Bangalore Bytes – Lalbagh: A Walk in the Park!

Last Sunday morning found us in Lalbagh – Bangalore’s famous Botanical Garden, for a walk around the park organized by GE – Hubby’s current employer. In a mad scramble we managed to make it on time at 7 am, no mean feat in Bangalore, even on a Sunday. I don’t know what it is – but this is most certainly one of the busiest & most chaotic cities I have ever visited in terms of traffic – but I digress…

DSC_0081
Our Guide – Mr. Vijay Kumar

It was a drizzly morning and chilly, but there were umbrellas to go around and backpacks full of munchies,  and leading us (a group of 18), was veteran Lalbagh guide and ‘guru’, Mr. Vijay Kumar. I had researched the walks online and knew that if there was anything to know about Lalbagh, then Mr. Kumar would know it and so was pretty excited at having him as our guide although my experience with guides in general, in India, has been to put it politely – awful 😛 Mr. Kumar is of course not your average guide! Aa soft-spoken gentleman, with a bamboo hat, a walking stick and impeccable English, he impressed us all with his wonderful commentary on the origins and history of Lalbagh and his in-depth knowledge of the 1800 odd species of plants that make their home here. His gentle humor and the many anecdotes he shared of his experiences over the years, made our own experience special and very informative. We were a mix of first-timers and repeat visitors and we were all agreed that his presence was what elevated our experience from just another ‘Walk in the Park’, to a true ’Nature Walk’ 🙂 The 3-hour walk didn’t seem long at all! I for one will definitely be doing it again! Also, the sumptuously decadent breakfast he arranged for us after the 3-hour long walk, at the original MTR restaurant a short distance away, is a strong motivator 😉

And now to the star of the show – Lalbagh! The Garden, today a sprawling 240 acres, was first commissioned in the mid-18th century by Hyder Ali & later expanded and improved first by his son Tipu Sultan and later by the British, for whom Mr. Kumar informed us, it was the most important garden in the Empire, second only to the Kew Gardens back home. 

The Bird of Paradise Flower! Ain't they pretty?
The Bird of Paradise Flower! Ain’t they pretty?

Mr. Kumar explained how Lalbagh is laid out mostly in straight lines, in the Mughal-style of the day, the straight lines representative of the shortest distance between God and his creation – Man! Cool! The garden has trees from all parts of the world – Australia, the Americas, Africa and even New Caledonia (a tiny island in the Pacific). There’s a tall pine named after Captain Cook that’s an astonishing 165 feet in height (Mr. Kumar shared with us how a group of school-bys he was chaperoning helped him measure it by using their shadows!), there are two massive silk-cotton trees whose trunks are as thick as a couple of elephants standing back-to-back and whose silky thread is  used in the manufacture of life-jackets and sleeping bags, there are several trees that are centuries old, a gorgeous rose garden (although we didn’t see it this time), and my favourite – an Elephant Apple tree – with fruit the size of small footballs! There’s also a Chinese Lantern Willow or some such (can’t recall the exact name, sorry :P), which was first introduced to the British when Catherine of Portugal married Charles II of England and brought it along in her dowry along with a smattering of 7 tiny islands in the Arabian Sea, that would go on to become the Bombay we know today! She was also the one that introduced ‘tea’ to the Brits apparently! Quite a woman that 😉

Silk Cotton Tree

Oh! And let’s not forget the giant prehistoric, 3-billion-year old rocky hillock that sits right at the main entrance to the park, crowned by one of the Kempe Gowda towers, now converted into the inevitable temple. The rock is one, if not ‘the’ oldest thing on the planet and is thought to be part of the original Gondwanaland – the rock mass that has given us Antartica, Africa, Madagascar, Australia, South America, The Arabian peninsula and the Indian subcontinent! Think about it – when you sit on that rocky surface, you’re sitting on something so ancient, it’s almost holy, if you get what I’m saying. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not a beautiful sight to look at, but it’s reverential all the same 🙂

The Elephant Apple!
The Elephant Apple!

Also at the entrance is a ‘Virgal’ or ‘hero-stone’, a memorial (usually in the form of a carved stone tablet), to a hero martyred in battle and next to it an ancient stone Nandi (bull), with a hole in its back that probably held a carved stoned umbrella. So Lalbagh was at some point a battlefield! There is plenty to discover in these gardens and our walk was a mere scratch on a vast surface, but it has made me hungry for more information and I look forward to many more misty mornings spent wandering around lost in Nature’s beauty. There’s the rose garden, a Japanese garden, the aquarium, and the Lake to discover. There’s cricket to be played and birds to be sighted (saw scores of parrots and eagles and kites but wasn’t carrying the zoom 😦 ), and more trees to discover! One warning – slather yourself with mosquito repellent before you visit and dress to cover your limbs, coz Lalbagh can rightly also be called ‘The Planet of the Mosquitoes’!

Virgal-Nandi Collage

And so it was back home after one of the best mornings I’ve had in a long time and certainly by far the best morning I’ve had so far in Bangalore. We missed the famous flower-show Lalbagh hosts every year, but I think I prefer to visit sans the crowds and chaos – just a wonderful, peaceful walk in the park 🙂

Thank you to GE and Mr. Kumar for a wonderful experience 🙂

 

7 thoughts on “Bangalore Bytes – Lalbagh: A Walk in the Park!

  1. Not quite enough pictures on this here blog post H!!! 😛 Why, oh why? Cool titbits of information though. We visited a botanical garden too…in Kandy…and we went mad clicking away! The pix’ll be coming up soon on my blog 🙂 Wish we’d had a guide like Mr Kumar though, it would have made our ramble so much more interesting 😦

    1. I know M 😦 Actually, when in a guided group I’ve realised you either keep up with the group and listen to what’s being said or you take pics! I for one can’t do the two together very effectively…so this time just enjoyed the walk and took a few pics 🙂

      Lalbagh is a place that can safely be visited a million times without boredom and my next trip will be just me and my lens and hopefully lots of birds and solitude 😉 🙂

      1. Yes I know! I’m glad you were ‘present’ 🙂 🙂

        (And you won’t believe what I was actually interested in photographing at that garden 😉 )

  2. I’m with Munira – not enough photos 😉 You talked about so many cool things, and now I’ll just be content with “hearing” about them – which I guess is what it was like for you to be there, so fair’s fair.
    I love that you got to see such an old relic as the rock, though the tree looks like it might be a close second 😉 To sleep under its branches…

    1. It’s a place I plan on visiting often Heather so hopefully I’ll make up for the low pic count eventually 😉 there are flocks of parrots and eagles that are making me drool in anticipation 🙂

      Aah…a nap! Anywhere would be fine right at this moment 😛

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