When I first moved to Hyderabad a year ago, it didn’t feel very different from any other metro city of India that I have been to. While the city has everything a millennial professional can ask for, I never feel complete about a culture, unless I have explored its history, and not by reading online, but rather being at places which tell the stories of its past. And I wondered that if I had to understand more about the history and heritage of Andhra Pradesh, where should I go? I asked around about some destinations for weekend trips (because availing of a long vacation is tough when you are a programmer). Thus, I landed at Guntur.
Reaching Guntur from Hyderabad was easy. You should know that the city doesn’t have an airport and the nearest ones are Vijayawada and Hyderabad. Fortunately, there are hundreds of options by road and rail. I booked a reliable and convenient Hyderabad outstation cab for the day and headed out to explore this ancient city of Andhra Pradesh. It was a drive of 280 KM and took me nearly six hours via NH 65.
Guntur at a glance
Beyond the Hyderabad metro, most towns of the state feel quieter and cozier and reflect the real regional culture. Guntur is one of them. This ancient city was the seat of many rulers who brought it to the limelight and made it an integral part of Andhra’s history. The quaint town is dotted with temples and forts, museums which have managed to preserve its historical moments, and much more. A little beyond the city lies some fascinating caves that will tell you more about the city. And to add a cherry on the cake, there is the most productive diamond mine of India, at Kollur.
Of everything that I saw, heard, and experienced, these four places remain unforgettable.
Learning about Buddhism at the Buddha Museum.
I started with the city tour and landed at the Buddha Museum and learned that it was Guntur from where Buddhism spread around Andhra Pradesh since the 2nd century. The museum was stacked with a host of ancient artifacts dating back to that period. There were three galleries, each housing something distinctive about the local history. The first portrayed the history of local art. The second was mostly an exhibit of Buddhist sculptures from the 8th century, and a life-size image of Buddha. The third gallery had relics of the Ashoka edict pillar and similar others, along with artworks dating back to the Satavahana dynasty.
Revisiting history at the Kondaveedu Fort.
Right outside the city, about 25 KM away, lies the historic fort of Kondaveedu. The 13th-century fort was a contribution to the state’s architecture style, built by Anapotha Reddy, a famous ruler of the Reddy Dynasty. Kondaveedu is often regarded to be mysterious, perhaps for what has been unearthed by archeological excavations, like gold idols and more. There were three forts in all, lined up on a narrow hill. Most parts of these forts were in ruins but some of the stupas and the pillared walls managed to peep out of the remains and withstand the sands of time. There was also a temple at the base of the hill.
Exploring the caves of Undavalli.
Towards the end of my trip, I drove about 35 KM northward from the city and landed at the Undavalli Caves. Surrounded by abundant greenery, this cave at the base of a hill overlooking the Krishna River, was a real visual treat. The state tourism department has managed to restore some parts of it and develop it as a heritage site with landscaped gardens edging the caves. The granite structure depicts classic Indian-style rock-cut architecture, which was distinctive of the 4th and 5th centuries. I found a huge statue of Vishnu in a reclining position, carved out of a single block of black granite. There were sculptures of other gods as well.
In search of diamonds.
On my way back, there was one stop that I had to make. My cabbie had mentioned a diamond mine in the Guntur district (not the city per se) in Kollur. I had never seen a diamond mine before and wasn’t sure if I ever would, so I took the opportunity and decided to drive around. Kollur has quite a history. The controversial Kohinoor diamond was mined at this site in the 16th century and sold in Golconda. The region has been home to diamond mining in ancient India, especially under the patronage of Qutub Shahi, and eventually faded. Years later, prospectors back to hunting the precious stone.
From discovering some of the most iconic heritage sites to exploring the spicy local cuisine, my weekend in Guntur turned out to be quite an interesting experience.
- If you are traveling from another city, you can book direct airport cabs in Hyderabad and drive to Guntur.
- There are plenty of other natural sites to visit, which you can explore in winter or spring.