Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Smell of Morning at Lalbagh

Last Sunday, i.e. 14th Jan’07 was a bit foggy in Bangalore; the early morning hours were refreshing because of the cold and low visibility. I drove down to Lalbagh during the early hours at around 6AM and wanted to see and capture in my camera the fascinating stories this quintessential bouquet had to offer, both natural beauty and the life at play.
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If you go to visit Paris, London, Amsterdam, Singapore, Edinburgh or for that matter any American city, you feel there's so much to do with so little time on hand. But when it comes to Bangalore, people are generally of the view that its all about ITES/Tech offices, buildings, grand campuses, malls, match-box apartments and like-wise. Now take a walk through the hallowed green space at Lalbagh and it would offer you a tryst with the local history, which you cannot bypass. Its like a delightful time re-exploring oneself amidst life history, environment, botany, culture, landscape architecture, gardening and food, all thrown on a single platter interpreting an unknown Bangalore.
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History has it that Hyder Ali of Mysore happened to see a beautiful garden in Pondicherry, the memory of which reverberated in his mind. In his quest to replicate his experience, Haider created a garden in a 40-acre plot in Bangalore.Haider’s son Tipu Sultan who shared a passion for the garden invited the Tigala community from Tamil Nadu well known for their gardening skills to concentrate their expertise on it. The garden is known as Lalbagh (Lal meaning red and Bagh meaning garden) because of the abundance of red roses when it was a royal retreat. After Tipu, it was under the supervision of the British rulers and a slew of Kew-trained superintendents that the garden that might have lapsed into a wilderness was transformed into a heaven of greenery. During his tenure, the Prince of Wales commissioned the Glass House, a small replica of the London’s Crystal Palace.This Glass House is a major attraction during the Republic Day and the Independence Day when the special flower show is put up here.
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During the morning hours, one can find regular morning walkers, people doing yoga and exercise, etc. Also one can find kids running around here and there looking for a space to start a game of cricket and pregnant woman enjoying a morning walk along with their caring husbands. It’s a unique lung space in the heart of the bustling city. People find great joy reading the newspaper amidst nature, sitting on the benches (wooden planks/stone/metallic) which can be found at all vantage points with the chirping of birds as the background music.
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Watching the squirrels dallying, with old couples sharing a conversation over domestic matters shows how the nature-propelled spell sparks camaraderie. As the morning freshness subsides, the whispered talk within the grooves is taken over by the dissonance of traffic and routine life outside. A Carnatic music concert in the open fresh air of early morning is also common. Very near to the Rose Garden, in one desolate corner is a small temple (Panchamukeshwara), where people visit early morning to offer their prayers and is a must go place for garden staff members, before they start their work.
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Lalbagh, which began as a pleasure garden, became a botanical garden, a western-style horticulture garden and now a public park. Within the park, one can find the impressions of some of the leading and rarest specimen in botany. There are trees and plants from temperate, coastal and tropical regions, the equatorial belt and even from the Himalayas. There are 1800 plus species of plants housed here under the aegis of Horticulture Department.One can find the Chilean Araucaria here, the Cannonball tree from Guyana, the Panamanian Candle tree, and the beautiful Amherstia Nobilis from Myanmar and lots more, infact the list is endless and I could spot only a few. Bangalore's Lalbagh is credited to have one of the most diverse man made collection of flora.
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The Lalbagh is also home to a wide range of birds, though the number is not as high as it’s collection of flora. The Lalbagh Tank with its sky blue serene waterscape, with ducks swimming leisurely is a reminder to mortals that "It’s Ok take is easy". On one side of the tank, I saw myself how the aquatic life is negatively affected by untreated sewage effluents coming from the layouts situated near the Southern Gate. The silt trap has become a breeding ground for mosquitoes and the place stinks because of the dirty water accumulated there but inspite of this, I saw some fishes surviving in this hapless habitat. With every breath they take, Bangaloreans hope that is not an indicator of the bad state certain parts of Lalbagh is in.
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Today Lalbagh conceals other claims to fame. It rests on a 3,000-year-old gneiss formation, perhaps once part of the legendary Gondwanaland before the continental drift. It is also a pointer to the city’s growth, for the mandapam by its east gate marks a significant rite of passage. It was one of the towers set up by Kempe Gowda at key locations to mark the future boundaries of the city in the making. To reach the mandapam, one needs to climb a small hillock and it was here that I met "Gayatri", a cute kid. "Gayatri" was selling groundnuts (both fried and boiled) and she was setting up her make shift shop to sell jasmine and floral garlands.
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For the benefit of joggers, tourists and fitness freaks, the gates are open from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., when entry is free. For the rest part of the day, entry is possible on purchase of tickets at the entrance gates. Entry for school children and the disabled is free all day. An excellent way to familiarise oneself with Lalbagh is to take a walk on a Saturday or Sunday morning with Bangalore Walks. The fun filled and eye-opening walk starts near LalBagh Rock at 7A.M. and lasts for 3 hours to conclude with a breakfast to discuss the rediscovery of an awe-inspiring world. The entire area is neatly maintained, except for a few islands of litters and garbage here and there. I also found security personnel early morning policing at entry points.

Just listing out the places of interest inside Lalbagh:
Bandstand, Lecture Hall, Lalbagh House, Pigeon House, Statue of Sri Chamaraja Wodeyar, the Directorate Building, Lalbagh West Gate Guard Room, the Museum and Cottage which now house some of the department offices, main gate of Lalbagh (Camerongate), Deer Paddock, Aquarium building, Aviary and Kempegowda Tower.
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I always thought Bangalore was a mix of a city and semi-metro, though changing at an alarming rate now. To me its, history was a little hazy. The morning visit added newer dimensions to my understanding. I fell in love with this city’s smell of the morning all over again. So what are you waiting for, put on your sweatshirt and sneakers and unravel the charm of the morning freshness.
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Check for the pics here. Shutter bugs if you have any places in mind,in and around Bangalore drop me an email(email id is in my profile).But the condition is I prefer places very early in the morning or late night and there should not be too much of a crowd. Also weekends are preferable. Too many conditions Huh !!!

Keep reading and remain connected.

5 Comments:

At 2:40 PM, Blogger Rekha said...

My vote for 'serenity' n 'tranquility' this time :)
I am not sure wht ur frens told u abt National Park but I loved its zoo and the location(far frm the city...giving the impression of travelling into woods).Butterfly park is also fine...the amount of info they have is worth a visit!

 
At 4:52 PM, Blogger delphinium said...

hey really nice post and lovely photos!

 
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