Hidden Jewel Of The South India

Tripoto
24th Jun 2017
Photo of Hidden Jewel Of The South India by mamta upreti

"The purpose of life is to live it, to taste it, to experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience."

It has been a long time that I have not shared my travel experience since my Leh trip. But again, I want to share one of my recent adventures trip's experience. Most of us busy with a hectic schedule especially ones in the IT companies.Because of this, We feel stress and lack of energy. Like earlier this time also, we went to an unplanned trip to Ahobilam, Gandikota and Belum cave.I heard about these places from my friends.

"Don't listen to what they say just go and see."

I had added it to the list of places to visit in Monsoon. Being a nature lover, I found Ahobilam an amazing pilgrim place in the forest, where one has to trek to cover the temples that are spread over surrounding hills.

Long weekend came during Eid holiday. Everyone was planning to visit the nearby place. We booked cab on Friday from Hyderabad → Ahobilam→Gandikota→belum caves

Photo of Hyderabad, Telangana, India by mamta upreti

Around 1 pm we reached Lower Ahobilam.

"One's destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things". Henry Miller

24 June.2017

Day 1

We started from Hyderabad around 5 A.M via NH44 highway. The weather was pleasant in the morning. In between journey, we got to know about Jogulamba temple. So we decided to visit there.Around 8.30 AM we reached Jogulamba temple and its 220 km from Hyderabad. This is one of 18 powerful Shakti Peeth. In temple premises, there is one ancient Shiv temple. The place where Mata jawbone was fallen on earth. We reached here within 4 hours from Hyderabad by car. The road was ok. Space for the walk in temple premises is covered by lime type material. But it's advisable to wear socks for Tungabhadra river bank; people were running due to hot surface in this area. The popular temple stands as a testimony to Chalukya Art and Culture.

The Tungabhadra and Krishna are seen in a confluence near Alampur, and hence it is also know known as Dakshina Kailasam. It is also said that Brahma had performed a great penance at today's Alampur for thousands of years, and he pleased Lord Siva who conferred the powers of creation for him. Hence, the deity is also called Brahmeswara and the goddess as Yogini or Jogulamba, a synonym for mother Parvathi. After darshan, we started for our destination. In between, we had breakfast near NH40 highway.The road was good.

Around 1 pm we reached Lower Ahobilam.

"One's destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things". Henry Miller

Photo of Jogulamba Temple, Alampur, Telangana, India by mamta upreti

Ahobilam is in Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh in the Nallamala Hills of the Eastern Ghats. It is one of the foremost places of worship of Lord Narasimha, an avatar of Lord Vishnu. It is unique in the sense that it is the only place that enshrines nine forms of Lord Narasimha. Ahobilam is divided into lower Ahobilam and the upper Ahobilam. Upper Ahobilam is about 8 km away from lower Ahobilam. Ahobilam is also known as Ahobalam meaning great strength (Aho - great, Balaam - strength).

A trail near the Jwala Narasimha temple leads to the star attraction of Ahobilam, the Ugra Narasimha Sthambha. Ugrastambham is regarded as one of the best Ahobilam attractions. A legend is associated with this place as well. The story goes that Lord Narasimha appeared before Prince Prahlada to kill Hiranyakashipu at this place.

We started trek around 2 pm from AHOBILA NARASIMHA SWAMY situated on the Upper Ahobilam, at a distance of eight kilometres from the Lower Ahobilam, is the main temple and the earliest of all the nine temples there after that via water walking on the rocks and passing by small ponds on the way in the gorge with rock formations on both sides.

We reached KRODAKARA (VARAHA) NARASIMHA SWAMY temple and this Lord is one kilometer away from the main temple of Ahobila Nrisimha Swamy on the Upper Ahobilam. The image of the deity has the face of a boar (Varaha or kroda) and the Lord is seen along with his Consort, Lakshmi.

Here again, we had to climb steps to reach JWALA NARASIMHA SWAMY, another tedious task ahead of our tired souls. We got up quickly with a couple of breaks to catch up breath.The temple of Jwala Nrisimha Swamy, lies higher up the above temple, on a hill called, 'Achalachaya Meru'.

This is about four kilometers from the Upper Ahobilam temple. This place is said to be the actual spot, where the fierce anger of the Lord reached its culmination when he tore Hiranyakasipu.

