Bangalore Environment Trust Newsletter, March
Sat, 03/03/2007 - 07:55 —
-- Vijay R. Thiruvady
Entering the Gardens from the East Gate we find ourselves at the
foot of a rocky outcrop on which stands a four pillared "Mandapam"
which was erected in mid 16th Century by Kempe Gowda, the
chieftain of Yelahanka, who erected similar towers at the other 3
cardinal points to which he expected Bangalore to expand to.
This rock, now designated a National Geological Monument, is one
of the oldest rock formations in the world (composed of granitic
gneiss) and dated as being 3000 million years old, was formed by
volcanic action when it was part of Gondwanaland. This part of
Gondwanaland moved north into the Asian continent creating the
Himalayas. Thus the rock we see at Lalbagh is half as old as the
earth itself and part of eternity.
The Year was 1760. There was turmoil in the Deccan. The Marathas,
the Nawab of Arcot, the Nizam of Hyderabad, the rulers of
Travancore & Cochin, the French & the British were all vying for
territory and control in the South. Hyder Ali, who had just taken
control of an enfeebled Mysore, consolidated and expanded its
territories and with the help of the French hoped to keep the
British out of South India.
In the midst of all this turmoil Hyder Ali found time to set up
Gardens across Mysore. Hyder Ali's father was in the service of
Dilawar Khan, a Viceroy of the Moghuls. Dilawar Khan had laid out
a "Moghul" garden at Sira near Tumkur which Hyder Ali would have
known intimately. Hyder Ali set up three Gardens - Lalbagh at
Srirangapatna, a garden at Malavalli and the Lalbagh Gardens
(Bangalore) which was referred to as the Rose & Cypress Garden
The act of setting up these Gardens would have been an act of
piety for Hyder Ali as Islamic gardens were a reflection of
Paradise on earth. All the design elements of such a garden were
clearly covered in over 100 verses across 4 chapters in the Koran.
It is extraordinary that he and his son Tipu Sultan found time to
lay these parks which included the Darya Daulat Bagh and the
Gumbaz. Hyder Ali imported plants from Multan, Lahore, Delhi &
Arcot and set up the Rose & Cypress Garden "one mile east of the
fort and a few hundred yards west of the tower."
Tipu Sultan not only inherited his father's love for Gardens but
brought in plants and saplings from Cape Town, Mauritius, Turkey,
Tenerife, Persia, Kabul and elsewhere. Thus was created the
original 40 acre Rose & Cypress Garden: the royal pleasure garden
of the Tigers of Mysore.
Soon after Tipu Sultan's death in 1799, the Gardens came into the
hands of Major Waugh of the Madras European Regiment who offered
these gardens to the East India Company and this was strongly
backed by Nathaniel Wallich who wrote to the Marquis of Hastings.
In the meantime, Benjamin Heyne became keeper of the Botanical
Gardens (Lalbagh) in Bangalore at the instance of Lord Wellesley.
Simultaneously he participated in Topographical Survey of Mysore.
Heyne, in the tradition of the Tranquebar Botanists (Linnaeus's
"Apostle", Koenig, was the first of the Tranquebar Botanists),
collected a large number of specimens from the West Coast up to
1812. Of the 366 species collected, 200 bear the names given by
Heyne. Most of these specimens are currently housed in Kew.
Lalbagh Gardens from 1858 onwards was headed by a number of
outstanding superintendents. Mr. New, followed by Cameron and
Javaraya, Krumbeigel and Marigowda constituted the galaxy of
professionals, all of them trained or having previously served in
Kew Gardens the mother institution of Botanical Gardens in the
Cameron extended the Gardens from 40 to 120 Acres and also
created a lake over 40 Acres in extent. He introduced a large
number of vegetables from the New World as well as plants from
Singapore, Ceylon and other Botanical Gardens into Lalbagh. The
Glasshouse, a small replica of the crystal palace of London was
commissioned by the Prince of Wales when Cameron was
Superintendent of the Gardens. A substantial Zoo was also set up
by Cameron. Javaraya worked closely with Krumbeigal. He set up the
Fruit Orchards at Maddur and the Fig garden at Ganjam. Javaraya,
on the lines of the Bangalore flower shows initiated flower shows
in Lutyens Delhi. Krumbeigal, both a landscape artist and a
botanist assisted by Javaraya and with every encouragement from
Sir Mirza Ismail greened Bangalore with serial blossoming trees
and established Lalbagh as a proper horticultural garden.
Krumbeigal designed the Directorate Building and added numerous
elegant garden architectural features such as low parapet walls.
