The Rockscape of the Deccan

The 400 –year Old City of Hyderabad is known by its symbol – Charminar. A long -neglected feature is now beginning to get associated with the city—Rocks.

These rocks are part of the India Peninsular Gnessic (pronounced ‘nysic’) Complex spread over an area of approximately 20,000 square kilometers covering parts of A.P., Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh.  These rocks sprang from the Earth’s crust, which is 40 kilometers deep.  The radius of the earth is 6300 kilometers out of which so far it has been possible to penetrate only 13 kilometers.  These rocks are one of the oldest units with formations. They are older and more stable than the Himalayas.

It is estimated that they are some 2,500 million (250 crore) years old. Life started on this planet about 8 million years ago and man emerged only 2 million years ago.  That gives us an idea about the antiquity of these rocks.

Around the city, they make a fascinating landscape. They have numerous shapes and sizes.  One of them looks like a vulture, another like a ‘laddu’ for giants.  Yet another has been named ‘club sandwich’ for the way in which rocks are piled one upon the other.  Some rocks are so delicately poised that one fears that they might fall any time. But they won’t.  They have weathered physical and chemical action of nature for million of years.  Some rocks look as if giant children were playing with them at house- building. Then suddenly they were summoned home by their mothers for their meals.

In 1820, Meadows Taylor, on his first visit to the city noted this beauty of the city environs.

The Imperial Gazetteer of 1909 observed that “around Hyderabad and stretching as far west as Lingampalli, 15 miles from the city, tors and boulders of fantastic shapes are seen everywhere, composed of basalt and granite piled up in picturesque confusion.”

Rocks help form the natural drainage system of the area and are also responsible for the existence of many lakes.  Over the years because of the destruction of these rocks many such lakes have disappeared.  For example there was a lake on the bend of road no: 1,opposite the Dwarka Puri Lane. Similarly, Masab Tank was, as the name implies, a lake.  The lake in front of the Taj Residency hotel has been polluted because of the construction of slums in the upper part of the valley and so the lake has now more of sewerage than springs water.  The Durgam Cheruvu in Jubilee Hills used to be called the ‘Secret Lake’ because it was hidden from view. Now it is threatened by construction.  Same is the case with the Dargah Shah Hussain Wali Cheruvu. Rocks also support rare fauna like lizards and bats.

Not long ago, Banjara Hills used to be a forbidding territory where people used to come only for shikar and picnics.

Nawab Mehdi Nawaz Jung is responsible for the colonization of Banjara Hills.  In the 1920’s he bought some 500 acres of land. In 1930 in a jumble of rocks he built himself a house with minimal disturbance to the existing rock-scape.

He used to offer lots of 5-6 acres free to his friends and others for a song, if only they would come, build and stay there.  Water and electricity was provided free for six months. Not many took his offer.

In 1933 the Nobel – laureate poet of India, Rabindranath Tagore came and stayed with him for some time.  He was so fascinated by the place that he said if he didn’t have his Viswa Bharati to care for, he would have liked to settle down here. He wrote a beautiful poem ‘Kohsar’ on the rocks.

After the formation of Andhra Pradesh in 1956, colonization of Banjara Hills picked up.  Quarrying because rampant rocks were blasted recklessly. Now there is hardly any unbuilt land left in Banjara Hills.

In 1962 Jubilee Hill Cooperative  Society was formed covering an area of 1400 acres. Now it is the turn of Jubilee Hills to suffer a frenzy of construction, particularly with the emergence of the NRI phenomenon.

Large-scale blasting and cutting of rocks have upset the ecology of the area.  Many lakes have been filled up. Others have dried up.

The temperature, which used to be distinctly lower in Banjara, matches that of the city. Pollution is increasing.  Banjara Hills is no longer the paradise it used to be.

A few people, following the example of Nawab Mehdi Nawaz Jung, have designed their houses with due deference to the original `inhabitants’ of the place – granites. But the majority of houses have copied the patterns of the plains. They have killed the rocks.

These pre-historic rocks are as much a part of our heritage as our fauna and flora and our historic buildings.  In a way they are even more precious because whereas fauna and flora can  be made to grow again and buildings can be renovated and recreated, these massive and hard looking rocks once destroyed will never grow back again.

On 26th January, 1996, a Society to Save Rocks was set up by some people who were keen on preserving rocks. A movement has been started now to save and preserve the remaining rocks. One way would be to develop them into picnic and tourist resorts. Atleast one ‘Rock National Park can be created in order to preserve this valuable heritage.  As a result of the efforts of the Society, the government has declared nine rock formations as protected as part of the heritage under the Hyderabad Urban Development Authority Zoning Regulations.  It is hoped that effective action will be taken to enforce the decision.  Considering the mission of the Society, the Income Tax Department has granted exemption from tax to donations made to it.

As a part of a the campaign to promote consciousness about the value of this great asset, an artists’ camp is being organized for leading painters and artists of the country in March, 1998.  They will, in their own way capture the beauty of the rocks.  These paintings will then be auctioned so that they adorn the offices and residences and thus spread the message.  Also it will help raise funds for the activities of the Society.

Rocks constitute a very valuable heritage of ours.  Unless their destruction is stopped, our grandchildren will not know what granite is.  By saving them we can preserve our present – and the future at the same time.

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‘Kohsar’ – A poem on Banjara Hills

by Rabindra Nath Tagore

‘From the distance thou didst appear

barricaded in rocky aloofness

Timidly I crossed the rugged path

to find here all of a sudden

An open invitation in the sky

and friends embrace in the air

In an unknown land the voice that

seemed ever known

Revealed to me a shelter of loving intimacy’.

                                                                                                                        (1933)

 Narendra Luther is the President of Society to Save Rocks, Hyderabad

A larger selection of the articles can also be viewed at narendralutherarchives.blogspot.in