400-yr-old Hathyan tree closed to public; activists demand free access

Baobabs trees have been around for millennia—longer than humans have—and even longer then the continents split hundreds of millions of years ago.

Hyderabad: Free access has been denied to visit 400-year-old Baobab tree, popularly called ‘Hathyan ka Darakht’, within the precinct of Naya Qila in Golconda. The tree falls under the Hyderabad Golf Club and the authorities have deployed security to deny visitors at the historic tree.

Heritage activists, for long, have demanded free access to the precinct which has been occupied by the Golf club management.

It is known that the African merchants who visited Golconda gifted a tree to the then Golconda ruler Quli Qutub Shah was brought from Madagascar in Africa. A few Arabian merchants planted the Baobab tree on the premises of Golconda now popularly known as ‘Hathyan ka Darakht’ or literally elephant tree —whose flowers bloom only at night. These centuries-old Baobab trees witnessed the great reigns of Qutub Shahis to Nizams.

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Baobabs trees have been around for millennia—longer than humans have—and even longer then the continents split hundreds of millions of years ago.

Baobab is a succulent, not unlike the little mini-bushes kept in your balconies of office desks. These giant trees can live for up to 5,000 years; can grow to massive size up to 30 meters high and 50 an enormous 50 meters in circumference. These trees are endemic to the African island and can be found in over 30 countries on the continent.

Their bark can be used to make clothes and ropes, and seeds are used to make cosmetics and medicinal supplements.

Native to Madagascar, some parts of the mainland, sub-Saharan Africa and Australia, the baobab is known for not just its towering height (up to 98 ft), but also girth (up to 36 ft) and life span (3,000 years). The rather succulent trunk is said to hold as much as 100,000 liters of water. These trees are also present in Bombay, Gujarat and also in Mandu of Madhya Pradesh.

Lesser-known Baobabs in the city

Hyderabadis are familiar with ‘Hathyan ka Darakht’. There are, however, two lesser-known ones within Hyderabad located in Secunderabad and Rangbaang temple in Nanakramguda.

Anuradha Reddy heritage enthusiast and convenor of INTACH, Hyderabad Chapter. Photo: Mohammed Hussain.

Anuradha Reddy, convener of Hyderabad chapter of INTACH, said: “The other two have been brought from Bombay presidency. It has been mentioned that this tree provides shelter, food and water in the testing climates, which explains its nickname—Tree of Life and Hatiyan Ka Jhad also got heritage awards from INTACH.”

The trunks that are almost 50 meters in circumference, it has a hollow inside, can be used as shelter and 40 people can fit inside the Baobab tree at Golconda, she added.

“But not all is well for this giving tree and there are very few in India,” says Mrs. Anuradha. The oldest trees in the world are slowly dying, and have scientists alarmed.

“Luckily we have historic three Baobab trees in the city and it is our responsibility to protect trees so that our children and their children can also witness these historic trees.” Anuradha added.

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