Marigowda set up horticultural farms, nurseries and seed depots
across every taluka in Karnataka and expanded Lalbagh to 240
Lalbagh today probably has the most diversified collection of
trees and plants of any botanical garden in the world. Araucarias
from Chile, Tasmania, Norfolk Islands and New Caledonia, a number
of Tabebuia varieties sourced from Paraguay to Brazil, the Candle
Tree, the Cannonball tree, the Calabash, the Rain tree and a
number of· exotic palms from the Caribbean and tropical Americas.
Also very rare and exotic plants such as the Amherstia Nobilis
(from Burma) have been successfully planted here. The most
beautiful of all flowering trees, the Saraca Taipengensis (from
Malaysia), thrives in Lalbagh. Cypresses from Mexico, China, Java
and Europe, Pines from Australia, Junipers from Africa, Wisterias
from Swaziland, Rosewoods from Bolivia, Fig trees from Java,
Australia and China and trees of great medicinal/pharmaceutical
value such as the Kamala (Mallotus from Borneo), the Bilwa (the
Bael) and the Arjun (Terrninalia Arjuna) flourish in Lalbagh.
Lalbagh is also host to a large variety of birds ranging from the
capricious grey pelican to the exquisitely delicate paradise fly
catcher. It would be difficult to disagree with Edward Lear who
describes, in 1874, how he "went in a dog cart to Lalbagh .....
never saw a more beautiful place, terraces, trellises, etc. Flower
Lalbagh which began as a royal pleasure garden, then a botanical
garden and in turn a zoological and horticultural garden and now a
much used public park, today rests on a weathered 3000 million
year old rock formation and also contains a 20 million year old
fossil of a conifer tree brought from Tiruvakkarai in Tamilnadu
giving us glimpses into early plant life in India.
Water & Power: The Essence
of Modern Day Life
Water is vital and essential for all, be it for the urban or
the rural citizen because life just cannot exist without it.
Interestingly, in a place like Bangalore, which is not
situated on the banks of any major river, electric power is
essential, too. The life-giving water must be pumped up from
the Cauvery, at Sivasumudram, to a height of 100 meters to
reach the City's altitude. What with the serious threat of
desertification looming ahead, it is time that Bangaloreans
act in a responsible manner when using these two inter
dependent supplies. Let us examine the condition of the water
supply in this city, while keeping in mind that all the
solutions given can be used for both supplies:
The water supply, even with the implementation of the Cauvery
Stage III, is not quite adequate. Every summer, residents keep
their fingers crossed for fear that cries of water shortage will
be heard throughout the city;
The growing number of bore wells and the proliferation of firms
marketing bottled water have not helped the citizens deal
"Tank Trucks" which are used widely by hotels and bulk-users add
to the water shortage problem since they deplete bore well
water. For this demand, water is hauled from areas as far away
as Devanahalli or Hoskote or Chickaballapur. This, in turn, has
its limitations as it is "Capital Intensive" for the water and
the power suppliers as the tariff for the Pumping Load is highly
Now, after examining the problems given above, what steps should
we lake to obtain better Water Management in the City? Better
water management would need:
Keep an eye on pipe leakage, due to faulty joints, rusted and
worn pipes and poor quality of workmanship at times. While. we
cannot necessarily improve the quality of the pipes by
ourselves, we can prevent loss of water at our own homes and in
the neighborhoods by making sure that all precautions are taken
in our homes.
Educate users on conserving water whenever possible to avoid
wasteful use. As home owners, we can perhaps teach others to not
use water excessively while watering gardens, washing cars and
front yard of houses.
Keep a close watch on the quality of the pipes and taps used.
Many limes Public Water Taps and Community Facilities are badly
used. People should be made aware of how much water is wasted
every time someone walks away after filling a pot, without
making sure the tap is secured.
Re-cycle water at every opportunity. This is a must, and this
water can be used for non-consumption purposes. BWSSB and other
suppliers could help by introducing educational programs for the
Awareness of Water Saving and Enforcement of Economy on a
Get the authorities to restrict the number and depth of new
bore-wells to prevent entire Taluks being declared 'Gray' or
'Dark' from the Ground Water Table angle. This is definitely a
step toward avoiding desertification.
In conclusion, acknowledging that although water problems are
found worldwide (supported by data found in reports from the UN
and other sources, easily available on the Internet), and the
knowledge that water supply is not inexhaustible, we have to take
a vigorous stand. It is time to send out a strong message to our
City and our State not to squander the precious resources: No more
dealing with problems on an ad hoc basis and no more accepting
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