486 Years History of Lalbagh

History of Lalbagh Botanical Garden Bangalore - Oldest Botanical Garden through the ages.

1537: Kempegowda builds Huvina Thota

Lalbagh Botanical Garden, initially designed by Kempegowda in 1537 on a 34-acre land, was known as Huvina Thota (Flower Garden). Kempe Gowda was a chieftain under the Vijayanagara Empire.

1569: Renamed as Kempu Thota

In 1569, his son Gidde Gowda played a significant role in its expansion and renamed it Kempu Thota (Red Garden). The primary purpose of this garden was to cultivate flowers destined for temple offerings.

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1760: Renamed as Sultans Garden

In the 18th century, the region came under the jurisdiction of Hyder Ali, who received it as a jagir from the Wadiyar rulers of Mysore. Later, his son Tipu Sultan made significant advancements to transform it into a Rose and Cypress Garden around 1760, adopting a Charbagh layout with four quadrants. Tipu Sultan's affiliation with the Jacobin Club, linked to the French Revolution, allowed him to import seeds and plants from Mauritius and France, enriching the garden's diversity. During this period, the cultivation of chakotha (pomelo) trees from Thailand was introduced and actively promoted in the city of Mysuru.

In 1760, the construction of this garden commenced under the rule of Hyder Ali but was later completed under the orders of his son, Tipu Sultan. Inspired by the growing popularity of Mughal gardens, Hyder Ali envisioned this botanical paradise, which covered a vast 30-acre area, taking inspiration from renowned Mughal Gardens in Delhi and Sira, Karnataka. However, it's essential to note that the history of Lalbagh dates back millennia before the 18th century.

The garden gained even greater significance when Tipu Sultan introduced the concept of horticulture, importing a diverse array of plant species from various countries, captivating the hearts of all who beheld it. Drawing from the design principles used in Mughal gardens, this enchanting garden became a true spectacle to behold.

1792: Referred as Cypress Garden

In 1792, Colonel Claude Martin depicted Lalbagh as Cypress Garden in his painting. This portrayal was reiterated in 1793 by Robert Hyde Colebrook. Similarly, in 1805, James Hunter named it Rose and Cypress Garden. Additional names mentioned in historical accounts include Mussalman's Garden by Francis Buchanan in 1800, Sultans' Garden by Benjamin Heyne at a later time, and Garden of Waugh, also known as Major Waugh's Garden. In 1836, CT Metcalfe, the secretary of the Government at Fort William, Calcutta, referred to it as the Garden of Bangalore, a term also employed by Col Munro.

1799: East India company takes over

After Tipu Sultan's demise in the 4th Anglo-Mysore war in 1799, Lalbagh, known as the Sultan's Garden until then, fell under the governance of the East India Company.

1856: Officially designated as Government Botanical Garden

In 1856 Dr. Cleghorn, the Conservator of Forests with the Madras Government, officially designated the garden as a Government Botanical Garden - Lal Bagh. The visionary idea of constructing the Glass House in Lalbagh was proposed by John Cameron, who assumed the role of superintendent in March 1874. With his expertise in botany, Cameron had received training at the esteemed Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew. He added almost 160 new plant species to Lalbagh every year during his remarkable 33-year tenure.

Between 1857 and 1973, Lalbagh experienced a gradual transformation into a conservatory and botanical research laboratory, guided by a succession of expert horticulturists trained at Kew, including two Indian horticulturists.

1867: First Ever Flower Show at Lalbagh

The flower shows were started in 1867. Lalbagh Flower Show was influenced by the Chelsea Flower Show. The Chelsea Flower Show, is a garden show held for five days in May by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea in Chelsea, London. The flower shows in the garden which began under British rule were later aligned with Republic Day and Independence Day after Independence.

In 1874, the garden covered a vast expanse of 45 acres of land. Substantial expansions and enhancements took place in later years, with an additional 30 acres added in 1889 and a remarkable 94 acres in 1891.

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1889: Glass House Constructed

A majestic Glass House was constructed in 1889, replicating several features of the Crystal Palace exhibition hall in Hyde Park of London. It was John Cameron, superintendent of Lalbagh from 1874 to 1908, who started several horticultural initiatives.

He expanded the area of the garden and created the large lake on 35 acres by deepening the quarry. He commissioned artists to record the plant wealth, got 3,222 plants then found in the garden listed, created a herbarium and dovecote, to house pigeons and doves.

Cameron also promoted research on growing of new strains of coffee, experimented with cultivation of apples, developed a variety of rubber known as Ficus elastica, worked on different varieties of cotton, helped in the development of the Kidney potato and set up a menagerie for animals which once hosted an orangutan, kangaroos, rhinoceros, lions, deer and ostriches.

Apart from Lalbagh, several of these species do not exist anywhere else in India. Other than the exotic plant species, several indigenous species like the silk-cotton tree, varieties of fig and jacarandas are abundant here.

1908: G.H. Krumbiegal

In 1908, G.H. Krumbiegal took over from John Cameron as the curator of the Botanical Gardens situated in Lalbagh, Bangalore. This appointment aligned with the amalgamation of diverse parks, gardens, hill stations, and historical sites under the umbrella of the Department of Government Gardens. This transition placed Krumbiegal in the capacity of a superintendent initially, and subsequently elevated him to the position of Director of Horticulture.

