nature, only to be adorned with the sound of clashing water from an artificial fountain and the orange-ish brown hue from the periodically placed halogen lights.
When inside the cave, you tend to stop at regular intervals to admire the beauty of natural rock formations never-before witnessed by the eyes. Shades of brown and abstract shapes jump at you with breath-taking immediacy. The deeper you go, the narrower the passage gets – to the extent that there is a sign board saying “Entry possible only for waist size below 32″………kidding! But it does get narrow.
Belum Caves was formed because of a long and natural process when, millions of years ago, water from Chitravati River started eroding the limestone deposits in the area. Though the cave has long been there, but it was only two decades ago that Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (APTDC) set about injecting life in this cave and opened it for public in 2003.
In one segment of the cave, a shallow puddle of water reflects the stalagmite formations and lighting on the ceiling, which leaves you in utter awe. It is moments like these that make me want to take up photography. The cave also has its own mini waterfall (Pataal Ganga) which, at a distance of 150 feet from the entrance, is its deepest point. It is only after you are deep inside that you feel the rhythmic squeaks of bats who have made their abode in the cave. But worry not, their sheer numbers come nowhere close to the humongous colony of bats that reside beneath Wayne Manor. Much surprising was the presence of a round staircase. “Really, the cave also has a first floor?”, we said to ourselves. The waist size warning should definitely be made applicable here.
I was accompanied by 2 of my friends during my visit to the cave. There was a dark passage inside which practically lead to an unexplored area of the cave. It was clear that tourists weren’t supposed to take this route but with the motivating wisdom of Robert Frost kicked in and we set forth on the road less travellded by. It was pitch dark, to the tune that I could barely see the tip of my hands which were stretched forward to avoid hitting the walls. Our slow trot got even slower by the regular squeals from bats that would fly right over our heads. I was leading and was constantly being nudged by my friends from behind. I would hesitantly extend my legs in apprehension to feel the ground just to avoid hitting anything unwanted. I absolutely didn’t want to be confronted by a snake. We had come way too far inside. No light whatsoever. At this point, I wanted to check my heart beat. And then it happened. “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa……………………” I fell inside a ditch. Now my friends needn’t ask “Kya hai aage…………..” (kidding, 90% humour!). There was no ditch but we did go inside the dark passageway but weren’t brave enough to explore it further.
How to reach Belum Caves?
Bangalore – 325 km
Hyderabad – 330 km
Chennai – 380 km
From Chennai, there are lot of overnight busses towards Kurnool. Get off at Nandyal (70 km from Belum Caves) and take the services of Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC) which have busses running towards the cave. Busses leave every 0.5 – 1 hour. Mumbai Mail (Indian Railways, train no. – 11028) also departs from Chennai. Get off at Tadipatri and take a local state bus for Belum Caves.
If coming from Hyderabad, one can first reach Kurnool and then take an APSRTC bus towards Belum Caves.
From Bangalore, Anantpur can be the first stop and APSRTC busses are available from there.
There isn’t much to see or do in Belum except for the cave. Although, the area around the cave is full of black stone and there are lot of active mining sites. Banaganapalli (35 km away) is a nearby town where one can find decent restaurants to have meals.
One can also visit Oravakallu Rock Gardens which is about 85 km from Belum Caves.
This article was featured on Holidify Blog.