Hills, river, fort and temples converge at Gandikota for a peek into the past, says Vishnupriya Bhandaram
There is no greater pleasure than to let Nature guide you on a path to discover beauty. A trip to Gandikota is just that; there is something about those ravines which will make you stop and take stock of life.
Situated in the Kadapa district of Andhra Pradesh, Gandikota gets its name from the fort adjacent to the deep gorge on the Erramala Hills through which the Penna river flows. Getting here isn’t a Herculean task, especially because frequent buses run from Hyderabad, Bangalore and Chennai. If you’re driving from Hyderabad take the NH 7 and you’ll be able to clock a distance of 400 km in six hours. Don’t nod off, stay up and look at the vast lands around you. Stop over at the Haritha Hotel in Gandikota (AP Tourism resort); drop your bags in a room, grab your camera, some breakfast and head to the fort.
Everything about the fort is regal, notice the huge metal door with spikes. The gate is about 20 feet high and the fort region houses a number of small fortresses. Near the fort is a granary. Inside are two beautiful temples and an architecturally stunning mosque called the Jama Masjid. Request the gatekeeper to allow you to explore the fort. From the top of the mosque you’ll get a brilliant view of the temples and the gorge. Around the mosque is a pond — locals call it ‘Kathula Koneru’ (pond of swords) and say that the kings used to wash their swords in this pond after a war. From the mosque head over to the Ragunatha temple and Madhavaraya temple — these ancient structures, built between the 15th and 16th centuries stand out for their architectural beauty. They bear the stamp of the Vijayanagara and the Kakatiya style of construction.
The Raghunatha temple in ruins overlooks the deep gorge on one side and the mosque on the other. The Madhavaraya temple has huge boulders one on top of the other which were then carefully carved. It was built during the reign of Krishnadeva Raya. Inside the dwaram (entrance) you can see carvings of the fish and tortoise — both of which are avatars of Vishnu.
Walk towards the gorge. The climb is easy at first, till you get to the huge boulders and rocks. A hundred feet below, the 300ft wide Penna flows by at the foot of the red granite hills. Gandikota’s landscape with its abraded rocks and hills and ancient structures that carry the weight of history, is an unforgettable one.