26 Oct 2022

Hyderabad: Unparalleled Geological Treasures

hyderabad-unparalleled-geological-treasures

The rocky terrain of the Hyderabad region offers an astonishing window to the Deccan plateau. The rocks of the Deccan plateau are amongst the oldest in the world. It’s also been home to one of the world’s most famous diamond mines–the Golconda mines. The Hyderabad region has also been home to a range of unparalleled ecological treasures, especially for the floral species, which cannot be replanted. The Khajaguda caves have been micro-ecosystems which were carved 2500 million years ago in the rocky terrain of the Fakhruddin Gutta. Travellers to India should definitely plan a trip to Hyderabad for its unparalleled geological treasures.

Legends of Golconda

One of the most famous associations of Hyderabad with diamonds is the piquant story of the Jacob diamond found hidden in his father’s shoe by Mir Osman Ali Khan, the last Nizam of Hyderabad. Thinking not much of it, the Nizam for years used it as a paperweight, till its true worth was finally realised. Today, the Jacob diamond resides at the Reserve Bank of India vaults in Mumbai after the Government of India bought it from the Nizam. But long before all this, the Golconda mines in Hyderabad district were famed for producing some of the most famous and largest diamonds, loved as treasures for their unparalleled luminosity and beauty.

Until the 17th century, "Golconda" was also the name of the independent state in which the diamond-rich Krishna, Godavari, and Pennar river basins were in what are now the present-day states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. For two thousand years till the early 18th century, India was the biggest resource of unparalleled diamonds in the world, before Brazil and then South Africa came into prominence. French gem merchant, Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, who travelled in India in the 17th century has left behind an account that talks about the geological treasures of the 23 mines spread across the kingdom of Golconda, in the present-day Hyderabad region. In his account he shares “Bhagnagar is the name of the capital town of this kingdom, but it is commonly called Golconda, from the name of the fortress, which is only two coss/kos (6.15 Km) distant from it and is the residence of the king”. The Nizam of Hyderabad’s kingdom was once the largest supplier of diamonds globally. The biggest pull of the diamonds from Golconda was their near flawless ethereal quality. Treasures such as the Kohinoor, the Daria-i-Noor, the Hope, the Great Moghul, the Regent, the Orlov, and the Nassak are some of the world’s most famous natural diamonds that were mined at Golconda. According to historian Mohammed Safiullah, the estimated output from all mines in Golconda was around 12 million carats. Though the Golconda mines do still exist, they no longer are active as they have already yielded all their geological treasures in their heyday. However, today, during the monsoon season, there is a flurry of activity around the Krishna valley as gem hunters poke around the fields hoping to find diamonds that might pop up in the earth and rocks loosened by the rains. A few have in the past hit pay dirt, encouraging this annual treasure hunt from June to October.

As you wander amongst the expanses of Hyderabad’s iconic Golconda Fort, you will recall how the Heera Mandi here is where all those diamonds of unparalleled beauty from the mines in the region were brought to be processed for their onward journey. There was even a special vault built to house the diamond 'Koh-i-Noor' along with scores of other jewels, items of jewellery and treasures of great significance for the rulers, the Qutb Shahi kings. Golconda Fort served as their capital of the Qutb Shahi until it was replaced by Hyderabad in 1590. Step back into annals of Hyderabad’s ancient history over the course of the excellent sound and light show, which offers a riveting picture of Golconda Fort’s eminence as a pivotal point for the many pursuits of the Qutb Shahi kings.

Fakhruddin Gutta

Located on the outskirts of Hyderabad, in proximity to Golconda Fort, the surreal 150-acre undulating terrain of Fakhruddin Gutta, or the Khajaguda Hillock, has been testing the rock climbing abilities of adventure buffs. This humongous outcrop of unforgiving granite has a unique undying appeal for an increasing number of tourists in the city, looking for a more thrilling and action-packed local experience. This astonishing rock scape, unparalleled for its unique onion-peeling or spheroidal weathering into bizarre shapes that present a picture of stark beauty, stands amongst swathes of lush emerald paddy fields and a burgeoning concrete jungle. Hyderabad’s iconic landmark, Fakhruddin Gutta, has become a hotspot for both weekend picnickers and rock climbing enthusiasts. The geological provenance of these rock formations of sheet granite and weathered boulders in their Deccan setting is said to date back to about 2,500 million years or the Proterozoic Age.

These rocks of such unique geological impress have been used as the foundation stones of important monuments like Golkonda Fort. This massive jaw-dropping outcrop of sheetrock is peppered also with natural cave formations which can be accessed through the narrow spaces between the rocks. Hyderabad’s Khajaguda Cave trail is of great religious importance to both Hindus and Muslims as housed here is the 800-year-old tomb of the Islamic saint Hazrat Baba Fakruddin Aulia, the Anantha Padmanabha Swamy temple and a shrine raised in the name of the present-day spiritual master Avatar Meher Baba. There is an active citizen’s movement in Hyderabad demanding the stopping of construction and levelling work at this site of preserved natural heritage. They also demanded the declaration of the Fakhruddin Gutta rocks as a reserve forest and a natural biodiversity heritage park.

Many such local treasures that are hidden to the traveller are there still to explore in Hyderabad and its surrounds. All it needs is a good plan and time out of your routine life to go on another journey of discovery.

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