For a long time, we thought Gandikota was a fictional place, thanks to the popular 1960s Telugu movie “Gandikota Rahasyam” (The secret of Gandikota) ! It wasn’t until we started some serious travel and began exploring the internet for places of interest in Andhra Pradesh that we came across Gandikota and realised that it was not just some imaginary place for the legendary actor NTR’s acting adventures but a mine of real history and breathtaking landscapes.
Unity in diversity at Gandikota
Gandikota’s history goes back to the early 12th Century A.D, it served as a formidable fort in the South under various dynasties starting from the Western Chalukyas, the Kakatiyas, Vijayanagar and Qutub Shahi kings. Gandikota’s claim to fame is also the Penna Gorge, popularly known as the “Grand Canyon of India” !
The village of Gandikota, even to this day, resides inside the fort. Time seems to have stood still here, the narrow lanes and the stone walls give the village a straight out of history books look. There is a tower in the middle of the road, the information board calls it the “Charminar” and it offended a few of us Hyderabadis !
Further up, there is a jail, the Madhavaraya Temple and the Jamia Masjid. We were interested in going to the Penna Gorge and decided to come back to the jail and the temple a little later. You can park your vehicles near the Masjid. We were some of the early visitors to the fort and found a nice parking place.
The Jamia Masjid was built during the reign of the Qutub Shahi kings of the Hyderabad, probably, that is why the tower the name Charminar ! Funnily, it is the Jamia Masjid that looks like the Charminar.
The simplicity and elegance of the Islamic architecture has a charm of its own. From the multi arched entrance of the Jamia Masjid, you can see the Gopuram of the Madhavaraya Temple. Though there was anything but unity 400 years ago, Gandikota must have been taken over by the Qutub Shahi kings following a war, today, both the structures stand beside each other in peace reminding you of India’s unity in diversity.
In recent times, the Gandikota fort has been a shooting spot for Telugu films.
Right next to the Jamia Masjid is the granary.
This structure has been renovated and is actually being used as an office for the authorities managing the fort !
Raghunatha Swamy Temple
Moving ahead, you will find the Raghunatha Swamy Temple, located on a hill like rock, from a distance, it looks like a mini version of the Greek acropolis. Most part of the temple is in ruins.
The temple is a small one but its architecture and sculpture is typical of Vijayanagar temples.
The Dasavathara stories have been sculpted on the pillars, check out Lord Narasimha killing Hiranyakasipu. This figure seems to be a favourite of the sculptors, most Vaishnava temples in South India, have very similar figures.
There are no idols in the temple, only the sanctum sanctorum remains. If you climb up the ruined outer walls, you get a panaromic view of the hills on one side and Penna valley on the other.
Gandikota really has some beautiful secrets !
Grand Canyon comes to India !
We call it a secret because until you reach the edge of the cliff, you will not have an idea of what lies below. Of course, we cheated and checked pictures on the internet. Even then, you cannot be prepared for “gorge”ousness like this !
The Gorge, after which Gandikota gets its name (Gandi in Telugu means Gorge), is the result of the flow of the Penna River. Hard to imagine that a river which, today, remains dry for most part of the year could have carved a huge gorge. The rock formations on the edge of the cliff tell you stories of the geological wear and tear that must have happened millions of years ago.
So, the Penna did have a glorious past ! You wouldn’t believe it when you look at the river, reduced to a moss ridden stream but whatever its state today, when you stand at the edge and gaze towards the landscape, it is magnificent and stunning ! If you are trying to find God, you can find Him in the middle of mind numbing beauty that only nature can claim.
Near the gorge view point, there rocks that look like giant pebbles piled on each other. You can climb them for a complete view of the gorge. It is slightly strenuous to climb these rocks and you have to watch your step because some of the rocks are loose. You would fall into the gorge but there is every possibility of injuring yourself if you slip. When in the presence of nature, learn to practice some discipline for if nature decided to take its own course, we stand no chance !
Even as you climb on the top, you get a breathtaking view of the river taking a curve along the hill. Who guides these rivers in their path?
You can also see the fort wall running along the edge of the hill. Whoever conceived the idea of this fort, was a genious ! The fort must have almost been inpregnable on the river side. They found a perfect natural protection for the fort, it must have been an almost impossible task to get an army to scale the rocky terrain here. In our times though, adventure seekers with their sophisticated equipment visit Gandikota for rock climbing and rappelling activities.
The noon sun was catching up soon and we decided it was time to go back. We reached the parking lot only to find the “nice parking place” where we had left our cars was now crowded with vehicles parked haphazardly. It took all our Hyderabadi traffic “talent” to find our way out of the chaos.
Next to the Jamia Masjid, there is a small path leading to what the sign board said the river side entrance and the king’s palace. The path took us to the deserted part of the fort covered with thorny bushes it didn’t look too inviting and so we came back with just this picture to say that we walked the path of the royals !
