Monday, 20 January 2014

The Ganjam figs

An earlier post had dealt with the City of Ganjam and also the jewellery making. This post is about the world famous figs of Ganjam.
Ganjam was as famous for its jewellery as it was for its figs. Though the city of Shehar Ganjam was constructed by Tipu just two kilometers away from his island capital of Srirangapatna, it developed into a distinct city in itself.
Tipu ensured that Ganjam was surrounded by lovely orchards, farms and plantations. He introduced a variety of Indian and foreign plants and trees. He planted many exotic trees and plants in the Gumbaz gardens and around Daria Daulat palace. If the Gumbaz housed the mausoleum of his father Hyder Ali, the Daria Daulat was his summer retreat.
Both the Gumbaz and Daria Daulat were surrounded by hundreds of varieties of  trees and plants. Since Ganjam city was built between these two buildings, it too received Tipu’s largesse. Tipu imported fig or anjura from several countries and had them planted in and around Ganjam.
Soon, the fog took root in Ganjam thanks to the salubrious climate and the ready supply of water from the nearby Cauvery. The garden department of Tipu supervised the fig in the royal gardens in Ganjam.
Ganjam soon became known for its figs. Farmers were encouraged to grow fig and the special and popular variety of fig grown here came to be known as Ganjam fig (Ganjam anjura).
Even Tipu is known o have enjoyed the Ganam fig. Soon, the fig was an important export from Srirangapatna and it contributed to the local economy.
When the British set up camp at Ganjam and overran the Gumbaz, they also captured Ganjam. They destroyed many trees and plants. Initially, growers and farmers fled Ganjam fearing the British. But they came back after the death of Tipu and once again began cultivating fig.
The British imported Ganja fig from Srirangapatna to Bangalore and other places. The Wodeyars too encouraged the farmers and growers to come back and take back possession of their land. Though the fort of Ganjam was destroyed in 1799, the British and the Wodeyars allowed residents to comeback after the death of Tipu Sultan on May 4, 1799.
 Fig cultivation once again took off. Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar and Dewan Mirza Ismail gave a boost to fig cultivation. Both were admirers of the Ganjam fig and they encouraged 150 farmers in and around the village of  Ganjam to grow them. They gave subsidy and donated five guntas of land to each of the 150 growers. They also initiated steps to irrigate the fig farms with water from the Cauvery.
The figs grown on these 150 farms were initially sent to Mysore palace where the royal family of Wodeyars took pride in serving them to the British officers and visitors. Soon, Ganjam figs began to be exported to other states and they commanded a good price in the market.
The Ganjam figs gave the Australian figs and Pune figs a run for the money. They had a unique taste of their own.  
The fig farms survived till1960 after which they slowly died. Lack of encouragement, lack of proper inputs and the growing interest in other cash crops led to many farmers abandoning the fig. Today, there are barely handful of the 150 fig gardens that could be seen in and around Ganjam till the 1960s.

There is a small patch of land which belongs to the  Horticulture department where it has grown 20 plants. The department had taken possession of this 5.5 acres of land from the PWD in 1964.
It is said that the Horticulture department has taken over the 5.5 acre fig gardens from the Public Works Department in 1964. However, we can see a few Sapota plants there. The Ganjam fig plants can be seen at the department nursery at Javarahalli farm in Ganjam (there are 100 fig trees there) and at the farm in Nagamangala taluk.
When we visit Ganjam, even today we can see rusted machines and pipeline network that were used to pump water from the Cauvery to the farms. The two pumps of 40 HP and 20 HP capacity can still be seen but they are defunct.

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