In the present day and age, Bengaluru is more popularly known as the Silicon Valley of India but it has an older reference and still does, as the garden city of India. Our country sprawls with many beautiful and historic gardens such as Shalimar Bagh in Kashmir, the Lodi Garden in Delhi, the Botanical Garden in Kolkata, and many more. Today, we shall be looking at Bengalru’s oldest garden, Lal Bagh, and how the history and evolution of this 213-year-old botanical garden are intertwined with the city’s history.
Lalbagh is a conjoining of the Hindustani words lal and bagh which translates to ‘red garden’. Some say that it is called ‘Lal’ because of its predominant red floral composition originally while some debate that the prefix also translates to ‘beloved’, and was named so because of the Sultan’s love for flowers. Hyder Ali, the Sultan of Mysore commissioned this garden in 1760 but his famous successor, Tipu Sultan completed it. Hyder Ali laid out the plans of the garden, inspired by Mughal gardens, which were gaining mass popularity around that time. While Hyder Ali planted the famous botanical plants, Tipu Sultan was responsible for the growth and propagation of a variety of imported ornamental plants that provided horticultural wealth to his kingdom. In the consequent years, the management of the garden fell under many Superintendents of the British Empire, under whom it flourished further. Over the years, it acquired India's first lawn clock and houses the country’s largest collection of rare plants.
In the present day, Lalbagh spans 240 acres and is located in south Bangalore. The garden has four gates from which you can enter. The western gate is located near Siddapura Circle and you can enter this gate and enjoy the sylvan atmosphere of the garden. The northwestern wall adjoins Krumbiegal Road, which is named after G.H. Krumbiegal, the last pre-Independence Superintendent. The eastern gate has a broad road with Jayanagar, Bangalore nearby. The southern gate is often referred to as a small gate and opens near the Ashoka pillar. The northern gate is a fairly wide and big road leading to the Glass House and is considered the primary entrance.
The Lalbagh Glass House is a gigantic palatial glass and iron structure, inspired by Crystal Palace in London’s Hyde Park. It was built in 1989 and renovated in 2004 and is the primary attraction for visitors to Lalbagh. Another permanent highlight of the garden is the watchtower built by Kempe Gowda, the founder of Bengaluru. This watchtower sits atop a 3,000-million-year-old rocky outcrop, a National Geological Monument. There is also a beautiful large lake in the garden’s southern part, complete with walking trails, a bridge, and a mini waterfall. Some of the other attractions include the flower clock, Hibiscus garden, and the seasonal flower shows, held twice annually, on Republic Day and Independence Day. Lalbagh botanical gardens are open daily from 6 AM to 7 PM and entry is free.
There is a wonderful book that came out in the year 2021, titled Bangalore's Lalbagh by Suresh Jayaram. It is an anecdotal narrative of Bangalore’s oldest garden – the Lalbagh Botanical Garden. The author uncovers the historical and contemporary context of Lalbagh, traces how it has changed over the years and sheds light on the unseen gardener communities of Bangalore. You can always experience the beautiful garden vicariously through this read until your next visit to Bengaluru.
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