Photo of Ahobilam, Andhra Pradesh, India by mamta upreti

A trail near the Jwala Narasimha temple leads to the star attraction of Ahobilam, the Ugra Narasimha Sthambha. Ugrastambham is regarded as one of the best Ahobilam attractions. A legend is associated with this place as well. The story goes that Lord Narasimha appeared before Prince Prahlada to kill Hiranyakashipu at this place.

We started trek around 2 pm from AHOBILA NARASIMHA SWAMY situated on the Upper Ahobilam, at a distance of eight kilometres from the Lower Ahobilam, is the main temple and the earliest of all the nine temples there after that via water walking on the rocks and passing by small ponds on the way in the gorge with rock formations on both sides.

We reached KRODAKARA (VARAHA) NARASIMHA SWAMY temple and this Lord is one kilometer away from the main temple of Ahobila Nrisimha Swamy on the Upper Ahobilam. The image of the deity has the face of a boar (Varaha or kroda) and the Lord is seen along with his Consort, Lakshmi.

Here again, we had to climb steps to reach JWALA NARASIMHA SWAMY, another tedious task ahead of our tired souls. We got up quickly with a couple of breaks to catch up breath.The temple of Jwala Nrisimha Swamy, lies higher up the above temple, on a hill called, 'Achalachaya Meru'.

This is about four kilometers from the Upper Ahobilam temple. This place is said to be the actual spot, where the fierce anger of the Lord reached its culmination when he tore Hiranyakasipu.

Photo of Jwala Narasimha Swami Temple, Ahobilam, Andhra Pradesh, India by mamta upreti

We passed by a waterfall to the temple in a small cave and had darshan. We had amazing time under waterfall here. The water is very pure and crystal clear.

After reaching Jwala we had to climb the path on our right to reach Ugrastambam. Very few people attempt Ugrastambam as it is a very rough path with rolling stones and very steep climb. I started climbing at my own pace, slowly and very cautiously. It was all loose rock and it has even become more slippery. At a couple of stretches, the angle of slope becomes more where we had to be using our four limbs ensuring safer climb.

Finally, after 1-hour hard effort, we were on Ugrastambam with a stunning view of the forest from the top of it. UgraSthamba temple means fierce pillar. This is on top of the Vedadri (Vedachal) mountain. It is the belief that Lord Narasimha came out of this Sthamba to kill Demon King Hiranyakasipu.

"If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be."Maya Angelou

At eight kilometers from the Upper Ahobilam temple, we can see a cleft of the mountain dividing it into two visible parts. It is a long-held view that from the cleft, the Lord appeared in the form of Narasimha and this cleft is known as 'Ugra Sthambham'.

"The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra." - Jimmy Johnson

Words fall short to describe this place. We were so enthralled by the magic of this place.I felt like Aaj main upar,aasman niche :-) :-)

While coming back we crossed the bridge and after step upstairs for Malola Narasimha Swamy temple. It's two kilometers from the main temple of Upper Ahobilam, is the famous shrine of Malola Narasimha Swamy. "Here's to freedom, cheers to art. Here's to having an excellent adventure and may the stopping never start." Jason Mraz

The deity here appears in 'Soumya' (graceful) form. As Lord Narasimha is seen with his consort, Lakshmi, He is known as Malola Narasimha Swamy. The word 'Malola' means beloved to Lakshmi (Ma=Lakshmi, Lola= beloved). After temple darshan, we reached to near main temple of Upper Ahobilam and Seeing a nice water pool we couldn't resist our self and jump into it.

After that, without wasting time we started towards Gandikota. It's 82-kilometer from Ahobilam. Around 4 pm we started for Gandikota because next day we wanted to cover Gandikota and Belum caves so we did not stay in Ahobilam.

But it's unplanned trip so we did not book any place to stay at night at Gandikota so we went to Jammalamadugu, Andhra Pradesh Rayalaseema region and took lounge there for night stay.

You can find out best South Indian( Rayalaseema) dishes on below link:

After dinner, we discussed next day's plan and dozed off for the day with an early morning alarm set in our minds.

"Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen." - Benjamin Disraeli

25 June.2017

Photo of Hidden Jewel Of The South India by mamta upreti
Day 2

On the second day morning, we were ready on time as per our schedule. We had a lot to cover today. We had aloo veg with puri and spicy coconut chutney in breakfast. After that, we started from Jammalamadugu→Gandikota. Roads were good and excellent view. Other than the towering hills, some other towering machines also caught our attention. Windmills, standing tall, casting shadows across the hills and fields, a stark juxtaposition of ancient and modern India.

"Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world." - Gustave Flaubert

These wind-powered turbines set up by Suzlon Energy are here to bring a wind of change and are probably the only solution to a country plagued by power blackouts.

Gandikota:

Gandikota was ruled by powerful Telugu dynasty, the Pemmasani Dynasty and was one of the most prominent forts in the country.

The fort of Gandikota acquired its name due to the 'gorge' (in Telugu it is called 'gandi'), formed between the Erramala range of hills, also known as Gandikota hills and the river Pennar that flows at its foot, reducing its width to a mere 300 ft (see the river image below). Situated amidst beautiful landscape and wild forests, it is endowed with vast natural resources.

We parked our car just inside the entrance and walked through the huge gate. It led us onto a winding path that took us to an open area. The main entrance made by the pure iron material.

"The use of traveling is to regulate imagination with reality, and instead of thinking of how things may be, see them as they are." - Samuel Johnson

A whole village existed inside the complex - houses, shops and even a primary school. We followed the stone path, jumping over a few lazy cattle, cow dung and scuttling chicken. On the way, we passed several ruins. We first saw a four-tiered tower, aptly named Charminar.

We passed a brick building which was marked as a Jail.We went to inside that jail and it's now bat home. We also saw a small path on the left that led to the Madhavaraya temple. It's representing old era architecture.

The village road ended at the Jamia Masjid. We later came to understand that we could have taken the car further inside through the village road till the Masjid, as we found a few tourist cabs parked adjacent to the mosque's wall.

The walls of the gorge were extremely impressive. Our eyes trailed down the magnificent cliffs and rock faces. We could make out the different layers of rock by color - red, brown, gray - which proved how old these mountains were. You see billions of years stacked up and cut through. Considering how flat the drive to Gandikota was, it was hard to believe how high you really are until you reach the rim and look down into this gorge.

We tried climbing up some of the boulders. It was a treacherous climb at some places because we did not know whether the stones were loose. From the top, we could also get a better view of the crumbling fort wall that snaked around the fort. We could also get a glimpse of the Mylavaram dam and reservoir from the chasm. We passed the Masjid, a building which was marked as Granary and the Ranganatha Swamy Temple.

"Tourists don't know where they've been, travelers don't know where they're going". Paul Theroux

After sightseeing and little bit rock climbing, we were feeling hungry so we did reach the Gandikota APTDC complex by 12 pm. It's very near to Fort. Covering an area of about 10 acres with 12 cottages, a dormitory, a dining hall, and kitchen, and most importantly a huge parking space and kids play area, the APTDC complex at Gandikota is a sprawling affair. To match with the fort besides, the whole complex is built in stone. One small museum was there.

We had lunch there and per plate 100 RS cost. Most important thing food was hygienic and good.

There are no online bookings for Gandikota, only offline bookings. So, you can call to near APTDC office and book room there in advance. It's usually full at weekends.

After 1 pm we started for Gandikota → Belum caves. It's 61 kilometers from Gandikota. The routes were good. We took Gandikota Road and Jammalamadugu - Muddanur Rd/Kadri - Jammalamadugu Hwy/Tadipatri - Jammalamadugu Hwy to Jammalamadugu-Tadipatri Rd.

"People don't take trips - trips take people." - John Steinbeck

Photo of Gandikota Penna river View, Gandikota, Andhra Pradesh, India by mamta upreti

Finally, after 1-hour hard effort, we were on Ugrastambam with a stunning view of the forest from the top of it. UgraSthamba temple means fierce pillar. This is on top of the Vedadri (Vedachal) mountain. It is the belief that Lord Narasimha came out of this Sthamba to kill Demon King Hiranyakasipu.

"If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be."Maya Angelou

At eight kilometers from the Upper Ahobilam temple, we can see a cleft of the mountain dividing it into two visible parts. It is a long-held view that from the cleft, the Lord appeared in the form of Narasimha and this cleft is known as 'Ugra Sthambham'.

