The Borra Caves, also called Borra Guhalu in Telugu language ‘Borra’ means something that has bored into the ground and ‘guhalu’ means caves), are located on the East Coast of India, in the Ananthagiri hills of the Araku Valley (with hill ranges elevation varying from 800 m (2,624.7 ft) to 1,300 m (4,265.1 ft)) of the Visakhapatnam district in Andhra Pradesh.
The Caves, one of the largest in the country, at an elevation of about 705 m (2,313.0 ft), distinctly exhibit a variety of impressive speleothems(pictured) ranging from very small to big and irregularly shaped stalactites and stalagmites. The Caves are basically Karstic limestone structures extending to a depth of 80 m (262.5 ft) (considered the deepest cave in India).
On the discovery of the caves, there are several legends, which the tribals (Jatapu, Porja, Kondadora, Nookadora, valmiki etc.) who inhabit the villages around the caves narrate. The popular legend is that a cow, grazing on the top of the caves, dropped 60 m (196.9 ft), through a hole in the roof. The cowherd while searching for the cow came across the caves. He found a stone inside the cave that resembled a Lingam, which he interpreted as the Lord Shiva who protected the cow. The village folk who heard the story believed it and since then they have built a small temple for Lord Shiva outside the cave. People flock to the temple for worship and the cave to get a glimpse of the Lingam.
Geography and climate
The caves are located in the Araku Valley of the Ananthagiri hill range and is drained by the Gosthani River. At the entry, the cave measures up to 100 m (328.1 ft) horizontally and 75 m (246.1 ft) vertically. Stalagmite and Stalactite formations are found in the caves. The average annual temperature of Araku hills, where the caves are situated, is about 25 °C (77.0 °F). The average annual rainfall reported is 950 mm (3.1 ft) (mostly occurring during the northeast monsoon). The Gosthani river provides water supply to the Visakhapatnam city.
The Regional Geology in the Eastern Ghats mobile belt, where the caves are located, is represented by the Khondalite suite of rocks (garnetiferrous sillimanite gneisses, quartzo-feldsphatic garnet gneisses) of Archaen age. Quaternary deposits consist of red bed sediments, laterites, pediment fans, colluvium, alluvium and coastal sands. Particularly, the Borra caves are stated to be one of the largest caves in the Indian subcontinent.
The caves, in the reserved forest area consisting of 14 villages inhabited by tribals, basically host a variety of speleothems ranging from very small to big and irregularly shaped stalactites and stalagmites. The carbonate rocks are pure white, and coarsely crystalline and the deformed and banded marbles cover a triangular area of 2 km2 (0.8 sq mi); surrounded by Diopside–scapolite–feldspar calc-granulites.
The pyroxenite outcrops are dark and massive and include discontinuous calc-silicate bands, some of brown mica and others with calcite. The Gosthani River, which originates from these caves and flows between the solidified stalactites and stalagmites in the Karstic lime stones formation, is the cause for the development of the odd shapes of structures.
The caves are well connected by road, rail and air services. Vishkapatnam, the nearest airport and the district headquarters, is 90 km (55.9 mi) by road, which is mostly a hill road and the journey takes about 3 hours. Train services operate on the Kothavalasa-Kirandul railway line in East Coast Railway, Indian Railways. The train journey over a distance of 100 km (62.1 mi)from the Vishkapatanam Rly station passes through Eastern Ghats (hill) section), which has 30 tunnels en route. The journey by train takes about 5 hours to the Railway Station near the caves called the ‘Borra Guhalu Railway station’.
Guided tours for a day trip to the Borra Caves cover interesting attractions like the Tyada Railway Tunnel, Damuku View Point, Ananthagiri Coffee Plantation, Padmapuram Gardens and the Araku Valley. For the benefit of the visitors, an information board at the entry point to the caves gives some details of the caves and its surroundings (pictured). An Arraku and Borra rail-cum-road package tour organized by the Andhra Pradesh State Tourism Department is available for visitors keen to see the Borra caves.