The Belum Caves is the largest and longest cave system open to the public on the Indian subcontinent, known for its speleothems, such as stalactite and stalagmite formations. The Belum Caves have long passages, galleries, spacious caverns with fresh water and siphons. This natural underground cave system was formed over the course of tens of thousands of years by the constant flow of underground water on limestone deposits forming stalactites and stalagmites, siphons, water galleries etc. Belum Caves are situated in vicinity of the Belum Village in Kolimigundla Mandal of Kurrnool district in Andhra Pradesh state, India. These are considered as the second largest caves in the country, after the Meghalaya Caves. The caves reach its deepest point (120 feet from entrance level) at the point known as Pataalaganga. Belum Caves derives its name from “Bilum” Sanskrit word for caves. In Telugu language, it is called Belum Guhalu. Belum Caves has a length of 3229 metres, making it the second largest natural caves in Indian Subcontinent.
Belum came to scientific attention in 1884 by a British surveyor, Robert Bruce Foote and from 1982 to 1984, a team of Germanspeleologists headed by H. Daniel Gebauer conducted a detailed exploration of the caves. Thereafter in 1988, the state governmentdeclared the site protected, and Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (APTDC) developed the caves as a tourist attraction in February 2002. Today, 3.5 km (2.2 mi) of the caves have been successfully explored, though only 1.5 km (0.9 mi) is accessible to visitors.There are 16 different pathways, including the main entrance and there are deposits of quartz in the caves. The caves consist of black limestone.
The caves have three cavities, amongst which the central cavity serves as the entrance to the caves. These have numerous chambers, fresh water galleries and passages. The natural artworks formed by stalagmite and stalactite can be seen in the caves. The musical chamber, simhadwaram, patalaganga, mandapam, meditation hall and banyan tree hall are the main sections of these caves. Patalganga is considered as the deepest section of the Belum Caves. The Government of India declared the Belum Caves as a ‘Unique Eco-Tourism Project.’ Belum is part of a larger complex of caves carved out of the limestone deposits in the Erramalai region. Other caves include the Billasurgam caves, Sanyasula caves, Yaganti caves, Yerrajari caves, and the Muchchatla Chintamanu caves.
As recorded in historical archives and from the evidence found in the caves, these caves were used by Jain as well as Buddhist monks at different periods of time. In fact, relics found in the cave point to human habitation in the caves up to 4500 years BC. The relics and artifacts found here have been classified and studied and are now exhibited in the Anantapur Museum. Belum caves are well known for different natural formations of stalactites and stalagmites in chamber-like sections formed by the flowing underground water.
The best time to visit Belum Caves is from August to December. Like many other caves, this Belum caves is also having some historical importance. The entrance fee charged Rs. 30 per person of Indian nationality whereas foreign tourists are charged Rs.300.00 per person.
How to Reach :
By Air : Nearest Airport to reach Belum Caves is Bangalore and Hyderabad are equidistant at 320 kms.
By Rail : The nearest railhead to reach Belum Caves is Tadipatri, 30 km (18.6 mi) 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 take a bus to the Belum Caves.
By Road : you can reach Belum caves via Kurnool by bus, car or taxi all are available.
Image copyright by common.wikimidia.org