Carved by the Pennar River that snakes its way through the Erramala Ranges in Andhra Pradesh, the Grand Canyon of India is a unique ar chitecture of nature that attracts one and all.
Gandikota is a small village in the Cuddapah district of Andhra Pradesh that is known for its spectacular gorge formed by River Pennar that cuts through the Erramala hills. The area is marked by deep valleys and massive boulders of granite. According to experts, the canyon is more than a thousand years old. This untouched and unexploited natural beauty blends seamlessly with the area’s rich historical past.
Gandikota was founded in 1123 by Kapa Raja of nearby Bommanapalle village. Apart from the gorge, there are several other attractions in and near Gandikota village that attract visitors, the most special being the ancient, magnificent Gandikota fort that sits majestically on top of the gorge. The gorge formation is such that the Pennar River flows about 90m below on the western and northern sides and is said to have offered strong natural defense to the Kakatiya, Vijayanagar and Qutb Shahi kings who ruled from the fort.
The view of gorge from the top is majestic. And when the sun goes down, the gorge becomes all the more spectacular with a beautiful colour palette covering its cluster of rocks.
The magnificent fort
The 13th century Gandikota Fort is a red sandstone structure with intricate carvings, protected by a five-mile-long (eight kilometres) rocky wall. The fort acquired its name due to the ‘gorge’ (in Telugu it is called ‘gandi’), formed between the Erramala range of hills, also known as Gandikota hills and the river Pennar that flows at its foot, reducing its width to a mere 300ft. The massive fort is surrounded by natural deep valleys, impassable hills and boulders that make it a very secured fort. Situated amidst beautiful landscape and wild forests, it is endowed with vast natural resources.
The fort was considered as one of the most prominent forts in the country as the powerful Telugu dynasty, the Pemmasani Kamma Dynasty, also known as Gandikota Kammas, ruled this fort for nearly 300 years.
The other structures in the fort include a large granary (for emergency storage of food), a graceful ‘pigeon tower’ with fretted windows and an extensive palace built by bricks with some plastered decorations and some wells. There is an old cannon lying in the fort. There are gardens and springs and an undated inscription on a boulder, near the ‘Nagajhari’ outside the fort, recording the gift of two gardens at the place to the temple. There was a garden called ‘Parebagh’ with a waterfall at the foot of the hills, on the bank of the Penneru. There is a massive masjid (Jama Masjid) and a temple (Madhavaraya Temple) right beside each other in the fort. The Madhavaraya Temple displays amazing architecture and has on display many sculptures of Hindu Gods. A heritage festival is held every year in the fort area.
Words: KOMAL MEHTA