Secunderabad has a fair share of rocks and landscape that never really got much attention

Fortunately it is still a fact that no visualisation of the twin cities is complete without the rocks. However, unfortunately, our development over the years has wreaked havoc on the natural dominance of the rocks over the landscape. Businessman, art collector and gallery owner Prshant Lahoti has a collection of photographs that transport us to the lost landscape of the twin cities.

Prashant Lahoti belongs to the dynamic Marwari community that has been a part of the history and growth of the twin cities through business and philanthropic works. The Lahoti family came to the Deccan from Bade Marwad (near Jodhpur and Bikaner) establishing businesses in the Gulbarga area and eventually settling in Secunderabad.

In twin city lore, while Hyderabad dominates popular imagination, Secunderabad sometimes feels like a neglected twin. Unsurprisingly, a son of Secunderabad undertook to bring it honour and attention! While participating in the bicentenary celebrations of Secunderabad in 2006, Prshant Lahoti lent his valuable and painstakingly acquired collection of old photographs and maps of Secunderabad for public exhibition. He also published a book on the history and growth of Secunderabad, Lashkar, authored by Narendra Luther, which is illustrated with photographs that evocatively capture the landscape of Secunderabad over the years.

The ‘One Tree Hill’ photograph evokes a utopian seeming harmony between humans, animals, trees and water bodies. This was a reality in our own recent history! It harkens to the possibility of occupying the land while retaining its natural beauty and sharing it with other species, the natural green cover and water bodies, all of which are essential for our own survival. While we have to grow the twin cities and create spaces and structures for people to live and work in, we don’t have to do it at the cost of everything else. Already we can see from these photographs the loss of beautiful rock vistas that were a tangible reminder of the natural layout of our land, the loss of lung spaces that freshen the air we breathe, the loss of trees that sustain us in manifold ways, the loss of water bodies that provide a life giving supply of water — the cumulative loss of all these allies in protecting the ecological health of the region.

The powerfully sprawling sheet rocks, in the photograph of the Maula Ali shrine, are still there. Interestingly, it is often in spaces where we have built dargahs, temples and other religious institutions that the beautiful rocky landscape has survived. The photographs in the collection, and the secular ease of the cultural landscape that they are located in, show how comfortably the rocks are a valued portion of all kinds of structures. We find them within and alongside Christian churches, Sikh gurudwaras, Parsi temples, Hindu temples, Muslim dargahs and masjids. Apparently, all our places of worship have sheltered the rocks!

Certainly, the photographs and the book form a rock solid tribute to Secunderabad and illuminate it as a small cosmos of secularism and cosmopolitanism.

Kudos to the collector.

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