Saturday 13 April 2013

The Darogas of Lalbagh

While much is written about the contribution of British and other superintendents of Lalbagh and realms of print have been devoted to the services of James Cameroon, Waugh, both British botanists and Krumbeigal , a German national, not much has been written about the local superintendents who were incharge of the Lalbagh botanical gardens at the time of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan.
Today, it is an indisputable fact that Lalbagh owes its origin to Hyder Ali and initial development to Tipu Sultan. However, both Hyder and Tipu planned the garden in the Char Bagh style or Islamic style where each plant or tree was exclusively grown in a specific area.
Thus, all mango trees were planted in one stretch, cypress in another and so on.
Hyder modelled the Lalbagh of Bangalore on the Lalbagh he had seen and greatly appreciated in Sira in Tumkur district. Hyder was enamoured of the tastefully laid out Mughal garden in Sira and he decided to replicate it in several other cities, including Srirangapatna, Malavalli and Bangalore.
In Bangalore the result was the Cypress Garden just a little away from the Bangalore fort. Hyder had identified the best place of developing the garden on a ridge.
He appointed darogas to look after the garden and also to report to him directly. These darogas were exclusively in charge of the Lalbgah and its maintenance.
The first daroga that Tipu appointed was Muhammad Ali. Muhammad was a daroga for several years and it was he who tended lovingly to the plants and trees. He retired after a fairly long innings and his son Abdul Khader was appointed to the post. Unfortunately, Khader did not enjoy the same amount of freedom that his father enjoyed.
Lalbagh slowly transformed into a wild patch of fruit trees lined with cypress. When Lord Cornwallis captured the Bangalore fort in the third Anglo-Mysore war of 1791, the garden suffered a little damage as a small contingent of Tipu’s troops had taken shelter here and fired upon the British during the siege of Bangalore. Of course, the small contingent of natives were overcome by the British.
The years following 1791 once again saw the revival of the botanical gardens. Tipu changed the style of Lalbagh and asked the Darogas to plant more trees and flowering plants. Lalbagh this became a little wild and more green.
Tipu established a garden department and designated a daroga or  chief gardener to head it. He used leather drums and bullock carts to transport water from the Lalbagh lake for watering the plants and shrubs.
Tipu also divided the 40-acre garden into different sections and laid a walking path lined with cypress trees. He also enlarged the park by acquiring adjoining bits of land around the Kempe Gowda tower and the fossil rock.
He imported seeds and plants in 1780 from the Isle of France in Mauritius, Cape of Good Hope, Kabul, Persia, Turkey and Africa and had them planted in the garden. He also converted Lalbagh into a plant distribution centre for his farmers.
He employed Thigalas, whom he had persuaded to emigrate from Madras region, to Srirangapatna and Bangalore. The Thigalas were natural gardeners and Tipu made use of their expertise in introducing new species of plants and trees. Their services were also made use of in the Lalbagh.  
Tipu was very particular about the mangos from the mango trees he planted. Baskets of mangos were sent to his palace under guard. However, after he died, Lalbagh passed into the hands of the British and they dispensed with the services of the Daroga.

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