Belum Caves is the largest and longest cave system which is open to the public on the Indian subcontinent. The caves are located near Belum village in Kolimigundla Mandal of Kurnool District in the state of Andhra Pradesh. This cave is also known for its speleothems, such as stalactite and stalagmite formations. The cave includes long passages, galleries, spacious caverns with fresh water and siphons. It is believed that the formation of this cave was due to the constant flow of underground water over the course of tens of thousands of years. The cave system reaches its deepest point, Pataalanganga, which is 46 m deep from entry level. The total length of Belum caves system is 3,229 m which makes this cave second largest natural cave located at the Indian subcontinent.
As the cave was excavated, it was found that the caves include Buddhists arts and relics which are now housed in Museum at Ananthapur. Archaeological survey of India also found remnants of vessels of the pre-Buddhism era and these remnants are believed to be from 4500 years BCE. Therefore, the site is historically important.
Features of Belum Caves
Pillidwaram: Literally, pillidwaram means cat’s gate. The gate is in the shape of a lion’s head which is formed naturally.
Kotilingalu Chamber: This chamber in the Belum caves have numerous stalactite formations. These formations are similar to the Shiva lingams. Since there are numerous stalactite formations, it provides a surrealistic look. Among the formations, there is one huge pillar formed due to stalactite and stalagmite joining together.
Patalaganga: Patalaganga is a small perennial stream located in the Belum cave. This stream flows from the southeast to northwest and disappears into the depths of the earth. The local people residing around that locality believes that the stream is headed towards a well at the Belum village. The village is located 2 km away from the Belum Cave.
Saptasvarala cave or Musical Chamber: Saptasvarala cave is the chamber of seven notes. The natural stalactite formations in this chamber help to produce the musical sounds when these are struck with a wooden stick or knuckles. This chamber was opened to the public in 2006.
Dhyan Mandir or Meditation Hall: The meditation hall is near to the entrance of this cave. The meditation hall is equipped with a natural formation which looks like a bed with a pillow to recline. There is a general belief that this chamber was used by Buddhist Monks for meditation purposes. While excavating, this meditation hall was full of Buddhist arts and relics. With the purpose of preservation, these relics were transferred to the museum at Ananthapur.
Thousand Hoods: This part of Belum Cave has amazing stalactite formations on the ceiling. The shape of this formation looks like the cobra has opened its hood. There are numerous formations on the ceiling which gives beautiful looks.
Banyan Tree Hall: This part of the Belum Cave has a huge pillar with stalactites hanging from the ceiling. This stalactites formation looks like a Banyan Tree with its aerial roots when one sees from below. The structure is popularly known as Voodalamari among local people since it looks like a Banyan Tree with its aerial roots, hanging from the branches.
Mandapam: Mandapam is the huge area inside the cave. This area is equipped with magnificent stalactite structures on either side. Therefore it resembles the pillar supporting the ceiling.
Buddha statue: Another remarkable feature of Belum Cave is the Buddha statue on a hillock near the caves. The height of this statue is 40 ft which is built on the lotus flowers. The statue of Buddha is seated above the lotus flower with Dhyani mudra by the left hand and Abhaya mudra by the right hand.