Gandikota - Grand Canyon of India
Gandikota is a very small village in Kadapa District of Andhra Pradesh, India. Known to few ardent travelers Gandikota is not the usual tourist hub since it is neither a world heritage site, nor is it marketed well by state tourism agencies. While it deserves so much more, this untouched, unexplored, uncharted place is probably the most unbelievably amazing place we have been to in recent times. A frozen in time village in the middle of centuries old structures such as forts and temples to granary and jail overlooking a 300 feet river gorge reminiscent of Grand Canyon of Arizona with sights of windmills on the distant mountains - never thought all this could be found together in one place.
We started from Hyderabad over a long weekend and covered Mallela Theertham waterfalls and holy town of Srisailam on previous day before heading towards the most awaited destination of our trip - Gandikota. Gandikota is quite centrally located with 280 kms from Bengaluru and 360 kms from Hyderabad making it a perfect weekend outing, if only enough people knew about it. Going from Srisailam we were to cover a distance of 250 kms by road to reach this extremely small village with hardly any provision to stay or even have a proper meal! The only good option for stay is government run Haritha resort which has just 10 rooms and are booked much in advance on weekends. The next option is 15 kms away in the closest town called Jammalamadugu (though the options are very basic) or Proddatur which is 35 kms away. One can camp in Gandikota around structures if one is comfortable doing it. Most of the roads in the state of #AndhraPradesh are good broad highways but as one nears Gandikota, the last stretch of 15 kms is a narrow curvy road on undulated terrain. The sight of distant windmills with small stretches of visible roads was the first attempt of this place to impress us.
On reaching The Grand Canyon of India - Gandikota, one would find that village is both outside and inside the premises of the historical fort. The narrow road takes you inside the fort where people have small houses. It feels the village is frozen in time as if the clock stopped turning after 19th century. They live their daily lives oblivious to presence of heritage structures around them or bikers and backpackers passing by. They did not mind us clicking their pictures and carried on with their chores or gazing at nothing.
Exploring the structures in the premises of Gandikota fort one would come across a Jail, a miniature Charminar, couple of temples, Jama Masjid and a granary. Gandikota was founded and built in 12th Century by local kings who were subordinates of Chalukya Kings (modern Badami and Basavakalyan). The name comes from Gandi meaning gorge in Telugu and Kota meaning home. The historical fort built on Erramala hills bordering a 300 feet river gorge on two sides containing massive granite boulders make it ideal for defense. This strategic location of the fort lured many south India kings into capturing it and thus played an instrumental role in various eras such as Kakatiya dynasty (12-13th Century, modern Warangal), Vijayanagar empire (14th-17th Century, modern Hampi) and Qutb Shahi dynasty (16th-17th Century, modern Hyderabad). Gandikota was last captured by Hyder Ali (18th Century, Kingdom of Mysore) before going to British rule. Different structures within the fort might be built under different rules thus giving it variety in terms of architectural forms. That would also be the reason why Gandikota fort houses both a temple and a mosque.
Walking across reddish brown rocks and reaching the edge of the Gandikota fort is when one is truly left awed by the landscape. The river Penna, though more of a stream now flows between two flat terrains around 300 feet below you. The almost vertical valley with various rocky formations makes you feel like you are in an alien planet. This point is the very reason why Gandikota is also called Grand Canyon of India. The resemblance of Penna river at Gandikota from this point with Colorado river in Arizona is uncanny. The only difference lies in green shoots seen here whereas Arizona is quite barren. Though our initial plan was to spend only the evening here, the mesmerizing views forced us to wake up next morning and come back. We were unlucky to find clouds blocking the sunrise else we would have witnessed a sun rising at a point where the river Penna curves along the gorges.
Grand canyon of India - Gandikota is a must visit for any travel buff and should be clubbed with few more interesting places towards Kurnool such as Belum caves. There are also two dams on each side of Gandikota on river Penna - Gandikota Dam & Mylavaram dam which can be added to itinerary in case one has time. The extent of neglect by state tourism department is such that there is absolutely no entry ticket or parking areas or any sort of restrictions or maintenance of structures. One could go to a 500 year old structure, put a nail and hang their own photo frame without anyone to object. Thankfully no one seems to have done that. Nonetheless the tranquility felt being in this natural wonder with cool wind blowing through our hair and windmills seen at a distance will leave you enthralled. Add to it the wonderful architecture of the monuments, the place is simply a beautiful verse straight out of poet's heart.
Various structures in Gandikota fort may take 3-4 hours to cover. However, one might want to spend more time here especially near the gorge. People either come for a day trip to Gandikota or take one night halt at options already specified above. Great roads for most of the stretch also makes it a wonderful road trip for those living in #AndhraPradesh or nearby states. Like any other place, the sunrise and sunset are the best times and one must plan their trips accordingly. Since there is no entry gate or ticket, one can visit the gorge at any time of the day. The secluded area also makes Gandikota an ideal location for astrophotography.
Would you like to visit the grand canyon of India? or have you already been here? Let us know your thoughts about our blog and photographs. Stay tuned to read the next day in our journey when we visited some wonderful places on our way from Gandikota to Kurnool.