Friday, April 30, 2010

The name Bangalore forgot

The name Bangalore forgot

How many of us know that German botanist Gustav Hermann Krumbiegel played a huge role in defining Bangalore's garden city image? Art historian Suresh Jayaram talks to Nidhi Bhushan about this forgotten hero of the city

Nidhi Bhushan

Avisit to the garden city, be it for a day or for weeks, is considered incomplete without a trip to its beautiful Lalbagh Botanical Gardens. Considered to be one of the most diverse botanical gardens in South Asia, Lalbagh is home to many sub-tropical trees, herbs and many colourful flowerbeds.
Yet, hardly anyone is aware that Gustave Hermann Krumbiegel, a German botanist and garden designer, was one of the chief architects of Lalbagh and was responsible for planning Bangalore's beautiful and famous tree-lined avenues, says art historian Suresh Jayaram who has curated a multimedia exhibition celebrating Krumbiegel's life and work that winds up today.
Jayaram first became acquainted with Krumbiegel's name when he was a school boy. "I used to pass Krumbiegel Road on my way to school daily. I used to think the road was named after some distinguished person from north Karnataka," he recalls. Krumbiegel Road, a small road near Lalbagh, is the only recognition that the government of Karnataka has given to Krumbiegel's contribution to Bangalore.
While Jayaram was working on a project called Bangalore Mapping a few years ago, he decided to spend a year researching this German botanist's life, who sleeps peacefully in the city's Shanti Nagar cemetery today. "I wanted to know more about the changing landscape of the city since I was born and brought up here. I started to dig deeper into Bangalore's landscape and the people behind it. I found that GH Krumbiegel forms a very significant part of Bangalore's history," he says.
Jayaram spent more than a year looking for references to Krumbiegel in one form or another. He knocked on people's doors, went to the horticulture department at Lalbagh, tried contacting Krumbiegel's daughter and much more to get to know the real Krumbiegel. "I went to Baroda, Mysore and Ooty too, looking for information on the great man," says Jayaram.
"Krumbiegel had come to India in the year 1893, when he took up a position with the princely state of Baroda as curator of the botanical gardens there. Krishnaraja Wodeyar, the then ruler of Mysore, was so impressed with the German's work that he sent for him in 1908," Jayaram explains.
JH Krumbiegel was born in Lohmen near Dresden in Germany and completed his early studies were in Wilsdruff and Dresden, after which he trained in horticulture. In 1888, he moved to England, designing flower beds at Hyde Park and at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew. "Krumbiegel succeeded John Cameron, the first British director of horticulture who helped in setting up many parts of Lalbagh," informs Jayaram.
The most significant contribution of Krumbiegel to the city was his concept of 'serial blossoming'. "He introduced several exotic trees to Bangalore from different parts of the world and curated the planting of species that flowered serially," says Jayaram, who believes Krumbiegel's horticultural concepts incorporate valuable solutions that can be used even today to preserve Bangalore's green cover. "The best way to honour Krumbiegel's work is by implementing and updating his strategic and intelligent planning. He had taken the Maharaja's vision of the garden city forward, it's high time we learnt from it," he says.
Jayaram also feels that knowing a place's history plays an integral role in making one bond with its soil and its surroundings. "It's very important to know the history of a place before you decide to stay there. One can connect better with this knowledge and look at things differently," he says.
Having completed his research into Krumbiegel's life, Jayaram does not plan to rest. While he is writing and editing a book on JH Krumbiegel along with his fellow researchers, he also looks forward to the day when Krumbiegel will be acknowledged as one of Bangalore's architects in much the same way as La Corbusier's contribution to Chandigarh is celebrated.


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