An overview of the second-longest cave in India, Belum Caves in Andhra Pradesh

Belum caves entrance

Belum Caves in Andhra Pradesh is the Indian subcontinent’s second-longest public cave. With a length of 3,229 metres, the Belum Caves is the second biggest natural cave after the ones in the state of Meghalaya (10,593.8 ft). The speleothem formations in these caves, which comprise stalactite and stalagmite forms, are widely recognised.

This fascinating network of caverns is said to have originated when an underground river swept away the soft limestone from the surrounding hard stones. The river’s erosion has left profound scars on the cave walls.

If you look closely, you can detect quartz deposits within the caverns. Except for the gentle splash of water in certain areas, the silence within remained unbroken. Despite the fact that about 3.5 kilometres of the caverns have been successfully explored, only half of the site is currently exposed to tourists. As you go further, the light fades and is replaced by the faint glow of sodium vapour lamps.

The carefully placed illumination, as well as the well-lit and beautifully kept pathways, will astound you. You’ll be amazed by the strange forms illuminated in the golden colour generated by the lighting. Stalactites dangle like icicles from the cave ceilings, while stalagmites form a variety of forms on the flooring.

You’ll find yourself in a large hall with an artificial fountain a bit further down. You’ll experience a looming feeling of danger as you navigate your way across the rocky landscape, especially in a few tiny tunnels. Even the faintest murmurs reverberate a thousand times before vanishing in deep nooks and crannies.

Your guide will lead you via Simhadwaram, so named because of the natural arch-like construction of the stalactites that resembled the head of a lion, into a tiny corridor. It leads to Kotilingalu, so named because of the hundreds of stalagmite and stalactite formations resembling Shiva lingams that occupy the vast room.

Moving on, you will be drawn to a naturally formed structure known as the  ‘Greystone Recliner.’ It is possible that Buddhist monks pondered in the labyrinth of these caverns hundreds of years ago. The site where these treasures were discovered has been transformed into a Dhyana Mandir (Meditation Hall). Many Buddhist relics, as well as vessel fragments, have been discovered here and are currently housed in the archaeological museum in Ananthapur, Andhra Pradesh.

The Saptasvarala Guha, or chamber of seven notes, is the most exciting area of the caverns, where striking the stalactites with a wooden stick or your knuckles produces musical sounds. You will descend from here to Patalalinga, the deepest point of this subterranean city at 150 feet from the entrance, where people see a massive Shiva lingam made from a stalagmite.

A perennial subterranean creek with a natural cascade runs through the property. It appears at one spot and then inexplicably vanishes at another, deep into the ground. According to legend, it resurfaces in a well 1.5 km distant from Belum hamlet, which is the only supply of drinking water for the residents.

The Andhra Pradesh government proclaimed Belum Caves and the surrounding region protected in 1988, and all building within the cave system was prohibited. The caverns were later developed as a tourist attraction by the Government in 2002. Today, this is a litter-free zone, well-lit, and equipped with blowers to circulate oxygen throughout the caverns’ deeper regions.

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