Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Belum Caves

Belum cave is located in the dry and arid zone of Ananthpur district, lot of cuddapah stones are mined in the nearby area, with a huge cement plant too located in the vicinity.

These caves were inhabited in the ancient times by Buddhists and Jain monks, many of the relics discovered during the restoration process is housed in the museum located at Ananthpur town. It may have been dwelling of cavemen dating back to 4500 B.C., the potteries and beads discovered by ASI points to this fact.

Logistics : The Belum cave is approximately 272 kms from Blore via NH 7 with a deviation from Ananthpur town via Tadpatri town. There is no proper accommodation in Belum cave except for dormitory facility. The ideal place to book one’s accommodation is either at Ananthpur town or at Tadipatri town. The next alternative if one is traveling from Hyderabad 320 is take up accommodation at Kurnool or alternatively at Yaganti.

Belum cave is considered to be longest caves on the plains with 3229 meters and 120 feet depth, and second longest cave in India. Some of the longest caves are located in Meghalaya, Mizoram and Manipur belt. Majority of them are still raw and unexplored to a large extent due to thick forest cover.

Discovery & Mapping of Belum caves was officially undertaken by Robert Bruce Foote in 1884 AD. It remained under total neglect with the mining lobby dumping ground for all the waste in and around the area. A German team headed by Herbert Daniel Gabauer in 1982 and 1983 conducted a detailed mapping of the cave along with local reddies Chalpatti, Ramswami, Padmanabiah and Chinnaih.

APTDC : The Andhra govt. finally decided to step in and develop Belum caves as a tourist destinations in 1999. With a massive budget of 7.5 crores work began in the right earnest to ensure cleaning, lighting, ventilating, blowers, railings etc were installed at all strategic points. Belum caves were thrown open to public in 2003. There is a canteen for tourist, bathroom facility near the entry point. The guides who are available with torch to guide the tourist into the caves. We were lucky to get a free guide deployed, one of course has to tip them for their efficiency in guiding quickly and ensure that we emerge out of the cave safely. There are helmets available which is generally not used by the tourists.

A huge Buddha statue has been installed close to the hillock near the enterance to signify the original inhabitants of the Belum caves. On the hillock BELUM is engraved like Hollywood insignia.

Sections of Belum Cave :

Dhyan Mandir or Meditation centre : It is located near the enterance. A huge hall almost looks like a bedroom with a pillow on the horizon. Most of the Buddhist monks and sages resided in this portion and meditated. All the artifacts found in this portion have been relocated to the museum.

1000 Hoods : The stalactite formation on the wall looks like a cobra hoods, just imagine number of cobras opening their hood to strike, a scary scenario, but it is just a figment of imagination of the locals to describe the scenario being displayed.

Banyan Tree Hall : This section resembles a huge banyan tree spreading its roots and branches all over.

Mandapam :
This huge stalactite hall looks like a marriage hall. Who knows marriages may take place in future……….for a movie Lol.

Musical chamber :
The stalactite pillar formation give out musical notes when stuck with a wooden cane or once knuckles.

Patalganga : A perennial stream of water flows into the Belum village located 2 km away from this spot.

Overall a visit to Belum cave can be quite a thrilling experience, it is generally opened between 9 am to 5 pm. One has to be prepared for visiting the cave with plenty of water, and take due care while passing through some narrow passage. In certain areas one is bound to feel clausterphobic, but not very scary since the lighting is quite sufficient. There are ventilators and blowers at strategic points, it is better to take a breather under them and proceed further. Since the best of the caves are located in the explored spots, Belum cave is the best experience one can have underground. The sheer adventure and aura to experience an underground exploration is fulfilled at Belum.

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