Frauke Quader loves the rocks of the Deccan. She, along with her colleagues at the Society to Save Rocks, has been a leading force in maintaining the rock heritage of our city.
But it was not always so. Over a couple of interviews in her calmly beautiful home, she fills us in on how it all came about. The first time she came to Hyderabad was in1968, driving down with friends in her Volkswagon, from Delhi. “We stopped for lunch somewhere in North Andhra and I saw the rocks of the Deccan for the first time. I did not pay it too much mind!” It was when she got married in 1975 to a Hyderabadi and came to live here, that she started falling in love with them.
On her walks and picnics with the family, she found many favourite rock sites. A few she mentions are, Piran Shah, a small dargah near PBEL City and its Ghar-e-Mubarak: a natural prayer room deep into the rock. In Sheikhpet, off Whisper Valley road, is the Mallikarjun Temple upon beautiful rocks. Sitting on those rocks, watching the city life unfold below, is a moment of serenity that she treasures and describes with contagious intensity!
While Hyderabad is now her home, she came from Wuppertal, a city known for lace and ribbon making and the famed dancer Pina Bausch! This is part of the Bergischesland country, which has medium size mountains of slate. She describes the soil and slate mix of the mountain side, with the slate component reflecting the sunlight, such that it is conducive to the grape vines that are grown there.
It is hard not to speculate that it is a harking back to those slate mountains that roots her love for the rocky hills here. She has been working for decades against the destruction of the rocks of Hyderabad. She tells of how prohibition of sand mining in the rivers has impacted the rocks. With rock cutters and mechanical crushers active all over the city, it is so easy to cut, crush and convert the rocks of the city into pebble and sand. Slate granite is quarried and exported. Entire hills are flattened for development.
“India has no landscape protection laws, only environment protection laws,” she says. There is a heritage protection law and Hyderabad has taken a lead in placing its stunning rock formations on the government heritage list. The Society to Save Rocks has been performing valuable service in identifying these rock formations.
For example, the Trident Hotel site in Cyberabad had some great rock formations. One of them is on the Heritage Rocks list, so it is protected. It currently forms a spectacular visual at the entrance of the hotel. Frauke tells of how this rock was named “Bear’s Nose Rock” since that is what it looked like! Perched high on a rocky outcrop it was used by walkers in the area as a “pole star” rock to find their way! While the larger formation is irretrievably gone, the heritage status of “Bear’s Nose Rock” protected it. Currently it enriches this Trident chain hotel with a uniquely Hyderabadi identity, and, keeps alive the local landscape.
The beautiful sheet rock of Fakhruddin-gutta, which has a dargah on top and a temple inside the rocks, is also on the Heritage List. However, part of it, on one side, has been cut for an ongoing project. The Society is working to get a rock park established at Fakhruddin-gutta, to save it from any further threats. This will ensure a beautiful lung space for the city that the public can enjoy, retaining usefully the landscape heritage we have been blessed with.
Irrevocably however, too many rocks in Hyderabad are gone. Heritage precinct status has often not deterred matters. Frauke says, “What is frustrating is that the government goes against its own regulations.” While development seems unstoppable, if something is on the Heritage List of the government, it should be preserved. She describes how Venkateshwara-gutta near Shamirpet, another sheet rock formation of enormous beauty and ecological value which is on the Heritage List, is currently being broken at one end for reservoir construction. Clearly distressed, she says in a tone of forced optimism “We will have to move out of Hyderabad to Mahbubnagar to see beautiful rock formations.”
(Uma Magal is a documentary film maker, writer and teacher.)