The spectacular Borra Caves located in the lush green Ananthagiri Hills at an elevation of 2310 feet is considered to be one of the largest caves of the country. This natural wonder nested in breathtaking terrain holds great ecological, geological, religious, anthropological and archaeological significance.
These caves were discovered by a British geologist, William King George of the Geological Survey of India in 1807 who was quickly able to sum up that the cave was at least a million years old if not more. Also known as Borra Guhalu with borra meaning hole in the local language, this cave was discovered quite by accident by the tribals living here as per the legend. The story is that a cowherd found this cave while searching for his lost cow. His search led him to an open hole and he soon realized that the cow had fallen through the hole. While exploring this marvellous beauty looking for his cow, he chanced upon a Shiva Linga deep inside the cave and thereafter, finding his cow attributed its safety to Lord Shiva. The villagers built a small temple outside the cave which is worshipped by a large number of people.
It is also said that the Shiva Linga found here had a distinctive formation of a cow above it with water droplets from this udder like formation falling directly on the Shiva Linga. The udder of this cow is believed to be the source of the Gosthani river that flows through the city of Visakhapatnam.
Geologists have confirmed that Borra Caves were formed as a result of perennial water flow of Gosthani river on the limestone deposits over millions of years. Many streams that joined this river also probably added to the creation of these stunning speleothems i.e. breathtaking structures of stalactites and stalagmites.
The anthropologists were very enthusiastic with their findings having discovered stone tools of the Middle Paleolithic Age from the caves indicating these caves were probably inhabited around 30,000 -50,000 years ago.
The process of the formation of Borra Caves is also quite fascinating. Scientists who have been studying this cave have found a wealth of microbes in the minerals deep inside the cave. They have concluded that partially decomposed organic matter that creates humic acid in water has reacted with the calcium carbonate in limestone and when the minerals in the stone got dissolved, the stone disintegrated gradually. As there was perennial water flow from the streams that rushed into Gosthani river, the chemical reaction kept eroding the stones over a long period of time leading to the formation of the Borra Caves.
Now, this cave is geologically active and one can still see droplets of water falling from the top and had the chemical reaction stopped a long time ago, the scale of the Borra Caves would have been less impressive. Another very intriguing feature of the Borra Caves is that there is a point where the railway line of Dandakaranya- Bolangir-Kibur passes right on top of it!
The caves spread over three levels but only the middle level is open to the public. The lower level is deemed dangerous and slippery because of the river running below. Borra Caves are made up of karstic limestone which go as deep as 80 metres making it the deepest caves in the country. There is a tiny stream of yellow-hued water with Sulphur lending it the yellow colour.
These formations are locally called as jalashilas or water rocks – Sai Baba, Sita’s bedroom and bathroom from where turmeric water (Sulphur water) emerges from Her bath, corncob, monkeys, sitting elephant, running horse, Hanuman’s feet and His Gada, Shiva-Parvathi, Rishi’s beard, mother-child, crocodile, human brain, tiger, cow’s udder to name a few. Some of the walls sparkle because of the of the presence of minerals like Magnesium and Silica.
This exquisite dripstone formation creates panoramic views with an eye-catching play of natural skylights, pitch-black spaces and glittering stones that are a combination of marble and limestone. There is an astounding end-to-end joint in the rock and the locals call the two sides divided by the joints as Luva and Kusha after Sita’s sons.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)