The surprises, facts and history:
It is believed that Jain and Buddhist monks occupied these caves centuries ago for meditation. There is a meditation hall inside. Apart from meditation hall, the presence of a temple and mandapam affirm the presence of people doing meditation in underground cave. Many Buddhists relics were found inside the caves dating back to 4500 BC and pre-Buddist era. A cave that has full fledged itself like ant nest feet below ground level and spread miles across like ant colonies with a network of secret chambers, tunnels, halls, temples and burrows hidden in the dark. It welcomes us with a warm blow of air carrying the mild scent of stalagmites, lime stones and swamp underground streams.
The difference between the two world is just 20s of steps. By walking down these steps, you would enter into a world which have been lesser known to the outside world serving its purpose of being enigmatic and secret. The cave appears like a giant devil with mouth wide opened and welcoming you to a chamber of secrets. These caves are second largest of the Indian subcontinent and have been discovered as long as 3500 meters however only 1500 meters are open to the tourists But I wonder how many of the tourists resist to survive against the humid and hot underground air in pursuit of cave exploration. At some deeper places, there are not even lights and more over, grounds are damp and you may encounter flying bats any time. But I am sure not all dare to explore beyond the limit and try to restrict themselves to the cave areas which are facilitated with lights.
Entrance to the Belum caves
Yellow lights, dark caves and thousand wilderness inside mind:
Now you going to spend next few hours into a world of fantasy which is not lesser than a world of wizards or a chamber of secrets or a cave of hidden power or ancient wall graffiti of roman Egypt. But if you want to close the eyes and feel the sculptures graven over walls, probably you would be unlucky then because it is very less likely over there that the walls have paintings or any graffiti.
Yellow lights hanging on to the walls give amazing lighting display effects. A beam of lights falls on the cave walls; it enlightens some of the part while the visible area around the focus bathes up in the halo of the glare. From a distance, if you want to imagine your favorite character painted and lighted over the walls, you are free to do so. A little nose of rocks coming in the path of the light would create a demon like figure if the shadow gets stretched over the ceiling of the cave. Rocks are even, so are the walls, however, they are smoother than your pure thought.
Every beam of the yellow halogen light falling over the walls attracts much of the character inside you. A photographer; a child; a nature lover; an enigmatic person and so on. You want to stand in front of that beam of light for more time but when you look ahead, a beautiful curve stitched with white lime stones shining yellow under light look marvelous. This conjuration of the golden moon- the yellow lights and the silvery sun- the white silvery sun together is so rare with eclipse at every nook and corner. The darker side of the entrance is even more luring and being a human being who is inquisitive in nature want to see the things closer.
Encounter with bats:
It was dark and the visibility inside the cave was in total harmony with the focus of the flash lights and the glare around. The ground was muddy and swamp. The tunnel was narrow but it was high. Focusing at the front, we were walking aligned and suddenly a bat appears in front of us coming flying. It was like first encounter with super hawk bombers in dog fights while we were still on older versions of MIGs. Shiny bright eyes glaring red, wide wing span and totally black object flying like an UFO. We retreated and gave the way to the bat and with in moments of seconds, the bat was again lost in the dark behind us. The thumping heart, wide opened eyes and frozen body regained their normal state and we again started our exploration .
Last part of exploration in the dark:
We had almost reached to a point where there were no lights at all and we were walking like spirits in the dark totally relying on our torches. The darker side of the caves were much more swampy, slippery and each steps had to be taken precise with full measures force on to the ground. The passage was dump and smelly and with the fear of anything can approach you from front we were silently and carefully walking ahead. Sometimes, mis-stepping over mud and controlling ourselves from slipping off.
Finally, it was a sigh, seeing an end to the cave but the view was amazing in there. It was hell lot of humid and we were sweating like hell . There were hundreds of lingam like hoods inside the dark cave. Anywhere you flash on the lights it was only hoods.
Thousand hoods, Belum caves
Crawling through the narrow passage:
There are tens of caves inside the cave crisscrossing each other. Some are wide open and some are too narrow and dark to pass through. We just stopped by a narrow burrow with the intention of “lets look inside”. Yeah! there was light at the other end. We were hanging on to the swing of confusion, can we make it?
Well, we can still try it out and I was the first one to enter. I had never been to such clumsy and narrow place before in my life. Even getting a ball out from beneath a cot seemed thousand times easier than walking with a hope that we might eventually come out of the burrow. The burrow seemed to have no end at all. You have to carefully watch out for your head, and you cant even crawl because the passageway was full of boulders. We were walking duck-walk, squatting and walking like monkeys. After few minutes, we, though, reach to an end but it was a dead-end with two passages going in opposite directions. The passage grew narrower and we decided that it was wise to step back and return to the main passage.
The unknown fear:
There would always be unknown fear walking behind you if you are either leading the way or following the way. People aligned in the middle are always safer. So when we began returning from the burrow, I had almost thought that the game was over but soon I realized now I was the sweeper of the formation and I am at the same stake.