Belum caves – where mystery meets tranquility
The Belum caves, one of the longest caves on the plains of India, are located approximately 275 Kms from Bangalore, in the Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh.
With total length of approximately 3,300 meters, the caves have long passages, spacious chambers, fresh water galleries and siphons. The constant flow of underground water helped forming caves that have their deepest point at 150 feet.
Belum, which is said to be derived from the Sanskrit word bilum, which means hole, were formed by the action of water flowing on limestone deposits over millions of years, forming stalactites, stalagmites, siphons, sink holes, and water galleries.
The first official records that mention them are from 1884, by Robert Bruce Foote, a British geologist and archaeologist who conducted surveys for the Geological Survey of India. In the 1980s, Indian officials worked with a German expedition to explore and map the caves. The remnants found in the caves dated back around 4500 BC and showed that the caves had been inhabited by ancient Buddhist and Jain monks.
The Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation took over the caves for maintenance in 1999 and cleared the mud and debris inside, built pathways, provided illumination and sank ventilation shafts to make the caves accessible to the public.
Convoluted formations created by nature add extensively to the appeal of the caves. The breath-taking natural sculptures include the Simhadwaram (an arch-like formation in which the stalactites appear like the head of a lion), Kotilingalu Chamber (with thousands of stalactite formations akin to lingams), Voodalamari (a banyan tree like stalactite formation) and Thousand Hoods (stalactite formations shaped like the hoods of thousands of cobras).
An interesting formation at the Dhyana Mandir (meditation hall) looks like a bed with pillow and must have given many a monk a naturally formed stone recliner. The local legend has it that in ancient times the caves were home to many sages who used the gray stone recliner as a bed.
We can find some unique Buddhist and Jain remnants at the caves. The Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (APTDC) has built a 40-foot Buddha near the cave, which depicts the role of Buddhist m monks in the history of these caves.
The nearest railway station to reach Belum Caves is Tadipatri in Ananthpur Dist of Andhra Pradesh, which is just 30 kms away. There are daily trains from Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Tirupati, Kanyakumari, Thiruvananthapuram, Coimbatore and Goa, which halt at Tadipatri railway station. From Tadipatri, one can catch a bus to Belum Caves. Those who love tranquility and look for peace of mind can opt for Belum caves, without hesitation.