We reached Chitradurga at 1 pm in the afternoon on a Saturday. So it was almost impossible to explore the massive Chitradurga fort on the same day. Hence the rest of the afternoon was spent at the Chandravalli caves, a moon shaped underground cave complex wedged between two monolithic rocks.
Where are Chandravalli Caves?
Chandravalli caves are located in a nice serene spot about 3 kms from the Chitradurga city centre. The site houses an underground cave complex and the Panchalingeshwara temple in front of a beautiful kere (lake). We entered the premises at around 4 pm on a weekend and got done in an hour.
There is no entry fee for this place and as you might have expected it; there is plenty of free parking as well.
We enjoyed the cool breeze from the Chandravalli lake for a long time and admired the verdant rocky outcrop beyond the lake. The district is full of boulders and hills and has a distinct charm of its own. The lake borders the Jogimatti forest area and is out of bounds for visitors from that area. We headed up the small hill where the cave complex and the cave temple are situated next to each other.
I decided to pay my respects at the Panchalingeshwara temple first. Legend has it that these five lingas were consecrated by the Pandavas when they were exiled. The cave temple next to the temple was said to be inhabited by a saint from Ankali (near Belgaum) in the 4th century and hence the name. It is about 80 ft under the ground and is an interconnected maze of rooms with inscriptions, carvings and paintings on the walls.
A guide is definitely needed to explore this cave complex. It is pitch dark in the caves but the ventilation is amazingly quite good. Imagine a sadhu staying there by the light of the lamps or kings holding their secret meetings below in the days gone by. Some coins, pottery and artefacts have been excavated at this cave complex which dates it to the Iron age and the Satvahana period. Inscriptions dating back to 450 CE are attributed to Mayuravarma, the founder of the Kadamba dynasty.
Chandravalli is not just ancient but a prehistoric site. It definitely warrants a visit along with the more popular Chitradurga fort. Do find time to visit these caves when you are in Chitradurga.