A slice of America’s famous Grand Canyon is in Andhra Pradesh. No Kidding. Just as River Colorado flows in Arizona, the River Penne flows among massive gorges through the Erramalai ranges in Andhra Pradesh. What’s more, there is a fort is located right at the edge of this gorge.
It is the Gandikota fort that was built in 1123 by a Chalukya king from nearby Bommanapalle village.
Gandi means gorse and kota means fort. This fort was built by a king from the Bommanapalle village that’s situated nearby. This fort was impregnable and in control of Pemmasani Nayaks for 300 years.
Those looking for a longer trek can hike till Mylavaram dam that’s 18 km away. While an asphalt road goes right up to the dam, you can also stay off the road during the hike.
How to do the trek
The trek begins from gate of Gandikota fort. Explore the fort area before you begin your trek. Keep walking along the inner wall of the fort. Within a short distance, you come to a mosque and then the ruins of the Ranganayaka Swamy temple.
While there are well-made paths up to the temple, the trail becomes a blur beyond that. The area has a million rocks placed in interesting patterns. Here, you will find a sign that reads ‘Penna George.’ This route leads up the edge of the gorge.
Following the straight-forward path is quite simple. But for adventure seekers, these rocks pose interesting trails. There are several prospects of bouldering and rock climbing.
Climb up to the edge and camp there for night to catch the first rays of the sun. The view is otherworldly, with golden rays of the sun lighting up the surface of the river.
Start your descent into the gorge soon after sunrise. The descent could be tricky as the rocky edges of Erramalai ranges are quite steep. Below, there’s a grassy valley surrounding River Penna. For those of you who don’t want to camp above, this is a good camping site.
The trek to Gandikota is a half day affair. So, it is necessary to plan your travel well so that you make the most of this short trek. Ideally, you should begin the trek around evening and camp at Gandikota at night, so that you catch the sunset as well as the sunset.
Note: This region, although steeped in history, displays neglect.It hasn’t been maintained well and you might well find a lot of garbage from the village near by. Try to steer clear off the areas close to the village.
Points of attraction at Gandikota Fort:
1. Gandikota fort, the walls, and the perimeter:
Gandikota fort is spread over miles. You can walk along the west fort wall perimeter and can enjoy the sunset and windmills stationed at a distance from there. At the fort, a history awaits you which has lost its force. Yeah! there too was a civilization there once and now left over with a small village. There are still remains of a mosque, temple, granary, a royal pond, clock tower and many more historical heritages. Watching the lost past impregnates a taste of inevitable mortality and philosophical liveliness of this ephemeral lifespan. They were there; they built; now they are no more but their heritages stand alone.
Ranganathaswamy temple, Gandikota:
The temple is made up of red granites. There is not any statue inside, but remnants of the temple are ideal for photographers. Also, there are Mantapas and pillars along the perimeter of the temple.
Surrounded by a series of Mantapas and stone pillars, the temple would cue you a movie scene. It is grand; it is spectacular; unlike other temples, the serenity has been prevailing here for centuries. No worship, no rush and no enchants. Still there is something mystical which would keep you engaged for hours even though there is not any single statue of any god. Air whistle through pillars; the life resonates within; eyes cant take of the stone stunners. They are abandoned once they must had their own life. Nothing seems to be permanent except the earth and sky.
Jamia masjid, Gandikota:
There are two parts of the mosque: the entrance and the mosque with two minarets. And beside the temple is the mosque. Hear any Sufi song when you are there. Imagine yourself surrounded by the great Sufi singers sprinkling the melody of love slowly. Drink the elixir of love at the foundation of the Allah. There is no more lesson to learn; there is nothing more left to earn. There are the silent soothing currents floating over the air.
They would kiss you; teach you the lesson of life; the immortality is earned through deeds and Karma; there is only path to the piousness- the love. The love carved on the minarets with precise dexterity. The love embodied on the tomb on the name of divine supreme being. Ataraxis, Serenity, repose etc.. make your senses squeeze and smell silence for a while.
Jamia masjid front
Main Jamia masjid
Madhavaraya temple, Gandikota:
A temple dedicated to lord Vishnu is in the west side of the village. It can be seen from a distance. There are small statues and sculptures of Hindu Gods carved over the Gopuram and walls of the temple. Here comes the grandiosity but its derelict. Its looks like that a monument has been preserving an odyssey of Journey in its every brick and sculptures. Each sleight carving becharms the magnitude of the social and cultural aspect of the lost kingdom. The dreams of the king, his realm, the people and the lost future preserved in granites.
Madhavaraya temple, Gandikota
Madhavaraya temple and Jamia Masjid as seen from Raghunathaswamy temple, Gandikota
The unity in diversity. The talking monuments; the eternal feeling; the ethereal dimension. When I looked at the above picture again, they appeared to me as though the two lost entities in the race of civilization, left behind. But they stopped over there and an ultimate chronicle rose from bewildered and retiring times and leapt inside these memorials. The curator of fourth dimension knew that one day the race of civilization would slack off and it had to uphold an exceptional reference which would always remind the society of orders of the past.
The granary, Gandikota:
The granary is said to be used for storing grains. It is adjacent to the Jamia masjid and to the west of Raghunathaswamy temple.
The Granary, Gandikota
The Royal tank, Gandikota:
You have to walk a little bit from the Madhavaraya temple towards the west walls of the fort to see the royal tank. Royal tank is a perennial spring irrigating some lime and plantain gardens.
Royal tank, Gandikota
Penna river gorges and Gandikota Images:
200-300 meters east of the Raghunathaswamy temple, lies the river Penna gorge. It is said to be the “Grand canyon of India”. The gorges are almost 300 feet deep from the cliff which made the fort almost unconquerable due to its natural defense.
River Penna gorge towards the east
River Penna gorge to the west
Rocks arranged purposefully or those were randoms? Did I see a huge human stone face looking up into the sky? The layer after layers of rocks and fine but considerable cracks running through them. It was a pilgrimage for the adventurer like me. I see my God here. The god in leprose canyon faces. The white angels in form of the cranes flying over Penna river and white flickering shadows running beneath them. The calm river not less than the Colorado looking like a sleeping beauty. I wish there should be temperature inversion which would fill the canyon with natural thick fog in winters.
I wished much more than this. I wish I were an eagle. I would have my nest in one of the highest cracks at the creeks far from civilization. I would have flied much higher in the sky and would have taken the tour of the valley and canyon everyday. I would have loved to watch my own shadow floating seamlessly over the sleeping water. In the evening, I would have sat at the highest peak. I would have enjoyed the red glittering stones shining under the setting sun. Sometimes, they had be yellow, then orange then maroon and they would have finally turned black in the night. But on the full moon day, I would have been the luckiest eagle on this universe to watch the black valley turning into a golden valley gradually for the whole night.
Opposite side of the river Penna gorge
Someday, I would love to have a bit of Christopher McCandless with in me. I would dare to narrate my own story. I would bring my own kayaks. I would slip into the river and I would explore with a high zoom camera along with my friends. Looking at the private life of untouched beauty like a virgin girl and secret homes of birds. I would love to get down. I would love to explore the cracks. I will burn a flash inside them. I would find a new route for the civilization in the lost civilization. I made a dream and may be, someone else might complete it before I do but I will. Someday.