Gandikota Fort – Travel Guide to the Grand Canyon of India

Just once is not enough to make and savour beautiful memories, isn’t it? Gandikota is one such place that beckoned me back, and I happily went. The beauty of the Gandikota fort and the view of the gorge was so awe-inspiring that I wanted to make another trip to it soon.  

Last time, we were put off by an unexpected thunderstorm. After the sunset, we had started moving out of Gandikota and were caught by surprise by a massive thunderstorm. There was no single spark of light to be seen anywhere around us except our car and the heavy downpour outside the car.

We stopped on the road and switched off the lights and engine to witness the rain and the frequent lightning, which lit up the entire horizon like magic! We were speechless by the magnificent charm of Mother Nature.

However, earlier, it was more like a complete offbeat destination, and hence only a few people knew about it back then. But now a lot has changed.

The road to Gandikota has been newly laid down, and many camping sites have sprung up in the vicinity. It looks as if the Government has started a campaign to promote tourism here! The crowd of the tourists have also increased considerably. 
Why wouldn’t it be when it is known as the “Grand Canyon of India”?!

This article is a guest post contribution by Sugan G. Let’s read about his travel experience to Gandikota fort.

gandikota penna river view
Penna river

Gandikota Village

Gandikota is a little village on the right bank of river Penna, situated in the Kadapa district of Andhra Pradesh. The village is named after the fort built by Raja Pemmasani Kumara Thimma Naidu. 

Gandikota (Gandi + Kota) means the fort by the gorge in Telugu. The village is contained within the walls of the fort. Like most of the villages in India, Gandikota looked rustic and rural too. Houses are built with stones arranged one above the other in a primitive way. There are very few cemented houses. Some of the houses use the fort’s walls or remainings as a support and are built around it, making it look more like a makeshift arrangement.

gandikota juma masjid
Juma Masjid inside Gandikota Fort

History of Gandikota Fort

Historical records of Gandikota are found in inscriptions all around the Kadapa district. It also mentions the travel diaries of French jeweller and traveller— Jean-Baptiste Tavernier— who visited Gandikota just a couple of days after Mir Jumla of Golconda won the fort. 

History says that Mir Jumla was fond of diamonds, and the two exchanged sacks of it. Jean’s writings and some fort paintings by British officers available online give you a picture of the fort back in time. 

Raja Pemmasani Kumara Thimma Naidu was the first king of the Pemmasani family who took the reigns of power from the Mikkilineni dynasty, the original rulers of Gandikota village. The Pemmasani clan ruled Gandikota for nearly 282 years.

Recently, Mr. Pemmasani Prabhakar Naidu, a descendant of the Gandikota rulers, presented a stone weighing 3 kg from the Gandikota fort to be used to construct the new capital city of Andhra Pradesh “Amaravati”. 

This gesture was in tune with the Gandikota rulers’ tradition of presenting ‘Raja Silas‘ from the fort whenever a new city was constructed. 

Gandikota History
History of Gandikota

Walking through Gandikota Fort

When you enter the Gandikota fort’s premise, the first structure you will encounter is the world-famous Charminar, and the next is the jail. The Charminar is a small multi-storeyed structure made of brick and mortar. 

Whereas the jail is a massive structure, again made up of stone and mortar, which was probably added much later to the fort. The place was full of bats and gave a slightly elevated view of the fort. Spooky!

Gandikota Charminar
Gandikota Charminar

The fort has two temples, too — Madhavaraya Swamy temple and the Ranganatha Swamy temple. Both these temples follow the typical Dravidian architecture, and both have a Garbhagriha and a Mugha Mantapa. 

I liked the Madhavaraya temple more as it has a temple tower and more artworks than the Ranganatha Swamy temple. Other monuments inside the Gandikota fort include the Mir Jumla Masjid, the granary, and Rayala Cheruvu a man-made pond. 

The Charminar and Mir Jumla Masjid are later additions to the fort after the fort was annexed to the rulers of Golconda. One can also notice a small replica of the mosque next to it.