Krumbiegal's tenure as the Director of Horticulture commenced with a flurry of activities centered around the introduction of plants. He demonstrated a profound understanding of the systematic progression of horticulture, spanning both its artistic and commercial aspects. His efforts to enhance the renown of the Lalbagh Botanical Gardens were remarkable; he procured an impressive array of exotic flora through international correspondence and networking, thereby solidifying his position as a worthy successor to John Cameron.

Throughout his tenure, Krumbiegal made substantial contributions to both his state and country. Particularly notable was his role in designing nearly all significant parks and gardens, including the illustrious Brindavan Gardens at Krishnaraja Sagar, located near Mysore. During his time, the Mysore Horticultural Society was established in 1912, and the staging of grand flower shows became a regular highlight of horticultural endeavors.

Within Lalbagh, he initiated diverse initiatives, such as the cultivation of economically valuable plants, the establishment of the 'Bureau of Economic Plants', and the inception of a Horticultural Training School. The cultivation of the 'Rome Beauty' apple variety flourished under Krumbiegal's dedicated efforts, effectively imparting a fresh dimension to the realm of 'Horticulture'.

With an enduring service span of 25 memorable years, he concluded his career in 1932 and retired. Following retirement, he chose to settle in Bangalore and took on the role of 'Landscape Advisor' to the state of Mysore, contributing until his passing in 1956.

1935: Mr. Javaraya

Mr. Javaraya stands as a prominent and pioneering figure among the native officers who ascended to the highest echelons of the Department of Horticulture in the Mysore Kingdom.

The accomplishments and contributions attributed to Mr. Javaraya are truly remarkable. During his tenure, a significant development took place with the construction of the eastern wings of the Glass House in the year 1935. In the late thirties, a distinctive 'lantern-shaped' guard tower was erected at the Basavanadudi gate of Lalbagh. Notably, this entire structure was transplanted from the residence of Dewan P.N. Krishnamurthy, marking the first instance of a building being relocated in the entire state. The masterful execution of this endeavor earned high praise from Sir Mirza Ismail, the Dewan of the Mysore state at that time. Additionally, under Mr. Javaraya's leadership, a labor-intensive artificial cascade named the 'Java Cascade' was meticulously crafted near the lotus pond. Its inauguration was graced by Mr. K.V. Anantharaman, the then Minister for Revenue in the Mysore state. Furthermore, Mr. Javaraya orchestrated the creation of various avenues that crisscrossed Lalbagh, enhancing its allure and accessibility.

Mr. Javaraya's legacy extends to the initiation of the Maddur Fruit Orchard and the Ganjam Fig Gardens. Notably, it was during his tenure that the Government Fruit Research Station at Hessaraghatta was established in 1938, facilitated by financial support from the Imperial Council of Agricultural Research.

In the year 1944, he concluded his dedicated service upon retirement. Subsequently, he assumed the role of an advisor on Horticultural matters to the Nawab of Bhopal. His journey reached its end in 1946 with his passing in Bhopal.

1942: Dr. M.H. Marigowda

In the year 1942, he commenced his tenure at Lalbagh by taking up the role of Assistant Superintendent of Gardens. This position placed him under the guidance of Rao Bahadur H.C. Javaraya, who served as the Superintendent of Government Gardens at that time. Following this initial phase, in 1947, he was chosen for an exceptional opportunity: a six-month intensive horticultural training program at the prestigious Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, in England. Subsequently, in 1948, he ventured to the United States of America, where he enrolled at the renowned Harvard University. Here, he dedicated himself to his studies and successfully earned his Ph.D. degree in Botany by 1951.

Upon his return to India in the same year, he assumed the role of Deputy Superintendent at Lalbagh. His ascent through the ranks was swift, as he swiftly advanced to the position of Superintendent of Government Gardens. By 1963, his expertise and accomplishments led him to the esteemed role of Director of Horticulture within the Mysore state.

Peninsular Gneiss

Near the East or main gate of Lalbagh, one can marvel at the sight of an ancient marvel – the Peninsular Gneiss, one of the oldest rocks in the world, with an astounding age of close to three billion years. Recognized as a National Geological Monument by the Geological Survey of India, this rock has captivated researchers and geologists worldwide, serving as a significant site for studies on geology and evolution.

According to naturalist Vijay Thiruvady's book, "Lalbagh: Sultan's Garden to Public Park," the Peninsular Gneiss area has been witness to human settlements dating back to around 3000 BC. Evidence of Megalithic humans was once discovered within the premises. However, these artifacts were later transferred to the Government Museum, leading to the levelling of the site, making it no longer visible today.

Additionally, nestled atop this hillock is one of four watchtowers, believed to have been erected by Kempegowda, the visionary founder of modern-day Bengaluru, during the 16th century when the city was established. It is widely believed that these structures were strategically positioned in the four corners to serve as guardians, ensuring that any growth beyond these boundaries would lead to the city's downfall.

Veeragallus (Hero Stones)

Concealed within Lalbagh, there lies another intriguing piece of history that often escapes the notice of visitors. These are the "hero stones" or veeragallus, which bear inscriptions narrating the valorous tales of warriors who perished in battle. Scattered across India, these hero stones span several centuries, some dating back 500 years, while others boast an age of up to 1500 years.

Surprisingly, Lalbagh houses two such hero stones within its premises. One, located near the Peninsular Gneiss, is estimated to have originated in the 10th century. The other, situated close to the Horticultural Office, is believed to date back to the 13th century. Despite the mystery surrounding their origins and creators, these hero stones provide a fascinating glimpse into Bengaluru's medieval history, commemorating the bravery and sacrifice of warriors whose stories deserve remembrance.