The legendary Belum Caves is the perfect destination if you are planning a weekend vacay from Bengaluru. The caves are around 300km away from the capital city of Karnataka.
The caves are natural formations that were created by the action of rivers flowing through the area for thousands of years. The Belum caves are the second-largest underground cave, after the 22km-long Krem Liat Prah in Meghalaya, in India that had been throw open to tourists.
One could never imagine that a wonder world is situated at a depth of 150ft after seeing the arid plains of Belum village. The authorities have put in place a park to keep the children entertained. For many years, the cave was a dumping yard for the local people and later the Andhra Pradesh Government took the initiative to clear the cave of garbage.
The names of people, who stood like a rock in making Belum Caves, after realizing their historical importance, a tourist destination, are displayed here. The Andhra Pradesh Government allowed tourists to enter the iconic network of caves from 2002.
The naturally-formed caves are tens of thousands of years old and the history has it that Jain and Buddhist monks used to stay in this cave system. The remnants of clay vessels recovered from these caves date back to 4500 BC and the artefacts are housed at the archaeological museum in Anantpur.
Though the caves are 3.5km long, the visitors are allowed only up to 1.5km as the availability of oxygen is less after that point. The deepest point of this subterranean wonder is at 150ft and that could be reached after walking for close to 2km from the entrance of the cave.
The cave interiors are a feast for the eyes and the shutterbugs will have a field day once they are inside this mystical world. After walking for a while after entering the cave through the expansive entrance, darkness will start enveloping you. It won’t be pitch dark as there will be adequate light inside the cave. Artificial lights are fixed at various points and man-made steps are also in place for the convenience of the visitors. Blowers will provide oxygen in the deepest parts of the caves and exhaust fans are also fixed in certain spots of this magnificent structure embedded deep in the ground.
It could be hard to believe that the caves were formed as a result of river water flowing through the area. But the deep marks on the walls of the caves point to the fact that there was mud erosion by the flow of water for ages. Pitch darkness will start enveloping you as you go deep into the caves.
It was British archaeologist and geologist Robert Bruce Foote who first realized the historical importance of the Belum Caves in 1884 and many invaluable antiques and remains of a bygone era were excavated from the network of caves. But later the historic caves were neglected for close to a century.
German speleologist Herbert Daniel Gebauer mapped the caves in detail in 1982-83 and the magical world was thrown open to the tourists in 2002.
When to visit
The best time to visit the Belum Caves is from August to November. It is better not to visit during summer season as the caves will sizzle under searing heat. The lion head-shaped cave entrance, limestone-formed Shivling and the spots where Buddhist monks meditated can give you a surreal experience inside the caves. Another attraction is ‘Patalganga’, a subterranean stream that has crystal clear water. ‘Patalaganga’, which vanishes after flowing for a while in the caves, it is said, flows into a well in Belum village.
One can enter the age-old underground cave system, which is located near Belum village in Nandyal district in Andhra Pradesh, from 10am and the entry fee for an adult and a child is Rs 65 and Rs 45 respectively.