Feb 28, 2015

spinning seeds

Nature's wonders knows no bounds. Nature has all imaginable kinds of non-living and living things; be it air, land or water; be it day or night. Of the life forms I believe plant life is versatile than animal life. Plant life lasts longer, alive or dead. Here are some plant parts which continue to amaze the human senses after they cease to live. Unlike most plant parts which just drop down without fanfare these parts gracefully spin down and land gently. So far I've come across three types, there could be many more.. I've marked them as A, B and C.

A. This could be a dry flower, was found in jungles of Ulavi. It grows on a tree which reaches heights of 60 feet. The live flower is red colored. I think the flower dries and hardens before separating itself form the tree. The beauty is in the uneven petals. It spins gracefully and comes down smoothly. I think this tree grows  only in the jungles of Western Ghats.

B. This is twin-wing seed of a plant called Twanpani, its a Kannada name. I've seen this plant on the rocky hills of northern districts of Karnataka. The one seen here was picked up from Anegundi fort on Rushyamukha Betta. The plant is delicate, has silvery stems and branches, grows to an height of 15 to 18 feet. These seeds can be found in bunches of 5 to 10. Green in color when tender and darken as they age. This seed when thrown high in the air spins down rapidly, as though its in a hurry.

C. Commonly found in cities you might have seen this uni-wing seed; seed end is heavy while the wing-end is almost weightless. About 25 to 30 such winged seeds are tightly packed into a thick shelled pod. When dry enough the shell splits itself into three equal parts. The tree which produces this grows to heights of 30 to 40 feet; has a straight stem and branches high above the ground. Dark green leaves which shed during December and January. I cannot recall the flower's color though. As a kid I and my brother would bring these seeds home and play with them until our arms ached.

While researching name of the trees I stumbled on an interesting article on rotating seeds- Autorotating seeds: to fly or to die. Do read it. Then I stumbled on another interesting website- Landmark Trees of India, You must see the amazing trees we are unaware of. Namoh Nature.


Feb 21, 2015

Baobab tree of Golconda

October 2, 2014
Few months back I knew only about Savanur's baobab trees. After some online research I realized India was home to several 100s of baobab trees spread across western and South Indian states. Gujarat leads the list with close to a thousand trees, followed by Maharastra, Goa, Karnataka, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh and one in Uttar Pradesh too. Hyderabad is home 5 or six baobab trees but I've found only one until now.. that's at Golconda fort.

October 26, 2014
The day was cloudy in the morning and started raining around 11 am. The tree is located inside Naya Qila ~ new fort. I hired an autorickshaw from Golconda fort entrance to reach the tree. It was 10 minute ride. This tree is slightly different in looks compared with Savanur trees.

I was glad to see the iron fencing around the base, keeps vandals away. Also a care-taker was present, the man looked sincere to his duty. You can see lot of graffiti on the tree trunk.. made long time back by insensitive people :( This tree is popularly known as Hathiyan or Elephant tree. It's girth is 27.4 metres, in feet its 89 feet. The trunk is so huge that it has two "rooms" in it. To reach the room, one has to climb up the trunk and then descend in the hollow. Of course you can expect to see creatures like frogs in there.

Our care-taker was a soft spoken person. He said this tree's parts resemble elephant body parts. For instance, a branch here looks like a trunk of an elephant.

This looks like elephant's feet.

Fold on the surface seems like folds in elephant skin.

For a tree of this size, the leaves are pretty small and soft too. The leaves are lobed and they dry quickly. Baobab leaves are a contrast to its trunk which is a succulent. It is said that baobabs store huge quantities of water in their trunk and branches.

The seven lobed baobab leaf.

That's the care-taker of this magnificent tree. I can't recall his name :(

Glimpse of the fort walls from under the tree.

An ancient mosque next to the tree. This mosque is said to be constructed by Aurangzeb after defeating Abul Hasan Tanashah, the last king of Qutub Shahi dynasty.

Here is a list of known Baobab trees of India-
  1. Hilltop Nightclub, Vagator, Goa
  2. Cabo Raj Bhavan, Dona Paula, Goa
  3. Quepem, Goa
  4. Bamboo Motels, Goa
  5. next to Yogapur mosque, Bijapur
  6. near Ibrahim Roza, Bijapur, Karnataka (may have dried out)
  7. Dodda Hunashe Matha, Savanur, Karnataka
  8. Attapur, Hyderabad
  9. Vansthalipuram, Hyderabad, Telangana
  10. near Chappel Road, Hyderabad, Telangana
  11. Ranganath temple at Nanakramguda Hyderabad, Telangana
  12. Uppal in Chengicherla Reserve Forests, Hyderabad, Telangana
  13. Shivalaya on Balachandruni Guttalu, Nalagonda, Telangana
  14. Nellore, Andhrapradesh
  15. Theosophist Society Gardens, Chennai, Tamil Nadu
  16. The American College campus, Madurai, Tamil Nadu
  17. Chinmaya Vidyalaya's campus at Ilanthope, Rajapalayam, Tamil Nadu
  18. Mangaliawas near Ajmer, Rajasthan
  19. Vadodara, Gujarat
  20. Dayapur, Gujarat
  21. Kutch, Gujarat
  22. Bhanagar, Gujarat
  23. Baroda, Gujarat
  24. near Gujarat College / Victoria Garden / Sukharamnagar, Ahmedabad, Gujarat
  25. Mulund, Mumbai, Maharashtra
  26. Byculla zoo, Mumbai, Maharashtra
  27. Outside the Vasai fort, Maharashtra
  28. Tilak road and Ghole road, Pune, Maharastra
  29. near Aurangabad, Maharashtra
  30. Mandavgad or Mandu, Madhya Pradesh
  31. near Sangam, left bank of the Ganga, Prayag, Uttar Pradesh 
  32. Sanjay Gandhi Biological Park, Bihar

Feb 14, 2015

Charminar, signature of Hyderabad

I had visited Hyderabad few times earlier but never got an opportunity to see the inside of Charminar. Now having become a resident of Hyderabad, I got an opportunity to spend a morning gazing at the marvel of the structure.

