Bangalore Environment Trust Newsletter, March 2006
Sat, 03/03/2007 - 07:55 — admin


Lalbagh Gardens  --  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 till 1856.

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 world.

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 acres.

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 exquisite" .

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 adequately;

  • "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 subsidized.

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 regular basis.

  • 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 patchwork solutions.


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