Wednesday 20 March 2013

Mangoes of Lalbagh

Who has not heard of Mango, the King of Fruits. We Bangaloreans have rather been lucky to taste almost all varieties of mangoes, including some native species.
But did you know that one of the first rulers of Karnataka to focus on development of horticulture and also experiment with mango cultivation was Tipu Sultan.
The huge mango grove that Tipu planted near Malavalli in Mandy district is only history. Today all we see are vast green fields where once the grove stood. When Tipu died in May 1799, the British troops saw the lush green grove and were struck by its beauty. They also discovered several books on horticulture and fruits in the library of Tipu they ransacked in Srirangapatna.
When they came to Bangalore, they found that Hyder and Tipu had already developed a patch of green and called it Lalbagh.
The British not only extended the Lalbagh and developed it further but also nurtured a few of the mango trees that were planted by Tipu himself.
British records of the period refer to Cypress, silk cotton and mango trees that were already planted. The successive Superintendents of Lalbagh nurtured the mango trees planted by Tipu and all of them were in good condition and bore fruits.
The mango trees were reportedly planted around 1760 and Dr D.H. Mari Gowda, the then Superintendent of Lalbagh, and M Krishnamwamy in their book, Plant Wealth of Lalbagh, mention three mango trees planted by Tipu.
There is also mention of Tipu’s mango trees in some of the letters and journals written by John Cameron who is generally regarded as the “Father of Horticulture” in Karnataka and G H Krumbiegal, another Superintendent of Lalbagh.
Of the three trees, one died in 2006 after being attacked by termites although its progeny, through grafting is flourishing in the same spot where the parent once stood. The other two mango trees still yield 20 kg to 25 kgs of sour mangoes. This variety of  mango is generally used for making pickles. The fruits is generally auctioned.
Today only two trees- No 1156 and 1157 survive. These are the original mango trees planted by Tipu.
Apart from these trees, the area between the Directorate building and the Account’s Department Office is paved with mango trees.
According to local legend, the mangoes of Lalbagh were sent to the palace of Tipu directly and guards prevented anyone from eating it.
Unfortunately, we have been lax in tagging such mangoes as heritage. Remember, no price can match its heritage and royal past. When you visit Lalbagh next, check out the tree. They are yellow in colour and have a light sour taste.
However, Tipu did not plant mangoes at Lalbagh or only at his gardens. He encouraged the planting of mango trees throughout the Mysore Kingdom.
Many of the mango trees were depicted in a couple of paintings dating back to 1794 and 1805. These antique paintings are stored in the library at Lalbagh

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