Kurnool, called "The Gateway of Rayalaseema" is an epicenter to some significant Historical and Natural sites. Kurnool situated on the bank of the river Tungabhadra, was a Historical Transit City, ruled by Cholas and kakatiya kings. Later, it was converted into a princely state under Mughal rule. It was also the capital of Andhra Pradesh State during 1 October 1953 to 31 October 1956.
Belum Caves & Gandikota (Grand Canyon of India) has been on my travel list for a while, and I finally got the chance to visit them during the 75th Independence day long weekend. This trip was my least planned (I was expected to travel to Raipur over the long weekend, but, due to non-availability of tickets, I had to drop out). The travel plan was layed out during the Saturday Brunch Period between me and my friend. We started to kurnool @3PM with the intent to visit Belum Caves, Gandhikota and Alampur temples.
We took ORR road from Gachabowli and took Bangalore Highway road passing via shadnagar and Jadcherla. The highway is pretty well layed out with plenty of dhabba's along the roadway to replenish. We crossed Krishna river @Rangapur and entered Kurnool City. By the time we reached Kurnool it was around 7PM. So, we decided to halt at Kurnool and start our journey in the morning.
Advice: Start early in morning, to visit oravakal and other nearby places in Kurnool on Day1. And, Pre-Book your accommodation (OYO) for competitive (affordable) stay.
After a quick breakfast at a Food Truck on National highway 18 (Ongole - Nandhyal Highway), we headed to Orvakal Rock Museum for our 1st stop over point. It is situated on NH18 heading towards Nandyal at ~20 Kms from Kurnool. The Orvakal Rock Garden is a 1000 acre park with rock formations surrounded by water pools. At the top, we have metal sculptures made from recycled iron machinery parts. The view from top facing the water pools is pretty awesome. The places also offers accommodation facility, which would be a good option for the night stay. The rock garden has featured in some notable movies like Bahubali !!!
From Orvakal garden, we started to Bellum Caves via NH18 (heading towards nadhyal). On the highway to Nandyal, we need to take a right turn after crossing Saibaba temple (on opposite side, we have Rajasthan Dhabba and an Ayurvedic clinic) to head towards Bethamcherla and Banganpalle. From Banganpalle, we took the road heading towards Tadipatri to reach Bellum Caves (near Owk). The roads are good enough to drive at around 40-50Kms per hour.
As soon as we enter the Bellum Caves area, A giant Buddha Statue greats us. The entry pass for bellum caves is 50Rs. The underground Belum Caves has a total length of 3.5 Kms, with around 1.5 km open to tourists. It is the second largest natural caves in Indian Subcontinent (after Krem Liat Prah caves in Meghalaya). In ancient times, Belum Caves were occupied by Jains and Buddhists monks for mediation. As soon as, we take the steps to reach the underground caves, we are greeted with a mediation hall. Post which we have a long passage heading towards other major attraction like Patalaganga, Saptasvarala Guha, Kotilingalu Chamber. The climate inside the caves is pretty hot and humid (maybe due to limestone content), and the saving graces are the Air ducts fitted by APTDC at key points. It takes around an hour to navigate through the caves. And, it leaves one with a mesmerizing experience. By the time we came out of Bellum caves it was around 2PM. So, without major halt we headed towards Gandhikota, India's Grand Canyon.
We took the road heading to Jammalamadugu and then crossed river Penna to reach Gandhikota in around 3 Hours. The place speaks volume about its past glory, and if well maintained can be an awesome tourist places (similar to that, inline with Hampi !!!!). Among the ruins, the places which are maintained and are open for visitors are Fort Entrance wall, Jail, Jama Masjid, Ranganatha Swamy Temple, Granary and the Awesome Gandhikota (Penne River) Valley (listed in the order as we see the places). The best among these, is the "Gandhikota River Valley", which presents an awesome view of the river valley and its surrounding. On the left side, we can view the fort walls, built as protection from exterior attack.
