My last Sunday morning started on a green note with a tree walk at Lal Bagh. The walk conducted by heritage walk and tour organisers Unhurried.in started at the West Gate of Lal Bagh at 7am. I was a tad late being used as I was to entering through the Double Road gate. To reach the West Gate I had to take a circuitous route. In spite of that I was the first walker to arrive. That definitely cheered me up because of late I have never reached any destination at the slated time and have earned the reputation of being a notorious latecomer. However, Unhurried’s walk leader for the day Vijayakumar Vittal was already there. A few minutes later, the other walkers joined in and we were off. The fast-paced walk had around 30 stops at different trees and Vijay, a reservoir of knowledge, had anecdotes galore and also many stories to tell us. I have been to quite a few nature walks at Lal Bagh. This one was quite different because the emphasis was more on the cultural aspects of the green beauties.
Our first stop was under a large banyan tree, India’s national tree, a very auspicious point considering the tree is highly revered in India especially by the Hindus. Our guide had a lot to tell us about the tree but not before sharing a brief history of Bangalore and Lal Bagh.
The Ficus benghalensis probably derives its name because it thrives in Bengal. Every part of the tree has a medicinal use. Some of these trees live for around 200-500 years.
– There is one banyan tree in Haryana believed to be around 5000 years old and popularly referred to as the Bhagavad Gita tree. Legend has it that it was under this tree that Lord Krishna delivered his epic advice or Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna during the Kurukshetra War.
– The Bombay Stock Exchange started under a banyan tree.
– Dodda Alada Mara or the Big Banyan Tree near Bangalore is a famous picnic spot.
– During Alexander the Great’s invasion of India, around 7000 of his men took refuge under a single banyan tree.
We next moved under the 170-year-old Ficus elastica, or the Indian rubber tree, half of which fell on 21 May because of the hailstorm that lashed this part of Bangalore. Sadly, this species of banyan tree which was once in abundance along the Burma-Bangladesh border has rapidly decreased in number owing to indiscriminate felling for its prized rubber.
From where we stood we were shown a chikoo (sapota) tree planted in 1861 by William New, the then Superintendent of the Gardens. Now this revelation had me stumped. I found it hard to believe that the tree was more than 150 years old. To me she looked little more than 10.
After admiring an elegant Ficus benjamina, a tree known to grow under very poor conditions, we moved to a kadamba tree.
The Kadamba tree is famous in Hindu mythology because it is under this tree that Dhruva performed his famous penance. Also, Radha and Krishna spent a lot of time under Kadamba trees. Goddess Durga is known to stay in a Kadamba vana (forest).
Our next halt was at another mythologically significant tree, the Ficus Krishnae or Buttercup tree.The leaves of the tree, a variety of Banyan tree, are cup-shaped. Legend has it that Lord Krishna who was famous for stealing butter during his childhood, would eat butter using these little leaves. The leaves are also referred to as Krishna’s buttercups.
The walk continued with stops and stories at the White Silk Cotton Tree, Baobab Tree, Raintree, Agathis robusta, Ashoka Tree, Mahogany tree, Badraksha Tree, Child Life tree, the Century Palm, Tipu’s Mango tree with half-eaten juicy mangoes strewn around probably the handiwork of squirrels and birds, Malabar Tamarind tree, Elephant Apple tree, Pipal tree and more (see slideshow above).
A stop at the ongoing Mango mela gave a mango-twist to the walk. As we walked by the numerous stalls, a mélange of exqusite aromas greeted us. There were endless baskets filled with mangoes of various varieties.
Now this is an incomplete story. To know more about trees from all over the world take part in Unhurried’s upcoming walk on June 29 and revel in the sun-kissed (or maybe rain-soaked) greenery of Lal Bagh. In case you wish to participate send in your request to email@example.com.