The Moonscape of Kishangarh

The small town of Kishangarh lies nestled in a quiet, inconspicuous corner of Rajasthan close to the Ajmer-Jaipur highway. It was in 1973 that the locale emerged from its largely unassuming cocoon, with the Government of India releasing a unique postage stamp featuring the staple Bani Thani miniature of Kishangarh popularised by Nihal Chand. Belonging to the Marwar school of miniature paintings, the Kishangarhi variant soon garnered attention and painted the town/established its presence onto the map of traditional Indian art. In recent years, however, Kishangarh has distinguished itself not only through art, but by means of an accidental spatial feature - an expanse closely resembling the surface of the moon/that holds an uncanny resemblance to the surface of the moon.

The Moonland of Kishangarh is a vast landscape of endless, undulating white rock that stretches as far as the eye can see. The scenic terrain has been compared to the snow-dusted topography of Gulmarg and the Salar de Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia, attracting tourists as well as filmmakers. The moonscape has also become a popular destination for photoshoots and is often mistaken for the passes of Ladakh, with people marvelling at the spotless natural splendour tucked away in the western extremity of Rajasthan. Surprisingly, however, the moonland could not possibly be any further away from nature. It is a manmade space originally created with a very different purpose in mind. 

Kishangarh is also known as the Marble City of India, thanks to its prestigious position as the largest producer and supplier of marble in India, and the largest marble market in Asia. Evidently, the exponential growth of the rock industry has led to issues of waste disposal, with the residents of the city complaining about the accumulating slurry. In 2005, the Kishangarh Marble Association responded to the grievances and decided to identify a single location for disposal that would go on to become what is known as the Dumping Yard today. Initially, deep wells were dug in order to contain the waste, but the large accumulation of slurry went on to form distinct white plateau, dune, and hill-like shapes, with the colouring giving the appearance of snowy peaks from a distance. The rainwater lake that has formed within the marble pit is a peculiarly vivid ice blue, and is a result of a chemical reaction. 

The slurry forming the pit itself is nothing but calcium carbonate waste that is constantly generated as a result of processing the marbles. The thin sheet of material that is deposited on the land causes the sol cover beneath it to be destroyed by the chemicals. The accumulation of waste has increased over the years, and now, the area is more or less devoid of all natural vegetation. 

The Moonland of Kishangarh presents us with an interesting conundrum. Prone to wind storms that kick up marble dust fine enough to obstruct respiration, the location is not the ideal holiday spot for people with breathing difficulties. While it is beautiful, the sheer unnaturalness of the expansive white plateau is a grim reminder of how far humanity has strayed from the living world in the name of progress. The Dumping Yard is especially famous for its spectacular sunset view - when the crimson smear of dusk is extinguished in the ice-blue amidst ivory dunes. For a moment, it offers an otherworldly glimpse into the sublime. As the dumping pit quickly covers ground on Instagram’s For You page, we must ask ourselves whether the perfect selfie is worth tourism practices which can be dangerously unsustainable in the long term.


Photo Credits @apna_kishangarh on Instagram.



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