LalBagh Gardens
This article was published in the March 2006 newsletter of the Bangalore Environment Trust.
Entering the Gardens from the East Gate we find ourselves at the foot of a rocky outcrop on which stands a four pillared “Mandapam” which was erected in mid 16th Century by Kempe Gowda, the chieftain of Yelahanka, who erected similar towers at the other 3 cardinal points to which he expected Bangalore to expand to.
This rock , now designated a National Geological Monument, is one of the oldest rock formations in the world (composed of granitic gneiss) and dated as being 3000 million years old, was formed by volcanic action when it was part of Gondwanaland. This part of Gondwanaland moved north into the Asian continent creating the Himalayas. Thus the rock we see at Lalbagh is half as old as the earth itself and part of eternity.
The Year was 1760. There was turmoil in the Deccan. The Marathas, the Nawab of Arcot, the Nizam of Hyderabad, the rulers of Travancore & Cochin, the French & the British were all vying for territory and control in the South. Hyder Ali, who had just taken control of an enfeebled Mysore, consolidated and expanded its territories and with the help of the French hoped to keep the British out of South India.
In the midst of all this turmoil Hyder Ali found time to set up Gardens across Mysore. Hyder Ali’s father was in the service of Dilawar Khan, a Viceroy of the Moghuls. Dilawar Khan had laid out a “Moghul” garden at Sira near Tumkur which Hyder Ali would have known intimately. Hyder Ali set up three Gardens – Lalbagh at Srirangapatna, a garden at Malavalli and the Lalbagh Gardens (Bangalore) which was referred to as the Rose & Cypress Garden till 1856.
The Rose & Cypress Garden
(a painting by James Hunter in 1792)
Source: British Library
The act of setting up these Gardens would have been an act of piety for Hyder Ali as Islamic gardens were a reflection of Paradise on earth. All the design elements of such a garden were clearly covered in over 100 verses across 4 chapters in the Koran. It is extraordinary that he and his son Tipu Sultan found time to lay these parks which included the Darya Daulat Bagh and the Gumbaz. Hyder Ali imported plants from Multan, Lahore, Delhi & Arcot and set up the Rose & Cypress Garden "one mile east of the fort and a few hundred yards west of the tower."
Tipu Sultan not only inherited his father’s love for Gardens but brought in plants and saplings from Cape Town, Mauritius, Turkey, Tenerife, Persia, Kabul and elsewhere.
Thus was created the original 40 acre Rose & Cypress Garden: the royal pleasure garden of the Tigers of Mysore.
Soon after Tipu Sultan’s death in 1799, the Gardens came into the hands of Major Waugh of the Madras European Regiment who offered these gardens to the East India Company and this was strongly backed by Nathaniel Wallich* who wrote to the Marquis of Hastings. In the meantime, Benjamin Heyne became keeper of the Botanical Gardens (Lalbagh) in Bangalore at the instance of Lord Wellesley. Simultaneouly he participated in Topographical Survey of Mysore. Heyne, in the tradition of the Tranquebar Botanists (Linnaeus’s “Apostle”, Koenig, was the first of the Tranquebar Botanists), collected a large number of specimens from the Western Ghats/Canara Coast upto 1812. Of the 366 species collected, 200 bear the names given by Heyne. Most of these specimens are currently housed in Kew.
Lalbagh Gardens from 1858 onwards was headed by a number of outstanding superintendents. Mr. New, followed by Cameron and Javaraya , Krumbiegal and Marigowda constituted the galaxy of professionals, all of them trained or having previously served in Kew Gardens the mother institution of Botanical Gardens in the world.
Cameron extended the Gardens from 40 to 120 Acres and also created a lake over 40 Acres in extent. He introduced a large number of vegetables from the New World as well as plants from Singapore, Ceylon and other Botanical Gardens into Lalbagh. The Glasshouse, a small replica of the crystal palace of London was commissioned by the Prince of Wales when Cameron was Superintendent of the Gardens.
A substantial Zoo was also set up by Cameron. Javaraya worked closely with Krumbiegal. He set up the Fruit Orchards at Maddur and the Fig garden at Ganjam. Javaraya, on the lines of the Bangalore flower shows. initiated flower shows in Lutyens Delhi. Krumbiegal both a landscape artist and a botanist assisted by Javaraya and with every encouragement from Sir Mirza Ismail greened Bangalore with serial blossoming trees and established Lalbagh as a proper horticultural garden. Krumbiegal designed the Directorate Building and added numerous elegant garden architectural features such as low parapet walls. Marigowda set up horticultural farms, nurseries and seed depots across every taluka in Karnataka and expanded Lalbagh to 240 acres.
A view of the BandStand in 1870
Source: British Library
The exotic Amherstia nobilis
Lalbagh today probably has the most diversified collection of trees and plants of any botanical garden in the world. Araucarias from Chile, Tasmania, Norfolk Islands and New Caledonia, a number of Tabebuia varieties sourced from Paraguay to Brazil, the Candle Tree, the Cannonball tree, the Calabash, the Rain tree and a number of exotic palms from the Caribbean and tropical Americas. Also very rare and exotic plants such as the Amherstia nobilis (from Burma) have been successfully planted here. The most beautiful of all flowering trees, the Saraca taipengensis (from Malaysia), thrives in Lalbagh . Cypresses from Mexico, China, Java and Europe, Pines from Australia, Junipers from Africa, Wisterias from Swaziland, Rosewoods from Bolivia, Fig trees from Java, Australia and China and trees of great medicinal/pharmaceutical value such as the Kamala (Mallotus from Borneo), the Bilwa (the Bael) and the Arjun ( Terminalia arjuna) flourish in Lalbagh.
Lalbagh is also host to a large variety of birds ranging from the capricious grey pelican to the exquisitely delicate paradise fly catcher. It would be difficult to disagree with Edward Lear who describes, in 1874, how he “went in a dog cart to Lalbagh ………….never saw a more beautiful place, terraces, trellises, etc. Flower exquisite”
Lalbagh which began as a royal pleasure garden, then a botanical garden and in turn a zoological and horticultural garden and now a much used public park, today rests on a weathered 3000 million year old rock formation and also contains a 20 million year old fossil of a conifer tree brought form Tiruvakkarai in Tamil Nadu giving us glimpses into early plant life in India.
*Wallich’s collection of 8000 different species, when he was Superintendent of Royal Botanical Gardens at Calcutta, was acknowledged by Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker as “the most valuable contribution of the kind ever made to science”.

Over 10,000 people have experienced our walks & tours in the past 4 years

Weekend Walks  |  Themed Tours  |  Universities  |  Schools  |  Beloved Bangalore  |  Contact Us

Copyright Bangalore Walks   : :   All Rights Reserved   : :   An e9ds design