September 27, 2014
Early morning, I was at my friend Srinu's place near Kokapet. From there we drove past Golconda into the city. We approached Charminar from Laad Bazaar street, a very narrow street. However Pathergatti road, the street on which the monument stands is slightly wider. There it is.. the signature of Hyderabad. Through Charminar's arches you can see another structure.. a massive arch.

There are four such arches standing on intersecting roads and at the intersection is an ancient water fountain.

That's the fountain. In the background is another arch. This street is known for jewellery and pearl shops.

Coming back to Charminar, we walk around it looking up at its minars. Well, for this structure, minars are prominent as for Gol Gumbaz the dome is prominent.

That's Srinu with his back to the southern face of Charminar.

There are several theories as to when and why Charminar was built:
  1. The book 'Days of the Beloved' says Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah constructed Charminar in 1589 CE on the very spot where he first glimpsed his future queen Bhagmati.
  2. According to the XVII century French traveller Jean de Thévenot, Charminar was constructed in 1591 CE to commemorate the beginning of the II Islamic millennium.
  3. According to the historian Masud Hussain Khan, Charminar was completed a year after the city of Hyderbad was created in 1591 CE.
  4. Charminar was built to commemorate the eradication of plague as Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah had prayed and vowed to build a mosque.

As seen from the steps leading into the courtyard, looking up towards the arch and minars. Charminar is open to public between 9 am and 5 pm, one has to an entry ticket of Rs.10 (for Indian nationals).

I'm standing in the courtyard formed by the minars and arches looking the northern arch. At the center is a water fountain.

The ancient cast iron water fountain, a similar one can been seen at the palace ruins in Golconda fort.

Above the arches is a gallery and a shallow dome.

The 16 sided gallery is about 40' from the courtyard floor.

The stairway was pretty narrow. The  gallery is well lit and air circulation is good, it was pretty cool up here.

A mural at the dome center. Probably a chandelier hung from the ring..

One of the many windows, the grill pattern has a pattern in it.. triangles and hexagons. Over every arch crest is royal emblem (see inset).

One of the four sides of the gallery, to the right is the courtyard. The floor has drain holes covered by cast iron plates (see inset). The 12" x 8" drain cover seems to be made by an English company named BIF.

Makkah Masjid as seen from Charminar. Even for this structure minars are prominent and it has no dome.

That's Hyderabad Government Nizamia General Hospital. The ancient building is undergoing maintenance. Visitors coming by private cars usually park them in the hospital compound.

At the base of south-eastern minar is a temple dedicated to goddess Bhagyalakshmi.

Before venturing into Charminar we spent some time at Makkah Masjid and had tea at Nimrah Cafe, a typical Irani tea shop and bakery. A morning well spent!


Feb 7, 2015

Shorapur ~ Surpur fort ruins

Shorapur was originally known as Surpur. Part of today's Yadgiri district, Surpur was ruled by Nayaks from 1639 to 1857 with Surpur as their headquarters. The original capital of Surpur principality was Wagengera which was ruined during the attack of Moghul emperor Aurangazeb. However Nayaks forces defeat Moghul forces at Wagangera and repossess the fort. With Wagangera in ruins, Nayaks established Surpur as the new capital and build two palaces there. Local folks call one of the palaces as Raj Darbar. The last ruler of Shorapur kingdom was Raja Venkatappa Nayak. He was one of the first to oppose British inference in his kingdom's internal affairs. Besides Darbar, Surpur is known for its historical temple dedicated to Shri Venugopalswamy. Venugopalswamy temple was constructed between 1726 and 1893 during the rule of Raja Pittambhra Bairi Pidda Nayak. Surpur is also known for its ancient hilltop bungalow Taylor Manzil built by Philip Meadows Taylor. Taylor was a British agent who was in friendly terms with Nayak rulers. Surpur is also known for its painting of Garudadhari.

December 24, 2012 and November 26, 2013
After two visits to Shorapur, I was still unsure about how to explore the ruins of the fort. The fort walls were spread over several steep faced hills surrounding the town. just to go around the perimeter would require a day of hectic climbing. Hope a day comes when I could reach some strategic points of the fort. During the two visits I had captured parts of the fort..

This is huge gateway on southern side of the town.

a large bastion next to the gateway
rampart wall and a bastion on another hillock
rampart wall on the hillock next to Shorapur-Wagengera road
ruins of rampart walls on besides Shorapur-Shahpur road
bastion on a hillock besides Shorapur-Wagengera road
view of Shorapur town from Taylor Manzil
view of Raj Darbar from Taylor Manzil
view of Raj Darbar from Taylor Manzil
gateway of Raj Darbar as seen from inside
Raj Darbar ~ Nayak rulers'  palace
ancient inscription next to the Raj Darbar gateway
closer look at the Raj Darbar
Besides exploring fort ruins, other spots on my list to see during my next visits are-

  • Venugopalaswamy temple
  • Yellappana Baavi
  • Venkateshwara temple

Visit this link on Facebook to see lot of pictures of Shorapur.