Ranganathaswamy temple Gandikota
Ranganathaswamy temple inside Gandikota Fort

Penna River View

The scenic geography of the surrounding area is stunning! It looks like a huge lego structure made out of stones!

The river cuts the surface deep before it is blocked by the Tatireddy Narasimha Reddy dam. The Gandikota gorge view is breathtakingly beautiful, and it sure does resembles] the Grand canyon. Hence the name— Grand Canyon of India. 

You would have seen countless pictures of people standing at this viewpoint and clicking selfies. The government has also set up a water sports complex including adventurous activities such as rappelling, kayaking, speed boat ride in the downstream Gandikota dam.

There is also an annual Gandikota heritage festival called Gandikota Utsavalu. Do visit it here if the occasion arises. The Government is also trying for the site to get UNESCO’s heritage site status. 

Such a picturesque place makes up for a perfect natural setting for shooting movies. I could recognize scenes shot here in the popular hits such as Samy 2, Chekka Chivantha Vaanam, Spyder, and Aravaan. A 1969 movie titled Gandikota Rahasyam, played by NTR and Jayalalitha shot at this very place.

penna river view point
Penna river view point

Also read – Grand Canyon of Khajuraho – Raneh Falls

Gandikota Camping

This is for all the adventure folks out there. If you are a camping enthusiast, you have several options to camp at Gandikota. 

You can stay in an AC tent in the camping ground on the edge of the gorge. You can also bring your tent and camp to the private camping grounds for a nominal fee. They provide you with proper restrooms, dinner, and a few other options. 

If you want to take it up a notch higher, you can find a perfect spot for yourself and camp your tent there. We camped on a flat rock surface near the Ranganathaswamy temple. We choose the spot because the surface was flat and had easy access to a public toilet, a few hundred meters away. The gorge viewpoint was also only some 100 metres away.

Gandikota rocks
Boulders all around

Another perk of camping here is that there is almost no light pollution, and thus the night sky appears all clear and magical. It is a sheer delight if you are interested in astronomy or night sky (Astro) photography. The aura takes you closer to nature.

If time and occasion permits, I will go back to Gandikota again only to witness the night sky and sleep in a tent, probably near the Penna river, or maybe within the ruins of a Vijayanagar period Gandikota temple. 

If you are not a fan of camping, APTDC runs a small hotel by Haritha Resort’s name pretty close to the Gandikota fort. You can book your stay there and carry on with the rest of the camping activities.

Gandikota village

Sunset at Gandikota

Other than the monuments and the gorgeous view of the gorge, the sunset and sunrise views here are spectacular. Given the temperature here rises to 45 degrees during summer days, it’s better to visit here during sunrise or sunset. 

An inexplicable calm descends over oneself, and you become one with nature. (I, for some reason, liked the sunset more than the sunrise.)

Madhavaraya Swamy temple Gandikota
Sunset at Madhavaraya Swamy temple inside Gandikota Fort

How To Reach Gandikota

The place is easily accessible owing to a lot of options.

Gandikota is about 300 kilometres from Bangalore, 350 kilometres from Chennai, and 380 kilometres from Hyderabad. On any weekend, one would see people from all these metros visiting Gandikota. 

To reach Gandikota from Bangalore, one has to take the Hyderabad highway to Anantapur and take the route towards Kadapa. The route is dotted with cement factories and Kadapa stone factories.

Combine Gandikota with Tadipatri, Lepakshi, and Belum caves for a weekend road trip, and you will never forget this lifetime experience. 

All in all, I will ]forever cherish my visit to the Grand Canyon of India. 

It is time that you make such memories too!

Juma Masjid
Juma Masjid inside the fort

About the Author: Am Sugan G and you can find me across social media as The Buffalo Rider. I love road trips. The favorite tour so far has been the 4500 km road trip from Bangalore to Kumbh Mela in Prayagaraj and back through Varanasi and Konark. I dream about Overlanding across the world and next in the pipeline is to plan a trip from Bangalore to Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

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Gandikota pinterest
Gandikota for Pinterest Board

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