Gandikota – the Grand Canyon of India

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The sunset hues of Gandikota

Andhra Pradesh is known for its coastal splendour and its pilgrim spots. Some places have managed to remain rather hidden and unexplored. Gandikota is one such spot whose fame is no match to its beauty. Nestled away in a village in Kadapa district is a gorge or ‘Gandi’ formed by heaps of rocks with the serene Pennar river cutting through in the middle. Very close on the heels of the fort is a fort or ‘Kota’ with a long history spanning close to one thousand years. Hence, the village surrounding the area acquired the name Gandikota.

The fort at Gandikota has witnessed the rise and fall of many kingdoms. The first sandfort made here was by a Kakatiya ruler in 1123 AD. The fort has been ruled by the Kakatiyas, Pemmasani Kamma Nayakas and even the Golconda Sultanate, each having centuries of rule over the area. The fort is in ruins now save for some parts of it. The Jamia Masjid is one such part which lies very close to the Madhavaraya temple, a symbol of communal harmony that has – literally and figuratively – stood the test of time.

A hint of Islamic architecture – Jamia Masjid at Gandikota

The most ideal time to visit Gandikota is during the winters. The rocks reflect the scorching Andhra heat during the winters and the rains make it difficult to safely maneuver the rocks to reach the gorge. The winter offers the ideal setting with the cool breeze and a river refreshed by the recent monsoon. The best time of the day to visit the gorge is at sunset. Not only is the sky conjuring beautiful tints, but even the rocks seem to come alive as they reflect the soft sunlight as dusk approaches, appearing like the golden sunshine has mixed with the rusty brown rocks.

There are very few houses close to the gorge and the only hotel in the area is the government hotel which offers humble accommodation, a bon fire on requests and even some space where you can camp out in tents if you bring your own. The food they offer is simple, local and authentic. Because of the limited human activity, presence and artificial light, the night sky is very clear. Visiting from the city with foggy night sky views, the view of this night sky was as novel and stunning as the view of the gorge itself. If possible, wait for the lights to be turned off or drive to a darker spot, in a group of course, which you will find about three hundred meters away from the hotel. It will be a memorable star studded sky that you will remember for years to come.

Gandikota certainly seems like the perfect weekend getaway for a post lockdown road trip this winter!

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