The first time I heard about Belum cave was from our vendor Zakheer, owner of a metal fabrication and machining unit way back in Y2K. We always spoke Kannada; he had told "Belum cave antha kelidira Saar? Anatapur hattra ide. guhe thumba doddadide, onduvare kilometer walage hogbek Saar." Here's the translation "have you heard of Belum cave? its near Anatapur. its a very big cave, its one and half kilometers deep." I couldn't believe his description but the curiosity to visit the cave had ignited. Though I planned couple times mid 2000, a trip never took off. It remained on my wish list. The day finally came.. Dec 23, 2015. My friend Gurudutt and I were travelling from Hyderabad to Bangalore. This was a good opportunity. I planned to visit 2 places on that day Alampur and Belum. We could spend the night at Gooty. The following day's plan was to see Ashokan edict at Yerragudi and resume our journey to Bangalore.
December 23, 2015
We left Hyderbad by 5-30 am, reached Alampur by 8-30 AM, spent 1 hr 45 min seeing Chalukyan temples and 30 minutes for breakfast, by 10-45 we were heading towards Kurnool. Getting our Kurnool took some time :( the town has grown! We took Nandyal road, about 40 kms from Kurnool was Banaganapalli cross where we turned right. Having driven on 6 or 4 lane roads, now I had to drive on a two lane road. The last time I drove this stretch was late 1990s. The terrain is interesting; roads pass through low hills and valleys. We drove through Banaganapalli and Owk. 15 kms from Owk is Belum cave entrance. It was 2 PM. The cave is open to public between 10 am and 5-30 pm. Entry fee for an adult is INR 50. Goverment appointed guides are available and they do not charge.
Belum cave is basically a natural underground cave, its entrance are a pair of 20' diameter holes in a rockbed. Through one of the holes descends a concrete stairway into a circular chamber which is used as a assembly point for groups. This is the last point where natural light is seen, beyond this point its artificial lighting.
Our guide Mr.Reddy gave a brief introduction of Belum cave:
Belum cave of Belum village in Kolimigundla mandal of Kurnool district is millions of years old. In the passages of this cave flowed an underground river. In this cave pottery dating back to 4500 BCE were found which indicates the cave was inhabited by humans. It is also believed that Buddhist and Jain monks lived in these caves. The modern day existence of Belum cave was explored, surveyed and recorded in 1884 by H Bruce Foote. The cave was forgotten for a century. The latest exploration was done between 1982 and 1984 by a German speleologist Herbert Daniel Gebauer. His team explored and mapped the caves to an extent of 3 kilometers. In 1988 AP government declared Belum cave as a protected area and in 1999 APTDC took over for making it tourist friendly. A retired ASP M Narayana Reddy and few other local people had strived years to get Belum protected and developed. Belum cave is known for its stalactite and stalagmite formations. Belum cave's have long passages and spacious chambers makes it the second longest cave in the Indian subcontinent. Its deepest point known as Pataalaganga is at 150 feet from ground level.
Some noteworthy spots:
Dhyan Mandir: this chamber s said to be used by Buddhist monks to meditate. One of the rocks here resembles a bed with a pillow
Kotilingalu Guha: from this chamber's ceiling hang stalactite formations resembling thousands of Shiva Lingas
Mandapam: this chamber has magnificent stalactites on its sides creating a look of a pillared hall
Pillidwaram: pillidwaram means cat's entrance; an arch of stalactites in the shape of a lion’s head
Saptasvarala Guha: Saptasvara means the seven notes of music. Stalactite formations when struck produce musical sounds
Banyan tree: hundreds of stalagmite have taken the form of a tree with a large trunk having a wide canopy with aerial roots resembling a Banyan tree
Thousand Hoods: a group of stalactites shaped like Cobra's hood.
Stalactite and Stalagmite pillar: this is said to be a rare formation. a pair of perfectly aligned stalactite and stalagmite of equal diameter and hieight have joined to form a pillar
Patalaganga: said to be the deepest point of this cave at 150 feet. here a perennial stream disappears into the ground.
The other hole is directly above the entrance hall. A wall surrounds the pair of holes to keep people from trying any adventures.
This looks like a beasts mouth, the stalactite formations looks like fangs bearing down from the upper jaw.
This is first half of Belum cave tour. Do check out the following post - Belum Cave - part 2.