The gems in our rocks

Deccani rocks and gems originating from the Krishna basin have had a long and chequered history

September 26, 2013 07:49 pm | Updated June 02, 2016 03:18 pm IST - Hyderabad

Golconda Fort in Hyderabad. Photo: G. Ramakrishna

Golconda Fort in Hyderabad. Photo: G. Ramakrishna

Many people, during the research for my documentary on the rocks of Hyderabad, pointed out that diamonds are also a kind of rock. Despite scientific discussion about whether diamonds are actually rocks or minerals or both, popular imagination is devoted to the diamond as a rock.

Natural diamonds are hard crystals of pure carbon formed under crushing pressure and intense heat. They mostly form in the Earth's mantle, the layer beneath the crust or surface layer, at a depth of about 150km. During volcanic eruptions, magma, travelling from within the mantle, tears off pieces of rock while passing a diamond zone and carries them to the surface. In this way diamond rock deposits from deep within the earth get delivered to the earth’s surface for us to source.

India was the source of the earliest and most valuable diamonds and Golconda diamonds were world famous. They came mainly from the Krishna basin. The “rock star” (!) among these is the Kohinoor (now in the British crown collection). Among many stories about the origin and journey of the Kohinoor, a popular Hyderabadi one holds that it was discovered in the Golconda mines, and Mir Jumla, Prime Minister of the Qutb Shahis at the time, presented it to Shah Jahan, aiming to defect to the Mughals. Tavernier, the famous French gem merchant and traveller, states that he saw it in Aurangzeb’s possession. When Nadir Shah conquered and looted Delhi he is said to have seen it and exclaimed “Koh-i-noor” meaning “Mountain of Light”! And that is the name that has stayed with this diamond.

Other famous diamonds from our region are the Darya-e-Noor and the Taj-i-Mah (in the Iranian Treasury), the Pitt Diamond and Idols Eye (Louvre Museum, Paris), the Shah Diamond (Russian crown jewels) among others. All of them have colourful and contested stories of their origins and adventures as spoils of war. Most of them have intriguing blanks in their history when they were stolen and went underground. The truth is mostly lost in the mists of time but what is not disputed in any of these tales is that they all came from the famed mines of the Krishna basin.

While the rocks that are left around us in Hyderabad are not diamonds per se, they are treasures in more ways than one. They give a uniquely beautiful silhouette to our city and are invaluable for their ecological role in the region. They are, in fact, priceless! In so regarding them and according them due courtesy in the manner in which we treat them, we would only be giving truth to an old Hyderabadi saying:

Voh Kohinoor, voh heere, ab na hon toh kya gham

Jawaharate adab se, bhara hua hai dakkhan!

(Why regret the loss of our Kohinoor and other diamonds

When the Deccan is suffused with the gems of courtesy and regard!)

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