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Cave Exploration at Belum

Belum Caves. Beautiful rock formation walls to passages ck. Belum Caves. Entrance to go 10 - 29 mts down to the underground cavesck.Approximately 300 kms away from Bangalore in the neighboring state of Andhra Pradesh lies – ‘Belum Caves’, it’s name derived by the Sanskrit word ‘ Bilum’ meaning – cave! These labyrinth network of caves formed by underground water flow is 150 feet at its deepest point and 3.3 kms in length. It’s existence goes back to 4500 BC, remnants found from here are housed in the close-by district headquaters Anantapur.
On flat agricultural land surrounded by picturesque Eramalai range of hills lie three well like cavities, with the central one being opened as a main entrance to the Belum Caves . . . leading down 40 steps to explore this wonderful labyrinth network of nature’s wonderful art. These dark caves are modestly lit by warm lights matching the atmosphere. Air vents & ducts are provided to make tourists a bit comfortable; however the temperature inside is 33 degree centigrade & humid.
Sedimentary, igneous metamorphic rocks in stalactites and stalagmite formations mixed with fresh water makes this place hot, humid & sweaty for human beings. These caves are basically formed of black lime stone, small amounts of Quartz too are found here. Currently only 1.5 kms of these caves are opened to tourists. Dampness is prevalent, stagnant, dripping and flowing water is found here. The formations are beautiful and feast to one’s eyes! All formations are natural – walls, ceilings, floor etc. The height of these caves vary from 200 feet to 4 feet (mind your head here). One can find huge hall like spaces, unpillared – which were used for meditation & other such activities. These caves were occupied by Buddhist and Jain ascetics. There’s a huge gigantic statue of Gautam Buddha in the foreground of a small hillock at the entrance garden gates of this arena.
The caves are well lit and nobody is allowed to enter these caves all by themselves alone. A number of Travel Guides take people in batches. Bats occupy certain areas and those smaller areas are baricaded & the guides caution you. Travel Guides accompany you throughout your exploration with torches, eventhough the caves are well-lit. Currently there’s a plan to use ‘solar power’ shortly for light & air – that’s been pumped in for the benefit of tourists. Travel Guide service is free – but they except ‘tips’. You can find an English, Hindi & an occasional Kannada speaking guide. Most of the language of conversation is Telugu here. An entrance fee of Rs.50/- is collected. Tourists are allowed into the Belum Caves from 10 am to 5:30 pm. It takes about one & a half to two hours to explore the caves. Being over here last by 3:30 pm is recommended. Photography is encouraged. A local photography station with immediate prints is available for the tourist crowd.
These wonderful caves housed Buddhist & Jain monks apart from Hindu sages through the ages.
Going back a little in time 1998 – these caves were used for dumping garbage! The efforts of local people under the leadership of local police SP B Chalapathi Reddy & other like minded people of the area – these caves were cleared & cleaned up. The Andhra Pradesh government supported this movement financially too and handed it to the Tourism department for further development. Belum caves were opened for tourists in 28thJune 2002.
In 2003, Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (APTDC) won the ‘ National Tourism Award for Belum Caves from Ministry of Tourism & Culture – Govt. of India. Again, Belum Caves won the ‘Best Destination Award’ at the ‘Tourism & Travel Fair’ held at Bangalore in 2002. Belum Caves are the second largest natural caves in the sub-continent, the largest one is also found in India at Meghalaya called ‘Krem Um Lawan’ which is 21.5 kms.
Belum Caves were first discovered by a British Surveyor in 1884 called, Robert Bruce Foote. For another century nothing happened. Finally between 1982-84, a German Speleologist named H.Daniel Gabauer along with an Indian team conducted a detailed exploration of these caves. In 1998 the Andhra Pradesh government stepped in with full support and handed over the development to the tourism department (APTDC). 1.5 kms of these 3.3 kms were opened to public on 28th June 2002. A memorial plaque commemorating the names of people who have helped this project is carved in stone and displayed at the entrance of the caves including the discoverer & mapper. A bust of SP B Chalapathi Reddy is also promptly displayed.
To reach Belum Cave from Bangalore, the toll paying roads are beautiful. Go past the BIAL airport road sticking to the left reaching Chickballapur proceed further. Traversing to the 100 kms approximately, one can turn left and include ‘Lepakshi’ another tourist destination in Andhra Pradesh, this deviation will take you two hours extra time. Continuing forward go past Ananthpur. After Anantpur you get on to the State Highway to reach a place called Tadapatri. (Here roads are confusing ask for Belum Guha or Caves – Tadapatri). Past Tadapatri are Belum caves which is approximately 35 kms. Reach Belum village – Kolimigundla mandal – Kurnool district. All straight roads… no deviations.
There’s a basic Andhra Pradesh Tourism staying facility at Belum Caves or one can head straight to Kurnool or take a deviation to Gandikota and stay at Andhra Pradesh Tourism guest house, which is better. Gandikota is another picturesque place, which I shall write next week. Want to play safe, head to Anantpur, the district head quarters. The food & facilities are basic. Carry snacks, drinks, eats to make your journey & stay pleasant. Please note all accommodations at Andhra Pradesh Guest houses – Harita should be made on-line. They refuse walk-ins.
Belum Caves Andhra Pradesh Tourism guest – house contact nos are – Harita is – 09705389600. Group Bookings call – Asst. Manager (Marketing) on 09010688022. The Central Reservation Office is located at Kurnool and the listed phone no is 08158 – 250922.
These destinations are good for a weekend one if one is willing to traverse about 700 -800 kms covering all 4 places mentioned. Weekends are packed here. Most tourists are from Bangalore or Hubert.
These empty picturesque lonely roads are bikers paradise. These places are well connected by local buses. The railway station is Tadapatri. The landscapes are never ending dotted with hills, fields, waterbodies. Amazing natural landscapes – wonderful sunrises & sunsets. Amazing nature lover’s & photographers paradise!

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