The conversion of a dry, dusty barren land into a lush garden paradise full of the most exotic and beautiful flora seems like a transition out of the pages of a fantasy book. Yet within the short span of 250 years, the city of Bangalore has gone through this very thing.
Nicknamed the ‘Garden City of India’, Bengaluru is well known for its luxurious and pretty parks, which are a must visit for any tourist. It can be a slightly jarring contrast, these slow paced green nooks hidden among the metropolitan city’s haze. Yet, no one would ever complain of a resting place in the form of a bench under a tree.
Back during the colonial times, the Tigers of Mysore, Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan were mesmerized by the tales of Persian pleasure gardens, and laid the foundation of a 40-acre garden nestled in the barren plateau. Today, the Lal Bagh remains one of the most spectacular botanical gardens in India.
This construction of an artificial green land during the 1760s also changed the way trees and plants were seen Mysore. Before this, groves of trees were usually seen as sacred, and revered and worshipped. Now, they became an important aspect of the ornamentation of the city.
But it was only with the coming of the British that the state’s green cover increased. Horticulturists came to the city with a number of exotic and distant plants, which took root in the rich soil. Cubbon Park, which to date acts as a ‘lung’ of the city, was created around this time. Additionally, many streets were lines with trees to provide a cool canopy, giving many streets of Bengaluru a distinct natural look. Despite the colonial rule, native traditions also contributed to this development, the Bulge Park created around the rock and its temple being a good example.
Not all that was created survived the ravages of time. Bengaluru was once equally noted for the fruitful products of its orchids, but most of them have disappeared without a trace. But the gardens safely passed into the hands of the independent government, and most of them were well maintained throughout the decades.
But as is the story with almost every green area, Bengaluru too had to surrender a large part of his gardens to the monster of development. As the city increasingly moves towards unsustainability, many have started taking action not just to protect the trees and plants, but also to save the city itself. Neralu, an urban tree festival is just one among the many.
It seems ironic but poetic that an entire city that rose from the dust alongside trees many die due to these very trees being uprooted. But as pretty as poetry is, it is no way to live life. If Bengaluru is not saved, not only would we be losing a city, we would also be losing the legacy and history that goes as deep as the roots of the oldest trees in Lal Bagh.