Hidden in the noisy setting of Bangalore is Lalbagh – an oasis more than JUST a botanical garden. It is an ancient tapestry telling stories about its royal birth till today. However, Lalbagh is not a mere haven of nature but an epitome of the visionaries and gardeners who turned a piece of land into a paradise of plants. Let us journey together to understand the tales embedded in each leaf and flower.
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Origins of Lalbagh: Botanical Elegance to Royal Gardens:
The story of Lalbagh was conceived in the eighteenth century under the reign of one of the strong rulers of the kingdom of Mysore- Hyder Ali. Lalbagh was inspired by the Mughal style and was designed to resemble the paradisiacal gardens mentioned in the Quran. These elegant ideas were transformed into reality using carefully crafted landscapes that included flowing waters and a variety of rare plants imported from Delhi, Multan, and Lahore.
After the death of Hyder Ali, his son Tipu Sultan took up his passion for plant cultivation. Lalbagh was also no longer a mere royal retreat; it became the fountainhead of many plants hailing from all over the world. He enriched the garden by adding plants from Kabul, Persia, Mauritius, and Turkey.
The obsession with exotic plants and their propagation would later lay a path for what Lalbgh would eventually be like—a renowned green sanctuary for the rich and the poor.
Horticultural Haven: 18th Century and early 19th Century
The 18th and 19th centuries witnessed the occupation of the area by the British. During this transition, the garden developed into a significant arboretum under British governance in 1799, after the death of Tipu Sultan. Horticulturists from Britain were amazed at the gardening opportunities offered in Lalbagh, and they started bringing in plants from the far corners of the world. It was an era of trading plants when seeds and treelets were brought to settle in this garden via the oceanic route. To grow such an environment in Lalbagh, the government established a specialized nursery of rare and exotic species.
This metamorphosis of the garden from a Royal leisure space to a scientific establishment is crucial. It was the center of botanic investigations and experiments on adapting foreign plants to local conditions. Consequently, this was also the beginning of the process that would result in Lalbagh becoming a global melting pot of diverse vegetation and making the first steps towards being one of the most significant botanical institutions later on.
I had an amazing day on this tour! Praveen was excellent, full of knowledge, always checking to see if I was ok, and up for whatever we were about to do, whether it eat an authentic Indian lunch, try Indian coffee, drink mango juice, climb a 3000 million year old rock, sneaking through the world coffee convention to take a look at Bangalore palace or just checking to see if I was ok with the traffic. Bangalore has blown me away! Thank you Praveen 🙏
Colonial Imprints and Glasshouse Grandeur
A remarkable addition from this period is the glass house that was inspired by London’s Crystal Palace. The Glasshouse, constructed in 1889 during the era of the Director of Lalbagh, John Cameron, epitomized architecture and engineering at the time. The structure, which had been built with iron and glass, looked like a spectacle of light and space at its best, demonstrating Victorian architectural strength.
The metal pillars supporting the Glasshouse have the manufacturer’s mark of Glasgow, and the Belgian glass used to shine under The Bangalore Sun to create a magical setting. It served as a refuge where delicate plants were sheltered from the local weather elements that changed frequently. The Glasshouse came to embody the convergence of technology and nature while bearing testimony to the British contribution to Lalbagh. Today, it serves as proof of a period in Lalbagh’s history that witnessed many changes while keeping its spirit intact.
This tour is a must-do when you visit Bengaluru! Praveen is a great guide and a true storyteller. I was a bit nervous at first since it was the first time I was travelling by myself and I did not know what to expect, but I had the best day discovering the beautiful city!
Praveen is very knowledgeable and passionate about history, which shines through in every aspect of the tour! My favorite part was the walk through the Lalbagh Botanical garden, followed by a visit to a Vishnu temple and the KR market. Lunch was amazing as well!
Will definitely book another one of his tours during my stay!
A Laboratory of Green: Research and Education:
Later, Lalbagh came under the Department of Horticulture, Government of Karnataka. It also welcomed the Horticulture Producers Cooperative Marketing Society (HOPCOMS) to manage the horticulture outputs of farms and orchards scientifically. Today, it encompasses 2150 species of plants and boasts a Rose Garden, Bonsai Garden, Topiary Garden, Cacti Garden, a Library, and several sculptures on display carved out of tree trunks. It is a living laboratory that has witnessed growth by many species of trees and plants over the centuries. Local and foreign horticulturalists and botanists have made Lalbagh an experimental ground by planting various species. Plant response, regeneration, and ongoing research on the important interpretation of plant behavior are always underway here.
It promotes a stronger understanding of flora and horticulture through workshops, guided tours, corporate team-building outings, and knowledge-sharing sessions.
More Than Just Plants
During its infancy, Lalbagh had once been an enclave for both floral and faunal species. It used to have a zoo and an aquarium, thus contributing to its attraction by many people. Though the Zoo no longer exists, it contributed to the diversification of Lalbagh into multi-ecosystems. It was also important that there was an aquarium present, which further added to showing what the aquatic ecosystems entail. Although these features are part of the history of Lalbagh, they highlight the park’s significance as an all-encompassing nature preserve that embraces plant life and wildlife.
Of greater significance, perhaps, is the 3-billion-year-old massive rock formation in Lalbagh. Visitors rarely realize that they are sitting on one of the oldest rock formations in the world. It is one of the 26 National Geological Monuments in India.
Festivals and Flora: A Symphony of Colors
Lalbagh is not only about history and horticulture but also a lively platform for many cultural activities. The garden becomes a kaleidoscope of colors during different festivals throughout the year. It includes the Biannual Flower Show, which is one of the many celebrations in this city dating over a century. The garden comes alive with breathtaking flowers and stylish displays that fascinate visitors. The timing of these festivals by the caretakers is quite strategic, and the blossoming flowers make for an appealing visual feast. These festivals are not just about demonstrating beauty but rather symbolizing the natural world and cultural existence together. Lalbagh is transformed into a flower hub, covered by many kinds of flowers that attract all classes of citizens during these festivals.
Find your Inspiration in Nature
A visit to Lalbagh is not just an excursion in a botanical garden but a walk on a page of history and culture. From royal beginnings to what it is today, a center for botanical research and colorful festivities, Lalbagh is proof of how great ideas are kept alive by their champions. It is a place where you can go back in time and walk the paths of our ancestors while at the same time learning to appreciate the beauty of Mother Nature and the wonders that humankind has created.