Borra Caves is located in the Eastern Ghats of India, in the Ananthagiri Hills of Araku Valley, about 90 km from the coastal city of Visakhapatnam. Borra Guhalu as it is called in the local language is one of its kind natural wonder of India. It is the biggest natural stalagmite and stalactite cave in the country. These caves are found in various parts of the world and their ages are always stated as hundreds of millions of years. A number that you and I cannot even comprehend.
I have seen similar caves in Texas, the USA, Slovakia, and our own Meghalaya. They are very similar to natural growths from the ceiling and the floor. Sometimes they come together to form pillar-like formations, and otherwise, the random formations can make your imagination run wild. These caves usually come in the path of a river and you can see the flow of water through them. These caves are the origin of the Gosthani River that flows from here to Visakhapatnam.
Natural Wonder of India – Borra Caves – Places to visit in Araku Valley
In India, of course, the caves are not as well maintained. Because of human touch, most growths have stopped, and there is no restriction on touching. Having said that they are a part of the culture here and not just another scientific or archaeological discovery. They are living caves in a sense. Since we have a way of finding the divine everywhere, so the growths from the floor often get treated as Shivalingas. And other formations can resemble other incarnations of Gods, their vehicles & auspicious signs. Sometimes even the legends from the historical texts. In these caves, you can see many Shiva Lingas. One of them is converted into a small temple and can be approached by a steep narrow staircase only.
Formations by falling water
Formations formed through the water falling are called Jalashilas or water rocks locally. There is Sai Baba, there are temples. There are Sita’s bedroom and bathroom, from where comes the yellow water that is supposed to be the Haldi or Turmeric water from her bath. Scientifically, it is just the Sulfur giving color to the water. There is a formation of a human brain, a corncob, monkeys, a sitting elephant, a running horse, Hanuman’s feet, and his Gada or mace. In places, the walls shine because of the presence of minerals like Magnesium and Silica.
What is worth noting is a huge end-to-end joint in the rock, which is amazing. Locals call two sides divided by the joints as Luv and Kusha, Sita’s two sons. Light falling out of the hole above illuminates the caves beautifully and in many ways depending on where you are standing in the cave. Human brain formation is also curious as it is not like a traditional stalactite or stalagmite formation. Towards the end of the cave, you can see the reflection of the cave in water. Suddenly doubling the size of the cave with interesting illumination.
Three Levels of Caves
These caves are spread across three levels and only the middle level is open to the public. The level below and above is not so safe for general travelers. The bottom level also connects to the river below and hence can be dangerous. Do stop by to have a top view of the river that flows between white marble rocks that are common in the area. Our guide told us that the cave has free entry on Shivaratri when all the tribal communities of the region come here to worship. The entrance of the cave, the opening is huge and you can see the expanse of the cave with people looking like tiny dwarfs. Two Nandis have been placed at the entrance giving the impression of the whole cave being a Shiva temple. And is he not actually known to be a cave dweller?
Meaning of Borra
Borra means hole in the local language. This cave has a hole right on top and that is how it gets its name. Legend is that a cow fell through this hole and that is how the local tribal population discovered the cave and the source of the river. And named the river after the cow’s udder. At a point, you can see an udder-like formation with water dropping from it directly over a Shivalinga.
Modern history traces the discovery of these caves to the British Era. When King William George of the Geological Survey of India discovered some 200+ years ago. Anthropologists have discovered stone tools from the caves indicating that these caves were inhabited probably 30,000-50,000 years ago.
Train to Borra Caves
If you travel by East Coast Railway’s train to Borra Guhalu, the guide will tell you that just before hitting the station, the train track is actually going above the caves. And sure inside the caves, you can see a railway signboard telling you the same thing along with all the numbers. AP tourism has done a decent job of putting a paved path in the caves. Some lamps make it possible for visitors to move around in the cave.
I would put these caves on the list of must-visit places, both for the caves and the train journey that takes you there through many tunnels.
If you are adventurous and young, explore the seasonal Kartiki Waterfall near the caves. Take care and be in groups while venturing to such waterfalls.
Recommend you to read the following Places to visit in Araku Valley.