Sunday, March 11, 2012

The original Lalbagh

It all started almost two years ago, when the National Gallery of Modern Art, Bengaluru asked INTACH to organise some walks in Bangalore to coincide with an exhibition they were having on artists of the 1700s and 1800s. One of the walks we did then was at Lalbagh Botanical Garden.
I've always loved going to Lalbagh (except perhaps on some weekends when you can barely see the trees for the people). Researching the history of the garden for the Parichay was fun - re-reading Tipu's letters where he asks for seeds from elsewhere, reliving Cleghorn's excitement over the Sultan's garden that was to become a botanical garden...
But we had chosen Lalbagh for the NGMA walk because in the eighteenth century, a lot of Englishmen who came to Bangalore - soldiers, draughtsmen, artists - seem to have been fascinated by the place. In the late 1700s, Europe was in the grip of the Picturesque movement, so when artistically-inclined chaps came and saw here a readymade picturesque garden, complete with mandatory ruin, it was but natural that they tried to capture its picturesqueness in their sketches. Robert Home, James Hunter, Robert Colebrooke and Claude Martin all sketched views of Lalbagh.
Spurred on by MBK, I tried to take a closer look at the paintings and at maps that we had for the same period...and was a little startled. Why, it looked like today's Lalbagh was not where the Lalbagh of the 1790s was. A couple of emails to colleagues and friends who are considerably wiser than I, some meetings, a few discussions, and several months later, we had put together a note which was later published in Current Science. Take a look. And the next time you go to Lalbagh, think about how different it once looked.


sathish said...

That is very interesting. Thank you Meera.

Meera said...

Thanks Sathish!

Olikara said...

Wonderful article here, Meera.

The mango tree in Lalbagh said to be planted by Tipu is unfortunately no more.

But then nothing is permanent.

--Nidhin Olikara

Meera said...

Thank you, Nidhin. Really appreciate your comments.