Botanical Garden: The right spot to relax
|The Botanical Garden, situated in the heart of Pondicherry town, beckons people to chill out during the sweltering summer, says DEEPA H. RAMAKRISHNAN|
BEAT THE HEAT At the Botanical Garden in Pondicherry PHOTO: T. Singaravelou
The other day, two people were heard talking about their friend who was unable to withstand the hot summer months every year. So sensitive was he to the heat that he invariably came down with a fever during summer. In fact, this had been his plight for the past 10 years. Every year, the man would actually have to be admitted to hospital sometime in April-May, because of uncontrollable fever. And it meant spending a few days in an air-conditioned room. But, this year, instead of sending him to hospital, his relatives decided to get him an air-conditioner!
Well, not all of us have large-hearted relatives like that and so to beat the heat, one has to explore various alternatives. For instance, visiting a place that is definitely several degrees cooler than the rest of Pondicherry. Though located in the heart of the town, it is an island of peace and quiet. Wonder where it is? Well, it is the 22-acre Botanical Garden, a green retreat, quite a contrast from the hot and polluted roads in the rest of the town. What better place could there be to chill out and that too at no cost. (There is no entrance fee.) And what does one do inside the garden? Take a nap, stroll about, listen to the birds (a rare thing in Pondicherry), enjoy the cool breeze and learn a thing or two about the trees and plants.
Yes, a visit to the 178-year-old garden is not just entertaining but also an educational experience. This has become possible after the Department of Agriculture started putting up signs all over with the botanical names, Tamil names and common names of the trees, plants and shrubs. It is, at present, in the process of putting up more signs that will inform visitors about the uses of each tree, the amount of oxygen it gives out and its medicinal value.
According to the Minister for Agriculture A. Namassivayam, it is the only botanical garden of its kind on the east coast of India. And it contains a mix of species from all over the country, both endangered and otherwise. At present, the authorities are in the third phase of reviving and conserving the garden, a process which involves creating new attractions such as parks for children, areas where herbs will be grown, a place for meditation, an aquatic garden and a rock garden which will be home to a variety of cacti.
According to sources in the Department of Agriculture, the garden is divided into 28 plots for the sake of convenience, each with a separate theme. Of the 28 plots, 16 are being developed as forest plots, and the rest into different parks. Since 2003, around 215 species have been added to the garden.
Through an Interpretation Centre which is in the process of being established, seeds will be given to other gardens and links maintained with other botanical gardens in the country. The Botanical Garden is already linked to the Royal Botanical Garden in Kolkata and Lal Bagh in Bangalore. It will soon have a documentation centre, a library and an eco exhibition for children, with touch and see models.
According to Deputy Director Harish Selvanathan: "Though it opens at 9 a.m., there are people who come here for morning walks. If more people come, a special jogging/walking path could be created."
History of garden
The garden was developed by the French settlement in Pondicherry in 1826. It was started as an experimental plot to ascertain the crops that could be cultivated in the region. Gradually, trees were planted. All credit goes to Perrottet who is largely responsible for transforming the place into a botanical garden in 1831. His memorial still exists inside the premises. In 1960, after the Transfer of Power from the French, the garden became the centre of horticultural development in Pondicherry.
As of 1978, the Government has been organising a flower show here to promote ornamental gardening in the Union Territory. However, the show has been shifted since outside the garden. After the devastating cyclone in 1999, the garden is being revamped in phases, based on the recommendations of an expert committee. It has a children's train, six fountains, a dancing fountain and rose, Japanese, rock and various other types of gardens.
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