Manjummel Boys and Guna Caves: Head to Belum Caves to experience similar adventures

The Belum caves are more than a thousand years old and have many fresh-water galleries, narrow corridors and spacious chambers. Photo: iStock/ePhotocorp

Malayalam survival thriller Manjummel Boys, which showcases a real-life story of a handful of friends rescuing their pal from a 900ft ditch in Guna Caves, has become a rage in Tamil Nadu too. The Guna Caves, which was known as Devil’s Kitchen, got its name after it was featured in the movie ‘Guna’ starring Kamal Haasan. The infamous cave and the Guna song ‘Kanmani Anbodu’ became trending again since the release of Manjummel Boys. Lots of people are now travelling to Kodaikanal to visit the iconic Guna caves. However, visitors are banned from entering the cave and can only see it from afar.

In case you wish to visit a cave and experience a similar adventure, then head straight to the splendid Belum caves in Andhra Pradesh. The Belum Caves, located in Nandyala district in the Rayalaseema region, is the second largest cave system in the Indian subcontinent. Earlier, this cave was in Kurnool district. Known as Belum Guhalu in the regional dialect, this cave system is around 3229 meters (10,593.8 feet) long. Meanwhile, the Krem Liat Prah in Meghalaya is the largest cave system in the country. These caves are known for their stalactite and stalagmite mineral formations or mineral deposits from flowing water.

Underground labyrinths
The Belum caves are more than a thousand years old and have many fresh-water galleries, narrow corridors and spacious chambers. Huge tanks filled with clean water too could be seen here. The entrance area which is formed by the underground water flow is called the ‘Pathala Ganaga’. Interestingly, the entrance area is 46 meters deep and is the deepest part of the cave. The word Belum derives its name from the Sanskrit word ‘Bilum’ which means underground passages. A remarkable Buddha statue in white is what welcomes you in the entrance area.

Meditation hall of Buddhist – Jain monks
It is said that Buddhist and Jain monks used to meditate in these caves, centuries ago. The caves attained historical significance after evidence of Buddhist and Jain remnants were discovered in them. These remnants were later moved to the Anantapur Museum. Interestingly, vessels and other artefacts that were 4500 years older than the Buddhist era were unearthed from the Belum Caves.

The Belum Caves were first mentioned in the excavation reports of noted British geologist and archaeologists Robert Bruce Foote. Even though these reports were published in 1884, the caves remained unexplored for several years. In 1982 – 83, a German excavation team began surveying the cave. They did a detailed excavation of the cave revealing many interesting and mysterious details about it.

Used as a dumping yard
The cave system is situated in the Belum village near Kolimigundala in Nandyala district in Andhra Pradesh. Some areas inside the cave are known as Simhadwaram, Kodilingalu, Mandapam and Pathala Ganga. In the olden days, the caves were used by the villagers as a dumping ground. Later, the Andhra Pradesh government along with the villagers and policemen cleaned the caves and turned it into a tourism spot. In 1988, The Andhra Pradesh government declared the Belum Caves as a protected area. Meanwhile, in 1999, the tourism department began developmental activities in the cave and it was opened for the public by 2002. The entrance fee for Indian citizens is Rs 65 and Rs 300 for foreigners.

Thadipatri which is around thirty kilometers away is the nearest railway station. Bus services are available outside the railway station that would take you up to the caves. Meanwhile, the Tirupathi Airport which is 250 kilometers away from the Belum village is the nearest airport.

The visitors need to keep a few things in mind before entering the cave. Food or drinking water isn’t available in the vicinity of the cave. So, you need to carry them. Even though there are a few shops close by, they may not be open at all the time. There aren’t any emergency exits inside the cave; so, it is better to return to the entrance area in case you feel uneasy. Mobile networks are either feeble or unavailable inside the cave. You might feel suffocated or experience shortness of breath as you go deeper into the cave. So, those who suffer from respiratory illnesses like asthma should take all the precautions before entering the caves. 

The comments posted here/below/in the given space are not on behalf of Onmanorama. The person posting the comment will be in sole ownership of its responsibility. According to the central government's IT rules, obscene or offensive statement made against a person, religion, community or nation is a punishable offense, and legal action would be taken against people who indulge in such activities.