Monthly Archives: February 2019

Rock climbing in Bhongir fort


I came to know of the Society to Save Rocks in the Hyderabad literature festival held last month. Natural geological formations like rocks have always fascinated me and I immediately signed up for the society’s membership. My purpose in this respect was dual: grab the opportunity to get up and close with rocks and to know more about the society’s contribution in saving the deccan rocks and to explore how and in what ways I could pitch in for the noble cause.

Bhongir rock climbing came as the first opportunity in this regard when me and my husband joined the enthusiastic group of rock walkers to climb the Bhongir’s fort in the town of Bhuvangiri on 17th Feb 19 at about 50kms from Hyderabad city. It was not the first climb of its kind, having seen several forts but to be going as part of save rock society made all the difference. Undoubtedly, each fort or monument in India is unique with respect to its history and structure.

The Bhongir fort made on a huge egg-shaped monolithic rock makes it indeed a spectacular sight. As you climb up, you go on a climb of history, first the million years of history of rock formation and then the human history when the fort was built and later faced ravages of time. Inscriptions reveal that Bhongir fort was built by ruler of Chalukya dynasty in the 10th century AD, who were a few centuries later overpowered by Kakatiya dynasty. In the 15th century the fort came under the siege of Bahamani Sultans and Qutab shahi dynasty.

Today what remains of fort is the ruins and remnants of history, and a testimony of the display of human intelligence to use natural resource to its best in the times when none of the technologies of today was existent or known in the world. Probably earth or the creator of earth has been very kind in sprinkling across its surface such rocks, valleys and greens for humans to survive and sustain their race. The rulers used the high and mighty rock formations to build forts and protect their kingdoms from invaders.

Climbing the rock, we can witness history in all its glory. For us it helped that we had a photographer member Ashok kumar who has been photographing unique rock formations and displaying them in different galleries across India. One cannot help feeling awestruck by the lintels and arches among the fort’s ruins that run along the natural curvature of rock. Ashok pointed us to something that in normal circumstances we would ignore. One can spot trees dotted across the surface or crevices of rocks, and on top of a lintel. These trees too seem to have withstood the ravages of weather over years and decades, drawing water and nutrients sparingly from the rocks, in such heights and spaces, evident by their stunted growth. Their stems and branches have acquired a unique silver colour with almost no leaves, looking as beautiful and ornamental as Bonsai style crafted plants. Most of all they offer an important lesson of survival and adaptation for us humans to emulate.

At the midway of the climb, the rock gets flatter and the sudden appearance of flat stone walls and an ornate cubicle shelter gives a big relief for the chance to relax the tired muscles. Looking closer, the egg-shaped rock looks also like a long dolphin. We can see from further climb that these walls belong to an open storage brick box which I guess could have been used for storing military armaments. At a far distance on a jutting rock we can spot a lone canon resting along with scattered greenery.

Further climb takes us to the peak of the rock at more than a height of 500 ft. On the peak the ruins with a marvellous fortress architecture speaks volumes of the glory of the military capabilities of a bygone era. One gets mesmerised with the arches, the door traps, the basement of secret passages with continuous arches and the staircases to the top with crenulations on the walls. Another artillery canon sits very close on a separate rock space in front. Equally breath-taking from the top is the view of the Bhuvangiri town below.

All of us had emptied many water bottles by now and to dispose the plastic bottles someone had found a dustbin- what must have been an open carved bath tub of the royal people. I was intrigued how plastic now a bane to our environment and earth has found its way to the top layer of the history.  After many group photographs of the exhilarating moments, we went down the same route and all along I couldn’t take my eyes off the trail of plastics that the visitors to the imposing fort had left.

I only hope and pray that these plastics find a proper disposal place and removed from the precincts of the fort sooner than later so that they don’t become part of the history of erosion or chemical changes of the beautiful Bhongir rock and the little trees that are finding their life among the rocks don’t become extinct.

