the Lal Bagh Walk
This morning, I decided to do the Lal Bagh walk, as I have always felt I should know more about the beautiful garden that is one of the lungspaces of Bangalore. The three hours I spent there just flew by!
When I got there, I found that I was the sole person going on the walk….the walk started 15 minutes late as Vijay Thiruvady decided that he would give the benefit of the doubt to the group of 4 who had said that they would come. I do wish people would call up if they are cancelling as not calling wastes the time of others who have come puncutally!
We started with the age-old rock at the Double Road entrance of Lal Bagh, which, at about 3 billion years old, is about half the age of the earth. Kempe Gowda’s tower sits atop this ancient “rock of ages” and reminds us about recent history…Kempe Gowda hoped that the city of Bengalooru might extend as far as his towers…would that he could see it now!
With that geological introduction, Vijay also mentioned the committed men who have been associated with Lal Bagh… Hyder and Tipu who worked to set up the garden as a reflection of Paradise,based on the Moghul Gardens at Sira, near Tumkur; and others like Wallich and Cameron, Krumbiegel,Javaraya and Mari Gowda who made it a botanical and horticultural paradise…. he then took me towards the avenue of mighty trees( they are, apparently, more than a 100 years old) which line the approach to the Glass House, which is a replica of the Crystal Palace in England. He mentioned that Saint Gobain had recently replaced all the panes with shatterproof glass…and said that he often had walkers who mentioned elderly relatives who had got married in the Glass House! Of course, it is now used only for the Flower Shows, twice a year.
He showed me the many varieties of the fig..Ficus Benjamina, Ficus Bengalensis, Ficus Krishnae (why was a scientific name, “belonging to Krishna”, given to this tree? Answer on the walk)….some of these are well-known trees, and there were some interesting facts about the berries, and how insects and trees cooperate to propogate each other, that he shared with me, giving me some specimens which he had prepared earlier.
We then took a walk down the Juniper alley, and saw various types of Cypress and Yew trees too. On the way, he showed me some remarkable specimens of epiphytes, which grow on other trees without being parasites. A banyan tree had grown all over a fishtail palm and was an amazing sight. He showed me the wonderful diversity of the trees which had been brought by Hyder Ali’s ambassadors from all over the world; he made me see the stature of a man who, in the midst of political turmoil, still had time to set up a garden based on the Seera Gardens, and strove to get specimens from everywhere. There are trees from the Americas, and Europe, and Asia…all growing together here.
I saw the wonderful “leaves” of the monkey-puzzle tree, and we went on to look at the Ashwatha tree, which we know as the Peepul. There were a couple of magnificient silk-cotton giants that we admired. On we went, looking at some Funerary Chinese cypress, and trees which are called “trees that walk” (why? ah, that’s a secret you should learn on the walk!)We saw the candle tree, the Malottus trees, ( I don’t know if I have these spellings correctly!) and Krishna’s buttercup…looked at the Indian cork tree, called Aakaasha Mallige, the “Humming-bird” tree(Amherstia Nobilis), which is very rare and was in flower right now, and the African Tulips….sat under an Arjuna tree for a small break.
We walked through thickets of various types of bamboo, and I was lucky to see one bamboo plant in flower; usually, after flowering, bamboos die. Vijay told me how the bamboo flowering is associated with famine….and how, right now, in Mizoram, the bamboos are beginning to flower, and the authorities are doing nothing about it…. we came sauntering back through a line of Sampige trees, which are actually a variety of Magnolia, and enjoyed the fragrance from their blossoms.
We ended by seeing the real Ashoka trees,which had also blossomed in yellow,and orange/red; these are different from the so-called Ashokas that we normally give the name too. I imagined Sita sitting under one such tree, waiting for Rama to come to deliver her from Ravana…
Alas, perhaps because he thought I already knew about it, Vijay did not show me the most ancient tree in the garden…I do hope he doesn’t miss it out with his other visitors. Do make a point of asking for the “stone tree” if you go on the walk, and find out more about it!
I was also fortunate in my bird-watching, which, however,is not the focus of this walk…I saw some koels, a coppersmith barbet, and a beautiful paradise fly-catcher…we were not fortunate enough to see the snake that has its residence high up in one of the trees!
A great way to learn about the trees that are native to India and the trees which our visionary leaders of old brought from the far corners of the earth to grow and thrive here.
Vijay does this walk for the love of the trees in his beloved city. Do join him when you can!
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