The Belum Caves have got their name from the Sanskrit word “Bilum” which means hole. In Telugu these caves are called Belum Guhalu or Belum caves. Located in Kurnool district these caves are the second largest in India after the Meghalaya caves and are created naturally by the action of flowing water on limestone deposits forming stalactites and stalagmites, siphons, water galleries etc. It is part of a larger complex of caves carved out of the limestone deposits in the Erramalai region. Other caves include Billasurgam caves, Sanyasula caves, Yaganti caves, Yerrajari caves, and Muchchatla Chintamanu caves
Caves go about 3.5kms in length but only 1.5-2km portion is opened to tourist and is developed. There are many places inside where the cave is there but cannot go inside due to lack of light/air. The depth of the caves reaches to 150 ft below ground level
Throughout the caves, artificial lighting is done and ducts are provided for fresh air.
The caves appear like three pits in the ground at a depth of about 20 metres from the ground level. There are two pits adjacent to each other and one at a distance. The entrance to the caves is from the pit which was much smaller and has been made larger now. There is a metal stairway now to climb down and up from the pit.
The entrance hall is called Gebauer Hall so called after the head of the German team , H. Daniel Gebauer whose expedition to explore and map the caves in 1982-1983
Main Sections of Belum Caves
1. Meditation Hall inside Belum Caves
Pillidwaram means cats gate. It is a natural arch of stalactites formed in the shape of a lion’s head
3. Kotilingalu Chamber
This section contains stalactite formations which are akin to shiva lingams. This section has thousands of such stalactite giving it a surrealistic look. It has one huge pillar formed due to stalactite and stalagmite joining together.
It is a small perennial stream which disappears into the depths of the earth. This stream flows from the southeast to northwest. It disappears and is believed to be heading towards a well at the Belum village, located 2 km away from the caves.
5. Saptasvarala Guha or Musical Chamber
Saptasvarala Guha means chamber of seven notes. The stalactite formations in this chamber reproduce musical sounds when these are struck with a wooden stick or knuckles. This section was opened to the public in 2006.
6. Banyan Tree formation inside Belum Caves
7. Dhyan Mandir or Meditation Hall
This section is near to the entrance. An interesting formation at Meditation hall looks like a bed with pillow to recline. The local legend has it that in ancient times many sages used to live here. This section was used by Buddhist Monks.
8. Thousand Hoods
This section has amazing stalactite formations shaped like hood of Cobra. The stalactite formations on the ceiling looks as if thousands of cobras have opened their hoods.
9. Banyan Tree Hall
This section has a huge pillar with stalactites hanging from the ceiling. This gives a look of Banyan Tree with its aerial roots when seen from below. The locals call it “Voodalamari” since it looks like a Banyan Tree with its aerial roots hanging from the branches.
This is a huge area inside the cave with magnificent stalactite structures on the sides giving it a look of a hall with pillars.
The Belum Caves are prehistoric and have been inhabited by humans at different times in the history of these natural caves. Even though the caves were known to the locals, the first records of Caves were mentioned in expedition report of Robert Bruce Foote, in 1884. Thereafter, Belum Caves remained unnoticed for almost a century till a German team headed by Herbert Daniel Gebauer conducted detailed exploration of the caves in 1982 and 1983. The German expedition was assisted by the locals.
Archaeological survey of India (ASI) also found remnants of vessels, etc. of pre-Buddhist era and has dated the remnants of vessels found in the caves to 4500 BC.Many of these artifacts found in the caves are exhibited in Anantapur Museum, which is 87 Kms from Belum Caves.
The tourists are charged an amount of Rs.50.00 for entrance. Foreign Tourists are charged Rs.300.00 per person for entrance.
The nearest towns are Kurnool which is 106 km and Anantapur which is 85 kms away. Kurnool and Anantapur can be reached easily by road or railway. The nearest railway station is at Nandyal which is 60 Kms from Belum Caves and falls on the Guntur Bangalore line of South Central Railway.