“Would you like to see a baobab tree?“
“No thanks, I’ve seen quite a few around Mumbai”, – I was short of time and too eager to see the Golconda fort.
“It’s a giant one, you won’t regret it”.
“Oh, alright”, – I’m not sure what made me agree, perhaps the soft spot for baobabs after reading Saint-Exupéry’s “The Little Prince”.
The auto took us through the winding streets of Hyderabad, revealing the conspicuous scenes of local street life. Soon the architectural cacophony of colorful, flamboyant houses was left behind as we were reaching the Hyderabad Golf Club. The auto driver had a word with a watchman to let us in, and here we were, among the spick-and-span green lawns, flowering plants and the stone walls of Naya Qila of the Golconda. Naya Qila translates as “new fort”, and it’s actually an extended portion of the Golconda, constructed in 1656 by Sultan Abdullah Qutb Shah. It’s located a few kilometers away from the Old Golconda, where most tourists go, and from this perspective it gives an idea of the vastness of the fort.
As for the baobab tree, it was really majestic. With the circumference of more than 25 m and its thick, heavy branches being stretched out in different directions, it reminded a giant mythical elephant with multiple heads and trunks. No wonder the locals call it Hatiyan Jhad, or the elephant tree. Baobabs are not indigenous to India, and this particular one originated from Madagascar and was brought to the region by wandering devotees who stayed at the Golconda a few centuries ago (at least the board states so).
According to another version, the tree was gifted by Arabian traders to Sultan Muhammad Quli Qutub Shah, who ruled the kingdom at that time. As if it’s not enough, there is also an interesting legend attached to the giant baobab of Hyderabad. The tree is hollow inside, and it’s believed that the notorious 40 thieves used to hide in it during the day time only to come out at night in order to do their mischief. Considering the size of the tree trunk, perhaps the number of thieves is a bit exaggerated. Alternatively, the 40 bandits were far from being heavily built.
My inquisitive mind demanded to repeat the experience of the infamous thieves, and I actually climbed the tree. But when the rickshaw driver mentioned a possibility of snakes being inside, common sense and responsibilities outweighed my curiosity. However, my courageous brother-in-law put the driver’s words in doubt and climbed inside through the small opening in the tree trunk. According to him, the hollow was dark and full of insects.
All in all, I don’t regret including the giant baobab into my tightly packed itinerary when visiting Hyderabad. The silent witness of turbulent past, this magnificent tree has been watching Hyderabad developing for more than 400 years. The proximity of Mullah Khayali Mosque, a 16th century monument, was an added benefit for an architecture lover like me.
Photos of the giant baobab of Hyderabad
The giant baobab of Hyderabad travel tips
- Best time to visit is October to March, when it’s not so hot.
- I was under impression that the Hyderabad Golf Club is a closed area and the site is not actually open for public. But apparently anyone can visit from 9 AM to 5 PM every day.
- The Golconda bus stop is located only 1.5 km from the site, so getting there is no problem.