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Celebrating International Year of Planet Earth
Revisiting earth’s history through rocks
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 2
It will now be easy to span millions of years in a second. Sixty years after Independence, a team of geology and museum experts from the region have come together to bring home precious geological heritage lying buried in the Himalayas.

This heritage of rocks telling tales of the evolution of life and of earth’s transition from one geological epoch to another will now be anyone’s to touch and savour. Twenty-two of them, led by a 1,200 million-year-old rock chunk, have already arrived in Government Museum, Chandigarh, which is a partner in the global celebrations of International Year of the Planet Earth (IYPE). Seventeen rocks are yet to be physically transported.

In all, the project christened mother earth gallery, will feature 51 finest specimens of the geological wealth of the Himalayas and the Aravalis. Each rock, being displayed in the open at Government Museum, is ravishing in physical detail and representative of a major event in the history of earth.

The first rock to be physically transported to the museum is a 1,200 million-year-old limestone chunk bearing evidences of algal colonies that thrived 2,200 million years ago. Surprisingly, these rocks are surviving in abundance in Morni, once home to a marine basin, where the algae grew. The rock in question has been transported from Sherla village in Morni. It’s most beautiful pieces are found in Morni’s tiger dens. “The earth owes its oxygen to algae. Clearly, these rocks are windows to evolution of life. We will also bring to the museum black mudstones from Nauni, close to Kandaghat. These are representatives of the second ice age that happened 700 million years ago,” explained Arun Ahluwalia, a senior Panjab University geologist and the force behind the project.

Member of the US national committee of IYPE, Ahluwalia just finished for the Geological Survey of India his book on India’s geotourism potential. The Government Museum mother earth gallery, he explains, is part of a larger goal of marketing the Himalayan geotourism.

“We will soon put along Kalka-Shimla road weatherproof boards depicting scientific and historical information about the rocks that dot this stretch.”

Ahluwalia and V.N. Singh, director, Government Museum, also plan to display in the gallery the oldest rocks of the Himalayas found in Rampur, Manikaran and Sundernagar. The region is also rich in the Mandi-Darla volcanic rocks old as 1,800 million years.

Right now the open air rock gallery has rare oyster beds of Subathu - the 55 million years old last marine deposits of the Himalayas. Red rocks (rich in iron oxides) of Dagshai, Kasauli sandstone, the most beautiful building stone, Kumarhatti’s fossil wood sandstoned and 600 million years of limestones of Karol hills in Solan.

Some of the rocks on display have evidences of faulting, while others like Mandi granites represent the granitic activity that happened in the Himalayas millions of years ago.

“The gallery’s purpose is mirror Himalayan geological lab which is loaded with marvels. The gallery is on the lines of those in the west and seeks to take people closer to rocks that have heritage value. Once they have felt and seen the rocks, they won’t be able t miss them during their travels,” says Ahluwalia.

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