"The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra." - Jimmy Johnson

Words fall short to describe this place. We were so enthralled by the magic of this place.I felt like Aaj main upar,aasman niche :-) :-)

While coming back we crossed the bridge and after step upstairs for Malola Narasimha Swamy temple. It's two kilometers from the main temple of Upper Ahobilam, is the famous shrine of Malola Narasimha Swamy. "Here's to freedom, cheers to art. Here's to having an excellent adventure and may the stopping never start." Jason Mraz

Photo of Hidden Jewel Of The South India by mamta upreti

Belum caves:

Belum caves: Belum Caves are in the small village with the same name in the Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh. The historic caves are the largest and longest cave system in India that is opened for the tourists and is the second largest caves in India after the Krem Liat Prah in Meghalaya.

Photo of Belum Caves, Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, India by mamta upreti

The deity here appears in 'Soumya' (graceful) form. As Lord Narasimha is seen with his consort, Lakshmi, He is known as Malola Narasimha Swamy. The word 'Malola' means beloved to Lakshmi (Ma=Lakshmi, Lola= beloved). After temple darshan, we reached to near main temple of Upper Ahobilam and Seeing a nice water pool we couldn't resist our self and jump into it.

After that, without wasting time we started towards Gandikota. It's 82-kilometer from Ahobilam. Around 4 pm we started for Gandikota because next day we wanted to cover Gandikota and Belum caves so we did not stay in Ahobilam.

But it's unplanned trip so we did not book any place to stay at night at Gandikota so we went to Jammalamadugu, Andhra Pradesh Rayalaseema region and took lounge there for night stay.

You can find out best South Indian( Rayalaseema) dishes on below link:

After dinner, we discussed next day's plan and dozed off for the day with an early morning alarm set in our minds.

"Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen." - Benjamin Disraeli

25 June.2017

The caves reach its deepest point (120 feet from entrance level) at the point known as Pataalaganga. Belum Caves derives its name from "Bilum" Sanskrit word for caves. In Telugu language, it is called Belum Guhalu. Belum Caves has a length of 3229 meters, making it the second largest natural caves in Indian Subcontinent.

The cave consists of various long passages, galleries, large cavities with fresh water and water tunnels.

Photo of Hidden Jewel Of The South India by mamta upreti

A giant Buddha statue smilingly welcomes all visitors to the caves. There was an APTDC guesthouse nearby and we could use the facilities there. Soon after, we had ice-cream and headed out towards the caves. The caves, located in Kolimigundla village in Kurnool, are a major tourist attraction and are maintained by the Andhra Pradesh Tourism Department. Entry to the caves requires payment 50 Rs of an entry fee upon which a guide is also provided since it's not possible for visitors to traverse the passages by themselves.

Some of the halls such as the meditation hall were big enough to accommodate a house inside them and in a few places stalactites and stalagmites had fused creating giant pillars. The caves even had an underground stream topped by a perfectly shaped Shiva linga called the "Patalganga". Air vents had been drilled into the caves at regular intervals to combat the humidity which can reach as high as 100% at some of the deeper parts of the caves. After covering these places, we started for Hyderabad around 4 pm. It's awesome route with full of greens and valley.

"We live in a world that is full of beauty, charm, and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open." Jawaharlal Nehru

Photo of Hidden Jewel Of The South India by mamta upreti

The fort of Gandikota acquired its name due to the 'gorge' (in Telugu it is called 'gandi'), formed between the Erramala range of hills, also known as Gandikota hills and the river Pennar that flows at its foot, reducing its width to a mere 300 ft (see the river image below). Situated amidst beautiful landscape and wild forests, it is endowed with vast natural resources.

We parked our car just inside the entrance and walked through the huge gate. It led us onto a winding path that took us to an open area. The main entrance made by the pure iron material.

"The use of traveling is to regulate imagination with reality, and instead of thinking of how things may be, see them as they are." - Samuel Johnson

Photo of Hidden Jewel Of The South India by mamta upreti

Tips :

1. Carry a backpack with a few water bottles and light snacks, as there aren't any shop available and Hire a guide, there are no fixed rates for guides, pay as per choice or negotiate.

2.For trekking sure, wear only sports shoes and keep rain coat with you.

3. The caves are dense and at places poorly ventilated, make sure you carry your water bottles and wear the right shoes for better exploration.

