While the City of Hyderabad symbolizes the exotic culture of the Nizams, a wide range of intangible heritage of cuisine, bustling chaotic colorful markets, rituals of diverse religions, Tangible heritage of Forts, Palaces, Temples and much more; it is a city which is steeped in a region of geological wonders where the rich Golconda Mines gave the world the shining rocks like the Kohinoor and the Hope Blue Diamond rocks which are embroiled in a life stories of their own defined by mystery, human greed, and trajectories of power.
In more recent times the city of Hyderabad has emerged as a hi-tech globalized symbol of modern India. Ironically, his visual image characterized by high rise buildings, and ethos of modern, chaotic urbanism is juxtaposed with the Rock formations that represent a raw ancient heritage in and around the city.
Geologically these are part of what is known as Hyderabad Granite formation (HGR) of the Southern Shield which geologists claim to date back to 2.5 billion years. Unfortunately, the growth and planning of the city as an urban space have not cared much for this rare gift of nature.
The HGR is covered by granites and volcanic igneous rocks as old as the Greek Achaean Age that present a palette of rocks and sediments that provide the raw material with which the grand historical buildings of the region are built. The rocks also serve as biotopes or geographical region in which a variety of uniform flora and fauna are supported and it is these rocks that also assist in the recharge of groundwater, and natural water catchment tools. The rock formations in the region stand witness to a league of people and human activities over centuries and stories of those who traveled the high seas.
The fast-growing urban buildup has created a narrative marked by politics and forms of land use which undermines the value of these natural creations in face of urban consumption. To counter this, in more recent years there has been a growing consciousness to protect the rocks which have been declared as heritage precincts by the Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority. About 24-25 rocks are enlisted as heritage rocks by the organization, but still, more need to be included before they are reduced to rubble for another modern high rise construction. Government entities like the Metropolitan Development Authority have supported citizen initiatives of the non-government ‘Society to Save Rocks’ (STSR) to conserve the natural formations.
The society organized a variety of interesting programs which aspire to engage communities to conserve the city’s natural heritage. These include regular Rock Heritage Walks, painting contests, photographic exhibitions, clothes with rock motifs such as tee shirts, caps and catchy slogans in different community gatherings and public spaces. Significant visibility has attracted many heritage enthusiasts to join the save the rock movement.
The rocks themselves seem to acquire a human-like life as citizens of the city and some have been christened according to their physical shape. There is the Mushroom Rock in the University of Hyderabad, and other well-known rocks go by names such as Bear Nose, Cliff Rock, Tortoise, and Obelisk. The Society aims to inspire landowners, landscape architects to preserve the historical boulders as part of designs in homes, gardens, building architecture, and other public spaces.
The Rocks as Inspiration for Arts
Art historian Herbert Read said of Henry Moore’s art who was much inspired by rocks and boulders that these “are universal shapes to which everyone is subconsciously conditioned and to which they can respond if their conscious control does not shut them off.” He suggested that “a buried treasury of universal shapes which are humanly significant, and that the artist may recognize such shapes in natural objects and base his work on the forms they suggest… or feel the shape simply as shape, not as description or reminiscence,”
Not many people are aware that the posh residential Banjara Hill Area was until the 1920s a part of this geological wonder, and that it was defined by the wilderness of wild large trees interspersed by massive naturally sculpted boulders with a character of their own. Such was the raw beauty of these distinct earthly features, the Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore who was known to immortalize the places and environments which touched his life in creative expressions of poems, songs or paintings wrote an Ode to these Banjara Hills captioned Kohsar meaning pure and fresh. The words simply capture the ethos of this raw formations.
From the distance thou didst appear,
Barricaded in rocky aloofness,
Timidly I crossed the rugged path
To fins here all of a sudden
An open invitation in the sky
And friend’s embrace in the air
In an unknown land, the voice
That seemed even known
Revealed to me a shelter of living intimacy.
The spectacular geological display of the rocks presented and present inspiration for contemporary and conceptual art. The rocks of Hyderabad offer themselves as natural theatre that hide underneath human stories of wonder, and present on the surface great natural sculpture of formalistic surfaces that communicate the meaning of the activity was call ‘Life.’
Article was published in ITC Namaste Magazine – Winter 1918