We left Gandhikota and started towards banganpalle via Jammalamadugu. At Banganpalle, we visited Pothuluru Veerabrahmendra Swamy's temple. Pothuluru Veerabrahmendra wrote 'Kaala Gyanam' at Banganpalle. Kala Gyanam is a 5 Book collections, which comprises of poems speaking about future. Only two of his books are circulated, and the rest 3 are kept in the temple, underneath the Neem tree. Veer Brahman Swamy's complete history is depicted in pictorial form in the temple (with dialogues in Telugu). After visiting the shrine, we headed towards Yaganti, which is around 20 Kms from Bangapalle. As we reach Yaganti Village, we can see Banaganapalli Nawab Bungalow on the right, although now it is uninhabited, but, it offers a great view. It is shown in the Telugu Movie 'Arundhati'. We reached Yaganti at around 7PM. Had a quick Darshan of the Lord shiva and the famous (growing) Nandhi. Post which, we had our night tiffins in the vicinity of temple and took halt (night stay) at the Satrav's nearby. The satrav's are maintained by the farmers, with minimal lodging fees (400Rs to 900Rs) and dinner.
We started the day with early morning visit to the Yaganti Swamy (Shiva) temple. The temple is surrounded by Hill locks, which add serenity to the whole place. The Nandhi situated inside the shrine is growing by 1 inch in every 20 years (according to Archeology Survey of India). And, According to Veera Brahmendra swamy, the Nandi will come to life when kalyug period ends and will bellow, leaving many people dead. Near to the temple, we have three caves, One called Agastya Cave, which is around 150 steps (difficult climb). From the cave entrance, we have a good view of the Yaganti temple. Inside the cave, we have Lord Shiva idol. It is believed, Swamy Agastya performed his penance for Lord Shiva here. Next cave is, Lord Venkateswara Cave, it houses Lord Balaji in Alankar Roop. Since, the idol's toe nail is damaged, it cannot be worshipped. But, as per Kal Gyani, it can stand as an alternative to Tirupati Balaji. The 3rd cave is of Veera Brahmendra swamy. After completing, our Darshan, we started towards Kurnool. We halted at Banganpalle for our breakfast. And, reached Kurnool at around 11 (crossing Orvakal rock museum). At Kurnool, we visited the Kondareddy Burj. Post our Lunch, we took Hyderabad highway to head towards Alampur. It is situated at around 30 Kms from Kurnool, we need to take a right on route to Hyderabad to reach Alampur.
Alampur situated on bank of Tungabhadra River, is the meeting point of Tungabhadra River and Krishna River. It is a sacred place, considered one of the 51 Shakti Peetha, Jogulamba devi; and, has Navabrahma Temples, dedicated to Lord Shiva. The Shiva Lingas are Brahma Linga's, and are said to be created by Lord Brahma Himself (Swayambu lingas). There was a huge crowd at the shrine due to the ongoing Krishna Pushkaralu, and it took us around and Hour and Half to complete the whole Darshan. The temple has a unique Architectural style, built by Badami Chalukyas, and have some resemblances with the Hampi Architecture. Their is a museum in vicinity, which have idols taken from the temple. It is good place to visit, if you have an inclination towards historical architecture. And, try visiting during off-season period, to explore the place to the fullest.
We started from Alampur at around 4PM. The NH to Hyderbad was pretty busy due to holiday weekend and Krishna Pushkaralu. And, it took as around 4 and half hours to reach Hyderabad. It was a pretty awesome journey, and I plan to revisit kurnool in near future to cover the other attractions around Kurnool like MahaNandi, Ahobilam and Mantralayam.
Based on my Journey, I would recommend the below travel plan, to explore all places around Kurnool in 3 Days:
- Day 1: Start Early from Hyderabad and cover Alampur, Kondareddy burj, Oravakul Garden and halt at Yaganti.
- Day 2: Visit Banganpalle Veer Brahman Temple, Bellum Caves (opens after 11AM), Gandikota, Ahobilam, Mahanandhi and halt at Kurnool (Long Ride).
- Day 3: Visit Mantralayam and Head back to Hyderbad (via Gadwal fort).
- Day 1: Start Early from Hyderabad visit Kondareddy burj, Oravakul Garden, Mahanandhi and halt at Ahobolam. (Long ride)
- Day 2: Visit Gandhikota, Bellum Caves, Banganpalle Veer Brahman Temple, Yaganti and Halt at Kurnool.
- Day 3: Visit Alampur, and Mantralayam (via kurnool) and head back to Hyderabad (via Gadwal Fort).
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