Gandikota is a remote village in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. Among those bitten with the travel bug it is known as the “Grand Canyon of India”. Though much smaller in size, the same geological processes created both. Unfortunately while Grand Canyon is well known this Gandikota still remains as a hidden gem. It is definitely not on the popular tourist map, and takes a little planning to get to. There is a little bit of history, architecture and adventure waiting here. Definitely worth the 5 and half hours drive from Bangalore (or 7 hours from Hydrabad).
Where : In the State of Andhra Pradesh, India (See Map)
How To Reach : 5 to 7 hours drive from the nearest major cities – Tirupathi, Bangalore, or Hydrabad
When to Visit : Sept to Feb when the climate is temperate.
Things to Do : Visit the fort and temples , rock climbing , camping.
Why Should You Go
- Remote and Un-spoilt It is still largely unexplored and there are hidden gems along the way.
- The Rocks And The Gorge there are ample opportunities for rock climbing and rafting. The walk along the gorge is breathtakingly beautiful and serene. Most of the climb is not difficult climb and something that even the little kids will enjoy.
- Views Views Views The view of the gorge from the top is absolutely breathtaking.
- Architecture and History The temples are adorned with breathtaking sculptures and a delight to explore. The ruins provide a glimpse into the past and the influence of different dynasties.
If you go :
Pack essentials and be ready to rough it out even with hotel reservations.
There are no contacts for coordinating out door adventure activities on site. Do plan ahead and don’t forget the First Aid Kit.
Take plenty of water and snacks if you plan to hike as there are no stores inside the fort.
Gandikota derives its name from two Telugu words Gandi for gorge and kota for fort. Here the river Pennar had to carve its way through the hill terrain. Over the years the might of the river has created a deep gorge splitting the Erramala hills and revealing breathtaking rock formations. Combined -the gorge , the river and the hills- created an incredible natural fortress. Realizing its potential, the rulers in the 12th century built a city and a fort here. For a long time this fort helped the Telugu people fight and ward off invaders. The current fort, most of which still stands, dates back to 13th century.
The fort is in ruins now, but it still offers glimpses of the former grandeur. The village, as I mentioned, is remote and the closest accommodation is the Tourism Department run hotel. The lodgings were roomy and the property has an idyllic village feel, but the best word to describe our experience there is “adventurous” ! I would recommend that you go with a camp out expectation, and have basic necessities along – hand sanitizer / soap, towels , snacks, bed sheets/ sleeping bags etc.. On a good day a stay here will be perfect, if not luxurious. It is also the perfect opportunity to watch the sunset and sunrise, when you are not camping on the river banks.
The entrance to the fort is not a straight line. You pass the outermost entrance and stare at the wall straight ahead :-). Multiple gates separated by switchbacks was a standard procedure to guard the the fort. This forces the attackers to protect themselves from all sides as they gain access into the fort. In the recent times there may be obstacles of other nature that prevent you from getting in though. Cattle, stray dogs, and the local youth trying to raise money for festivals are some of the obstacles that one may (hopefully not) have to navigate through to get in. The fort has an entrance fee – very nominal, which I believe does little towards the upkeep or the economy of the village.
You can drive in, but the entrance is not very wide. When it was built the largest thing to pass through the gates would have been an elephant or a horse chariot. After you negotiate the winding entrance, one of the first buildings to catch your eye will be the jail. There is a small settlement right across the jail. If you are driving in, do stay on the path. The road from here on is not paved. There is an abundance of thorny plants and rocks, and the nearest mechanic will be ways off. To me the experience here was more like an adventure form children’s stories. The signs are not well maintained, and at times you might have a Tom Sawyer moment and wonder if you are trespassing into someone’s property.
We drove to the Jamia Masjid and parked there. This masjid is still used for Friday prayers. May be that was the reason why it is in good shape. You can climb to the top here and get a bird’s eye view of the fort.
Next to the Masjid was a large granary. M, my son, was keen on exploring the granary while the rest of us were fascinated by the scores of green parrots resting on the walls. Babu, our driver rushed to AJ and asked to stop M, from going inside the granary. He pointed out that places like these are the favorite haunts of “Jinn” and they especially target the first born sons. Well lucky for us, we did not have to test this theory as M decided that the granary did not hold anything worth exploring. and after a cursory peek lost interest.
It is not just the masjid that is worth seeing here, there are two temples bearing testament to the architecture of the day. I am not sure if daily rituals are conducted here, but we did find some lit lamps. The temples sport impressive columns with carvings depicting scenes from Indian mythology. As you explore the area you will become aware of the quite village life all around – farmers tending to the fields, cattle lazing around, village ladies gathering firewood. This is a living fort, though it is not officially classified as one.
The temples and the Masjid offer interesting architectural contrasts. Masjid is also a good place to to get a bird’s eye view of the whole fort. Unfortunately history, and architecture are not something that the kids are excited about. Understandably they were happy to see the signs to the river and the rocks! I am going to let the pictures do the talking here:-). The the climb up and down the rocks are not very hard. The little ones did with some help and thoroughly enjoyed it.
A trek along the fort walls offers beautiful views. Unfortunately for us the sky was over cast and the photographer was a little disappointed. There is another trip to this place in the future , and may be next time we will be able to explore the nearby Belum caves .