Srisailam: an ancient deity in the hills of Telangana


Some Hindus believe Siva as the creator of our universe and for some Siva is the creator and the destroyer and restorer, all encapsulated in one. The popular deity of Siva is the Linga , which denotes his formless nature. Among the Lingas, Jyotirlingas have gained special significance which are said be twelve in number located all over India, Srisailam being one of them. The beautiful temple of Srisailam is located on a hill about 120 kms from Hyderabad city. The journey takes you through the hills and their ancient rock formations along the bank of Krishna which lend to the beauty of the region. From atop Srisailam one can also enjoy the distant picturesque view of the hills and the river dam below.

In our last month’s visit to Srisailam , to my surprise I discovered that Srisailam also has a historical significance. Shivaji the great warrior had visited Srisailam to take blessings from the Lord Mallikarjuna (Siva)before going to the battleground. A big campus of Shivaji centre houses a museum where paintings depicting Shivaji’s life story are displayed . In the centre, a statue of Shivaji- the great is installed which is a major draw for the visitors. Next to this building is a meditation hall. A kitchen gives sumptuous day time meal for the lodgers. One can find a wide range of books on eminent figures in a book shop right at the entrance to the campus. Shivaji centre, being situated behind the temple premises, it is easy to reach the temple early in the morning for prayers.

Srisailam temple is an epitome of serenity the beauty and description of which cannot be made in a few pages. Apart from the Linga and the sprawling premises of the temple that has statues of various deities like in any ancient temple, and a multileveled greenery with flowing water carved in a garden around a Siva , what really touched my heart was the love with which cows in the goushala are being taken care. One can go near the cows, touch them and feed them the fodder. A ritual of going between the legs, forth and back, below the udders of a reverential cow for nirvana was again a new knowledge for me.

If one is looking for a place as a getaway for peace and serenity, and to unwind from the busy city life, the holy place of Srisailam is surely a place to consider.

The Future of HIV in India: dismal or bright

India and other developing countries of Asia and Africa may see a rise in HIV cases in coming years. In a breakthrough finding by the only research lab in India doing research on HIV C pathogens, which needs to be confirmed with few more rigorous experiments, scientists fear an onslaught of HIV in near future.

The head of the program and emeritus scientist Prof Ranga Udaykumar of JNCASR, Bengaluru, said that the C variety of HIV which is specific to India, China and part of the African population has a natural propensity to change into new variants. The root of the problem of the emerging new variants is identified as the promoter (DNA sequence) in the HIV C family gene. The promoter in C family is quickly changing and getting stronger with capability to make more and more viral proteins that in turn are making them resistant to all medications.

A seemingly super intelligent virus, with some brilliant design strategies, HIV C has unlike other viruses a single promoter that controls an entire range of gene expressions with any important change having an impact on the entire viral pathology. The variant property is also manifested in Tat protein in C virus, which is instrumental in lesser incidents of dementia in HIV infected people in India as compared to that in Caucasian population.

The new discovery has baffled the scientists yet again who have for long battled to understand the genetic code of the HIV C family that is causing more than half of global HIV infections. The study is a collaboration of AIIMS, St John’s medical college Bengaluru, YGRK Chennai, National Aids centre Pune with 800 HIV infected samples from patients who were not administered with any drugs. The study has also added to their puzzle of understanding the software code or virus algorithm responsible for the unique viral transcriptional silencing property by which the virus completely switches off after infecting and activating the immune system.

The unique property of the virus which is more pronounced in C family makes one cell active and keeps itself silent in the other cell. Multiple proteins come together and make daughter virus which inactivates the cell defence machinery by targeting the CD4 white blood cells, before making more of itself. With the emerging new variants this proliferation is much more in C family as compared to other families which the scientists fear to be of extensively drug resistant varieties.  It could then have a direct impact on HIV treatment too. The ART (Antiretroviral therapy) that is currently the only drug available for HIV patients may have to be administered for life.

For aforesaid reasons the focus of research which was till recently on vaccine development worldwide is now shifting slowly to understanding of virus software code and the emerging drug resistant variants.

“The problem in India is of funding. The government funding is too dismal. Where there is all the money and the lab there is no C virus and where there is C virus there is no money. So far, all the research has been focussed in the western world, towards understanding only B variety.  Sadly, in India there is no philanthropy funding too,” laments Prof.Uday kumar who pioneered the research on C virus in India.