Wednesday, June 25, 2008

About 56 miles off Visakhapatnam is the one-million-year-old Borra Caves spread over the Eastern ghats and occupying an area of 2 square kilometers. It can be reached in 5-6 hours by train from Vizag, or, via the ghat road in three hours. November-December would be the ideal time to visit the caves. Journeying by train is the most exciting since one can traverse through the Eastern ghats crossing 30 tunnels and thick vegetation.
The Borra caves are breathtakingly beautiful and the natural formation of these caves is also unique. The limestone caves were formed as a result of the action of the Gosthani river. The river which now flows through the caves was once upon a time flowing over the limestone area. Due to the pressure exerted by the river water on the mineral deposits, the lime stones dissolved and gradually the caves were formed. It was a two-way process. The dissolved limestone trickled down drop by drop on the floor of the cave. These solidify to form the irregularly shaped stalagmites.
Simultaneously, some of the water drops from the roof solidify to form stalactites. Over a period of time, these calcium deposits of stalagmites and stalactites grow upwards and downwards respectively, and at some points touch each other to form different parts of the caves. While some of the deposits are in weird shapes, others have formed into fantastic structures which have acquired a religious significance over a period of time.
The entire region surrounding Borra caves is inhabited by tribals for whom the place has enormous religious significance. According to a popular legend, a cowherd lost his cow while it was grazing. He soon realised that the cow had fallen into a 200 feet deep hole. Assuming the cow to be dead, he peeped into the cavity. To his utter disbelief, he found the cow alive and feeding on the grass deep below. This was the first time that the tribals discovered the existence of the caves.
When the cowherd went into the caves to retrieve his cow, he found the calcium deposit in the shape of a Siva linga. He immediately attributed the survival of the cow to the presence of God. From then on, people started worshiping the linga. Later a small temple was built outside the caves where pujas are performed regularly.
There are several interesting structures inside the caves. These include a mushroom formation, a temple, a mosque, a church and many more. Along with the calcium deposits, there are traces of yellow-colored sulphur deposits on the ground. Flowing between the solidified stalagmites and stalactites is the Gosthani river which heads towards Orissa, once out of the caves.
The Borra caves are brightly illuminated by sixty-three lamps of mercury, sodium vapor and halogen lamps, which make the interior of the caves colorful and spectacular!

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