We started the second day of out Gandikota trip with a visit to Belum caves. Belum Caves is considered to be the second largest cave system on the Indian subcontinent. We spent about an hour here, but did not explore it thoroughly as it was wet and slippery in parts, and also quite hot (and crowded). But it was certainly a unique experience.
From Belum caves, we headed to Owk Reservoir for lunch and speed-boating. The speed-boat was quite an experience, and highly recommended. Please note that the person sitting in the rear left seat can get very wet. In our case, this happened to be my daughter. We then had to halt at Owk town to purchase a new dress for her!
From Owk, we headed to Yaganti. On the way, and just before Yaganti temple, we came across the ruins of Nawab Bungalow. While only the facade of this impressive building remains standing, it’s still worth the detour to visit.
Finally, we reached Yaganti temple. The highlight of this temple is its impressive location, surrounded by cliffs. Cave temples dot the adjoining cliffs. While it’s a steep climb to visit some of these cave temples, they are extremely atmospheric and well worth the effort.
After checking in at the AP Tourism Haritha Resort, we went to the in-house restaurant for lunch. As we found out later, this is pretty much the only ‘tourist-friendly’ restaurant in Gandikota. One eats what is presented, which, for lunch, was Andhra-style Thali. The food was tasty, and staff friendly and helpful.
We decided to rest out the afternoon in our hotel room. Typical of government-run hotels, the ‘resort’ was spacious, but run-down. There was a children’s play-area with decaying equipment that the kids nevertheless enjoyed for some time, the room had peeling paint, with a cramped, but thankfully clean, toilet. And as with many of the government-run hotels, the location was good, with ample greenery and opportunities for bird-watching.
After tea at a local store, we headed out to explore Gandikota. While visitors come here to see the canyon, there are a wealth of other sites to explore in this rural outpost. After driving through the gates of the fort, we parked at the base of the fort walls and explored the fort. It’s a ‘living’ fort with families still residing within the walls of the fort. But there are enough ramparts to climb up and look around, and kids enjoyed the experience.
Our next halt was the Jumma Masjid. This is a well-preserved monument, no longer in active use. Next to this is the imposing Granary that we admired from the outside. And next to the granary, overlooking the canyon, stands the Raghunatha Swamy temple. This temple seemed to be largely ignored by the crowds on their way to the canyon, which is a shame, as this was one of the highlights of Gandikota for us. This small temple, built during the time of the Vijayanagara empire, is extremely atmospheric, with intricate carvings on the pillars and walls. And its location, atop a hill, affords great views over Gandikota, with the tower of the Madhavaraya Swamy temple visible over the tree-tops. The place also had a palmist who visits over the weekend, who was kind enough to point out some of the interesting carvings around the temple (of course, we gave him some business as well!).
Finally, we made our way to the sight for which Gandikota is justifiably famous, the canyon of the Penna river. One has to clamber over some medium-sized rocks to get to the viewpoints. This is not very difficult, but small children and elderly people might struggle. The views over the canyon and surrounding countryside are well worth the effort though.
That brought to an end our sight-seeing in Gandikota. For dinner, we headed over to the cafe of the Adventure Sports Academy, located close to the Haritha hotel. While the food was good, and ambience a level above the Haritha restaurant, the place only served food when there are guests staying in the camp, as we discovered the following evening.
Today’s articles reflect the diversity and appeal of India.
How a village in Maharashtra is helping vultures make a big comeback – What’s the big deal, one might ask? Well, some of you might not know that, over the past few decades, India’s vulture population has declined from 40 million to 19,000! This prompted the development of a National Vulture Conservation Action Plan, to increase the number of vultures by 2025. This article is one rare success story in the recent history of India’s vultures.
India gets its 39th World Heritage Site – Telangana’s 13th century Ramappa temple has been inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. Read more about this site, located near Warangal. And make a plan to visit when the time is right!
A 600-Year-Old Celebration on the Shores of Pangong Lake – Moving further north to another breath-takingly beautiful part of our country – Ladakh. We (my wife) were fortunate to have visited Pangong Tso, before it shot to prominence after the release of ‘3 Idiots’. The whole experience was one of a kind with the long drive from Ladakh through some desolate and difficult terrain, standing on the shores of the lake with its stunning blue waters and barely any one else around, to eating Maggi (what else) in possibly the only stall still open at that time. Ladakh is one of those placces that everyone should try to visit at least once in their lifetime.
It is feeling like 2020 all over again, with the rise in COVID-19 cases in India. So as much as I wish it wasn’t the case, today’s list starts with an analysis of the current situation regarding the pandemic in India.
Threats – Moving from India to the United States of America and to Professor Scott Galloway listing some of the biggest threats to the nation (spoiler: none of them are external threats). Very thought-provoking, as is usually the case with the Professor.
If you were to ask tourists to India to name their greatest sights, or the one that they would like to visit, the chances of anyone saying ‘Ajanta‘ or ‘Ellora‘ are remote. In fact, I would argue that most Indian tourists themselves might not have it high on their bucket list. And that is a shame, for I believe that these are the greatest treasures in India.
I admit that there are lots of places in India that I am yet to see, but the caves at Ajanta (and Ellora) were easily the most awe-inspiring and moving sights of all the places that I have visited. The mind boggles to think that some of these caves were excavated, carved and painted over 2,000 years ago! They should rank high on the list of must-visit sights in India and I consider myself extremely fortunate to have seen them.
For people who would like to read and know more of these stupendous sights in Western India, here are a few resources that I came across recently:
The Life and Times of Walter Spink – Walter Spink was an American researcher and professor, who dedicated over 60 years of his life to the study of the Ajanta Caves. This page provides details of his work. There is also an excellent film on the same site.