4. Full track pants (safety from insects, weed and bruises)+ cotton t-shirts (extra pair) + socks + cap/hat + Jacket

5. Sunglasses + sunscreen + deodorant (trek=sweat=odour; also helps in starting a bonfire) + toothpaste & brush/ mouthwash

Other routes and facilities:

1: How to reach Ahobilam?

The nearest railway stations are Nandyala, Kadapa, dhone which are 75KM, 120KM, 125KM respectively from Ahobilam. Travel by bus to Allagadda and take another bus to Ahobilam. However, the easier way from Hyderabad is to travel by bus overnight to Allagadda and catch the early morning bus from there which goes till upper Ahobilam. Upper Ahobilam is 8kms away from lower ahobilam and apart from very few buses, one can hire an auto.

2: Where to Stay?

There are lots of options to stay in lower ahobilam. Sri Ahobila Mutt maintains a Guest House called Malola Guest House at lower ahobilam. APTDC is running Haritha Hotel. Apart from these.

At lower ahobilam there are few private run canteens available. Sri Ahobila Matam has established a trust called Annamacharya Nitya Annadanam Trust. The Trust provides free food to devotees of Sri Lakshmi Nrisimha. Free prasadam is offered three times a day. Dadiyannam (Curd rice) is offered morning and evening. At noon time Tadiyaradhanam (full course meals) is offered. There are few other hotels also and some decent choultries available. There are only two choultries at upper ahobilam where only a couple of rooms are available apart from a hall where one can stay for the night. However, it is advised to avail room at lower ahobilam.

Photo of Hidden Jewel Of The South India by mamta upreti

A whole village existed inside the complex - houses, shops and even a primary school. We followed the stone path, jumping over a few lazy cattle, cow dung and scuttling chicken. On the way, we passed several ruins. We first saw a four-tiered tower, aptly named Charminar.

We passed a brick building which was marked as a Jail.We went to inside that jail and it's now bat home. We also saw a small path on the left that led to the Madhavaraya temple. It's representing old era architecture.

The village road ended at the Jamia Masjid. We later came to understand that we could have taken the car further inside through the village road till the Masjid, as we found a few tourist cabs parked adjacent to the mosque's wall.

Photo of Hidden Jewel Of The South India by mamta upreti

"Life begins at the end of your comfort zone."

The walls of the gorge were extremely impressive. Our eyes trailed down the magnificent cliffs and rock faces. We could make out the different layers of rock by color - red, brown, gray - which proved how old these mountains were. You see billions of years stacked up and cut through. Considering how flat the drive to Gandikota was, it was hard to believe how high you really are until you reach the rim and look down into this gorge.

Photo of Hidden Jewel Of The South India by mamta upreti

We tried climbing up some of the boulders. It was a treacherous climb at some places because we did not know whether the stones were loose. From the top, we could also get a better view of the crumbling fort wall that snaked around the fort. We could also get a glimpse of the Mylavaram dam and reservoir from the chasm. We passed the Masjid, a building which was marked as Granary and the Ranganatha Swamy Temple.

"Tourists don't know where they've been, travelers don't know where they're going". Paul Theroux

After sightseeing and little bit rock climbing, we were feeling hungry so we did reach the Gandikota APTDC complex by 12 pm. It's very near to Fort. Covering an area of about 10 acres with 12 cottages, a dormitory, a dining hall, and kitchen, and most importantly a huge parking space and kids play area, the APTDC complex at Gandikota is a sprawling affair. To match with the fort besides, the whole complex is built in stone. One small museum was there.

Photo of Hidden Jewel Of The South India by mamta upreti

We had lunch there and per plate 100 RS cost. Most important thing food was hygienic and good.

There are no online bookings for Gandikota, only offline bookings. So, you can call to near APTDC office and book room there in advance. It's usually full at weekends.

After 1 pm we started for Gandikota → Belum caves. It's 61 kilometers from Gandikota. The routes were good. We took Gandikota Road and Jammalamadugu - Muddanur Rd/Kadri - Jammalamadugu Hwy/Tadipatri - Jammalamadugu Hwy to Jammalamadugu-Tadipatri Rd.

"People don't take trips - trips take people." - John Steinbeck

Photo of Hidden Jewel Of The South India by mamta upreti
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