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All things rock

Spanning billions of years,K C Pandey’s collection of rocks is nature at its artistic best

Written by Shikha Sharma |
June 30, 2013 3:59:23 am

Spanning billions of years,K C Pandey’s collection of rocks is nature at its artistic best

It’s a whole new world — at least 65 million years old — where mysteries of Earth come alive. A world of glowing and shimmering stones,capable of magically transporting you to a time when Earth was nothing but rock and water. This is Gargoti,Delhi’s first mineral museum where rocks aren’t just dull and ugly things,but tokens from time that tell a tale.

“Rocks have the power to hurt,to heal,to energise. Most dismiss them as inanimate objects,but they possess immense cosmic energy,since they belong to the earth. If you think about it,the Earth is really one huge rock,” says K C Pandey (53),curator of the museum and the man whose mad fascination for all things ‘rock’ led to the formation of the National Handicrafts Design Gallery and Museum on Baba Kharak Singh Marg. The museum is curated by Gargoti and is run in collaboration with the governement.

“When boys my age were busy playing with toys,I was collecting rocks,” recalls Pandey who set up the museum two years ago. “The beauty of rocks was too irresistible for me to fritter my time away on anything else.”

Pandey started out early,beginning his collection at the age of 16. His stint with the Navy led him to explore his hobby,but it was only after he retired from the force that he decided to pursue the passion seriously.

“It was during a visit to Mumbai for an interview that I came across these exotic rocks in the hills of Uran. Enchanted,I scoured the entire area,and discovered a treasure beyond my wildest imagination,” he says.

Now,Pandey has a small army of men who look for these minerals. “Most stones are incidental finds. They can’t be mined and are discovered as by-products when one mines the more popular minerals,or when the earth is dug up to make a highway or dam,” he says.

Since he started out,he has collected 80 tonnes of minerals and more than 200 different varieties of rocks. Most are from the country,but one can also find rubies and emeralds,and exotic stones like yellow wulfenite,black gamet,pink kunzite and gold pignites from countries such as Brazil,Pakistan,Afghanistan,Mexico and Peru. There is even a piece of a five-billion-year-old meteorite on display.

The one-of-a-kind museum is especially known for its zeolites — a mineral of breathtaking colour and immense fragility,formed when a group of silicate minerals expel water on being heated. The museum,in fact,displays the widest range of zeolites found in the Deccan trap.

Paleontology lovers would be pleasantly surprised to even discover a fossilised dinosaur egg here besides dinosaur bones from Dahod,Gujarat — the largest dinosaur hatcheries discovered anywhere in the world. If that’s not enough to catch one’s fancy,the astonishing rocks from the Moon and Mars must.

The stars of the place,however,are the rocks in all their hues and shades — fuchsia pink,orange,yellow — that sit in silent splendour on the museum’s many shelves. Mysterious purple amethysts,spiky chalcedony crystals,shimmering white quartz and bright blue cavansite fight for attention with pale green jade and red fluorites.

Much is also up for sale. The place has a souvenir shop where one can buy birthstones,gems,and even exquisite rock formations. The prices of these vary,ranging from Rs 30 for a simple birthstone to Rs 35 lakh for a piece of a rare gold crystal. One can also buy exotic handicraft from across the country such as a clear-quartz shivlinga priced at Rs 7 crore or hand-carved statues of Buddha and Krishna in jade and rose quartz which cost a small fortune.

However,museum authorities lament that Indians remain largely oblivious about the rich mineral heritage of the country.

“Rocks and minerals are like any good piece of art — because they are rare,they hold immense value,sometimes more than a piece of gold or platinum. Unfortunately,in India,we do not recognise this fact,let alone appreciate it,” says Amarnath,the manager of the museum.

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