At a distance of 100 kms from the coastal city of Visakhapatnam, lie the magnificent million - year old Borra caves. They are located in the Araku valley of the Ananthagiri hills in the Eastern Ghats of India. Nestled among gentle, sloping hills, at an elevation of 2313 feet, Borra caves are a picture of mystery and beauty. Measuring up to 100 m horizontally and 75 m vertically at the entrance, these are few of the largest and deepest caves in India. The caves stretch for about 200 m into the hills.
Discovered in 1807 by a British geologist, William King, these natural caves were supposedly formed by the pressure exerted by the Gosthani river on the hills. The river now flows through the caves.
I pay a visit to the caves in the humid month of May, and am told that the ideal months for the trip are November and December. Yet, the place is swarming with tourists.
An arched entrance greets me as I make my way slowly into the colossal caves.
Numerous man made steps have been carved into the rocky terrain, which are an amateur trekker’s delight. A musty smell persists in the cool, dark and cavernous interior. The damp floor of the cave makes me take cautious, measured steps for fear of slipping and hurting myself. But once I begin to observe the various structures that adorn the cave, all thoughts of caution are lost, and I am like an excited child. I can hardly restrain myself as I wonder about the secrets that the cave could hold. A saner thought reminds me that these caves may have hardly any secrets left, for they have been explored scores of times in the past decades.
As if answering my thoughts, bright mercury and halogen lamps, strategically placed to illuminate the cave, catch my eye. Man has decided to monetize these caves and draw larger number of tourists; hence the arrangement.
Elongated pointy structures jut out from the roof and also grow upwards from floor of the cave. These are called stalactites and stalagmites respectively, as I learn from my guide. Water has dissolved limestone over the years, resulting in the formation of these structures, which dot every part of the cave. Some of these limestone deposits have developed into interesting structures. Shapes such as a Rishi’s beard, the human brain, mushrooms, crocodiles, etc have captured the imagination of tourists and guides alike. A stalagmite that resembles a Shiva lingam has attained religious significance and a small temple has been built around it. I am told that people flock to get a glimpse of this structure and to worship it.
The cave is interspersed with sections of ankle length water, which is where the Gosthani river passes through it. I find tiny film like structures floating in the water, which seem to be microbes of some sort. Mosses and algae also inhabit the cave, I notice as my foot gets entangled between two rocks.
A sudden screech fills the air and I notice that a large number of bats line the high dark roof of the cave. The smell of dirt and decay is overpowering and I quickly move away from the place.
As I walk further into the cave, a chilly draught envelopes me. My guide informs me that the temperature in the cave is about 16 degrees Celsius. It is a welcome change from the hot world outside, I tell him. Soon, we have reached a dead end of sorts. A small, narrow passageway seems to lead beyond, but once I walk through it, I am back at the place where I started. I realize that I have walked in circles and laugh out loud at my stupidity. An echo resonates throughout, and I quickly stifle my laughter. Now I realize why my guide had been talking in a low voice during the trip.
After stepping outside, I walk around the cave and enjoy the view of the mountainous area which is rich in plants and animals of different kinds. I am at peace with nature.
It is with fond memories that I reluctantly leave Borra caves. But I will be back soon.
Note: Images courtesy Google