While some of our people were tired after the visit to the gorge, a few of us history freaks couldn’t leave without visiting every part of the fort.
Arresting views !
Our next stop was at the Fort Jail. We seem to have a fascination for fort prisons, be it the Golconda or Kondapalli fort or the now the Gandikota, we always find the jails interesting. Wonder what that says about us !
It could have been the most dreaded building in Gandikota hundreds of years ago, today, except for one dark area of the jail infested with bats, it is serene inside the jail ! Did we just call a jail, serene?
The guys decided to play a prank by closing the gates and locking this writer inside but who wouldn’t mind being arrested when you have views that are pleasing to the eye? From a huge opening on the wall, you can see the fort walls, the ground below is now being used for cultivation.
There must have been gates guarding this opening but then even if any prisoner tried to escape, he must have had to jump down a height of 2 storeys !
You can also see the gopuram of the Madhavaraya Temple from here.
you could simply stare at it all day long but for the prisoners inside, even without the greenery that you see now, the grass must have been greener on the other side.
The Madhavaraya temple tower dominates the skyline of Gandikota, go to any corner of the village, you cannot miss the imposing tower. You have to walk through a dirt track to reach the temple and when see the Gopuram up close, you will grapple for words !
When you stand at the threshold of the temple and look up at the ceiling, you will almost fall back trying to crane your neck ! If you manage to ignore the tears because of straining your eyes, you can see some interesting sculpture on the ceiling.
Initially, we thought the creatures were giant lizards but on second view, they could be crocodiles too. What could be the significance of having figures of reptiles at the entrance?
The Madhavaraya Temple is believed to have been built during the reign of Sri Krishna Deva Raya and no wonder, the Hampi imprint in the temple’s architecture is unmistakable.
The Madhavaraya Temple is the grandest structure in Gandikota or perhaps, in the entire region and its grandeur is on par with the temples of Hampi.
For someone who swears by ancient Indian temple architecture, you couldn’t ask for more ! It it hard to take your eyes off this architectural and sculptural wonder !
The idol inside the sanctum sanctorum is missing, probably destroyed during invasions but the ornately decorated mandapa is still intact.
Imagine Sri Krishnadevaraya walking majestically through that hall, we don’t know if he really did but history is better enjoyed if you give your imagination a chance !
We were running out of time but didn’t want to leave so soon, we had to finally convince ourselves to think that we had seen several such temples ! The Gopuram would not let us leave without having itself photographed.
Much to the amusement of other visitors, the photographer had to lie down on the floor as in a backward “shashtanga namaskaram” and click this picture.
The kings, the architects, the sculptors, the labourers and everyone involved in giving life to this temple, truly deserved a “shashtanga namaskaram” !
“Gandikota Rahasyam” was a superhit film, the Gandikota Fort is one blockbuster fort !
Fresh from Gandikota
Done with our marathon visit to the fort, we returned to the resort. Enroute, we spotted a farmer harvesting his produce, fresh vegetables straight from the farm.
Most of the area around the fort is being cultivated for growing vegetables. We bought a few vegetables including those delicious looking Bottle gourds.
Thus ended our trip to Rayalaseema. We checked out of the resort and started back to Hyderabad, it was past lunch time and burning hot at Gandikota. We stopped for a late lunch at a dhaba near Tadipatri on the way.
The biscuit packet returns !
If you have followed this series from the first post, you will remember the biscuit packet that was given to us at a toll plaza in lieu of Rs.5 change. During the entire trip, we did not bother to open it. Just when we began eyeing it for a snack, the same toll plaza near Kurnool, where the biscuit packet originated from, arrived. This time, we were asked to give Rs.5 change and the biscuit packet went back to where it belonged ! The toll plaza attendant took it back without even a second glance at us. We were jubilant that we got our tit for tat. The biscuit packet must also be writing a blog on its free ride to Gandikota and back !
– Gandikota is 77 kms from Tadipatri which is also the nearest rail head. Jammalamadugu, 17 kms away is the nearest town from where you can find buses to Gandikota. As always, it is easier if you have your vehicle or hire one. Gandikota is off the main road, we are not sure if the buses are too frequent.
– There are no timings for the fort. It is left open 24 hours of the day. People also go camping at the fort at night. We were told it is safe except for the occasional snake visits. Night camping at the fort could be a good idea, however, make sure you are in a bigger group and you inform the AP Tourism resort caretaker.
– You will need atleast 3-4 hours at the fort, including a visit to the gorge.
– Rock climbing and rappelling are becoming popular activities here. If you plan to do them, go along with some adventure club. Do not try it on your own, though the gorge and the rocks look very inviting.
– Except for the AP Tourism resort, you will not find hotels at Gandikota. You might have to drive to Jammalamadugu otherwise.
– If you are looking for a weekend trip from Hyderabad you could try the Rayalaseema circuit of Yaganti, Belum Caves, Tadipatri and Gandikota. Make sure you stay at the AP Tourism resort.
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