The Belum Caves in Andhra Pradesh are the second longest such caves in the country and certainly the longest anywhere in the Indian plains. The beauty of the long descending Belum Caves is the stalactite and stalagmite formations in them. These caves, descending up to 150 feet below the surface were formed by the flow of underground water. The spacious interiors of the Belum Caves have been maintained well by the Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (APTDC) and lights have been fitted through the cracks and holes in the cave walls and ceiling. Air vents in the deep interiors of the caves allow visitors to explore them at leisure.
The Belum Caves are formed from black limestone and there are black quartz deposits in the cave that give it a beautiful aura and add to its charm. Open to visitors since 2002, the Belum Caves are a major attraction in Kurnool and visitors to Andhra Pradesh do not miss out on an opportunity to explore the 1.5 kilometers open to public. The remaining 2 kilometers are now being explored but are not open to visitors. The flora and fauna of the caves have been studied by biologists and continue to be a subject of research.
Location and Accessibility
The Belum Caves are located in the Kurnool District of the state of Andhra Pradesh.
• Tadipatri – 30 kilometers
• Banganapalli – 20 kilometers
• Anantapur – 85 kilometers
• Kurnool – 106 kilometers
Getting to Belu Caves
Bus: Like most other south Indian tourist attractions, Belum Caves are well connected by bus services. The nearest major bus station is at Tadipatri, 30 kilometers away. From Tadipatri, one may reach Belum Caves by bus or auto on the Banganapalli route.
Train: For those who prefer train travel, Tadipatri is also the nearest railway station. It is connected with all major rail junctions in Andhra Pradesh and Telengana.
Where to Stay
The only place to stay near the Belum Caves is a dormitory operated by the Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (APTDC) called the Punnami Hotel. This is a small hotel with only about 32 beds and a small restaurant/cafe and hence may be booked out during the tourist season. Nearby towns, Tadipatri and Banganpalli have a number of clean hotels, lodges, and other accommodation options. Anantapur and Kurnool are big cities in the region that have luxurious hotels.
Archeologists believe that the artifacts and relics found in the Belum Caves date back to about 4500 BC, testifying to the antiquity of the caves. The existence of these caves was discovered in 1884 by Robert Bruce Foote, a British surveyor and later between 1982 and 1984, a group of German speleologists headed by Herbert Daniel Gebaue conducted research and explorations here.
Till about 1988, the cave site was used as a waste dump ground. In 1999, the APTDC decided to take up the place and clean it up and set up stairways and amenities required for visitors to get there. It is now a popular tourist spot in the state.
The portion of the Belum Caves open to the public has been divided into a number of sections.
Main Entrance – The main entrance is a big hall like cave that leads to numerous other entrances.
Thousand Hoods – This cave has stalactite formations resembling the hoods of thousands of cobras. It is believed that this place resonates with the spiritual energy of monks who meditated in these caves.
Mandapam – The word Mandapam is used in Telugu language to denote a hall with many pillars. This cave too resembles a well-constructed hall and the stalactite formations here look like many pillars supporting the hall.
Dhyan Mandir – This cave called Dhyan Mandir or Meditation Hall is quite close to the entrance hall and was used by Buddhist monks of olden days to meditate. A number of Buddhist relics were found here.
Banyan Tree Hall – The Banyan Tree Hall is a huge cave hall with stalactite formations that look like the aerial roots hanging from the ceiling. The Banyan tree is symbolic of spiritual growth. This cave is a very beautiful one.
Saptasvarala Guha – Another amazing formation in which the stalactites resound with musical notes when a visitor raps his knuckles on them.
Patalaganga – This is one of the most fascinating parts of the Belum Caves. A perennial stream flows through this section though the origin and destination of this stream is not known.
Kotilingalu Chamber – The Kotilingalu Chamber has stalactite formation in the form of Shiv lingas. It also has one huge pillar formed due to stalactite and stalagmite joining together.
Pillidwaram — Pillidwaram or Lion Gate is a natural arch of stalactites formed in the shape of a lion’s head.
Ticket Cost –
• INR 50 per person adult (Indian nationals)
• INR 300 per person adult (Foreigners)
Timings – 10:00 am 5:00 pm (all days of the week including weekends)
Other information – Visitors will require about 3 to 4 hours to visit and explore the caves. Local guides are available at the Belum caves. While they are not APTDC certified, most of them are locals and quite well acquainted with the history and the caves.
Visitors are advised to wear loose tops and pants/trousers or salwar suits to help navigate the caves. The caves are narrow in many places and visitors with difficulty in bending may find it difficult to navigate them. Do carry water and towels and wear sturdy shoes. Heels and fancy footwear will make it difficult to explore the caves.
Food and Refreshments – Visitors are suggested to carry light snacks and water. The only restaurant in the vicinity of the caves is the APTDC Harita Hotel and the menu here is pretty limited.