Our Precious Green Heritage

by Dr. Naresh

That parks and gardens are the lungs of a nation was never more true as it is today when we find man made pollutions on most extensive scale are threatening our health and endangering life on every shape and form. In this article Dr. Naresh Prof. and chairman of Bhai Vir Singh Studies writes about some th famous historical gardens of Punjab. He also pleads that if we can’t build such new garden for lack of interest or resources at least we should see to it that those  existing ones don’t fall into decay and then disappear one day leaving us all poorer for this loss.

Since times immemorial, man has been enamoured of the beauty of nature and has always derived added pleasure by arranging trees and plants in orderly pageants. While the poor are satisfied with the wild grass growing around their huts and by planting some stray trees and flowers, the rich build their houses in the midst of beautiful, spacious lawns. Some of these gardens have events, happenings and many treasured tales attached to them and have, therefore, consequently acquired historic significance. There exist quite a few such gardens in Punjab, which have a significant background, belonging to the days gone by, against which they originated and were therefore tended with the attention and care they deserved.
From the historical Point of view, Aam Khas Bagh of Sirhind is the oldest garden of Puniab, which was originally named 'Naulakha Bagh'" The Mughal emperor Jahangir, on his way to Lahore in the year 1606, stopped at this Place, and was deeply fascinated by its natural beauty. With a view to reshaping the Naulakha garden, he directed his courtier Hafiz Jamal Khan Rakhna to lay out the architectural details for the royal approval. So a new garden was designed to serve a dual purpose, one portion of it was earmarked exclusively for the royal family and the other for his subjects. On his return to Agra, Jahangir dispatched his famous architect Khwaja Owais to Sirhind, who finally planned the garden and named it 'Bagh-e-Khas-oAam'. The dilapidated buildings inside the garden still stand as a testimony to the ancient grandeur and magnificence of the place. These include the 'Naughara', 'Sheesh Mahal' and 'Sard Khana'. Sard Khana was probably the first building erected in this part of the land which had an inbuilt system of running water to keep the walls cool during summer.

Another important garden of present Punjab is Ram Bagh of Arnritsar, which was built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1819. Before its emergence as a garden, this area was a crude fortress of the Bhangi Misal. When Ranjit Singh conquered this area in 1802, he planned to convert the fortress into a garden, and to commemorate and to pay his respectful homage to Guru Ram Das, the founder of Amritsar, he decided to name it as Ram Bagh. Later, this garden with a double-storeyed palace in its centre, became Ranjit Singh's second home. The palace, too was air-conditioned, on the pattern of the Sard Khana of Sirhind. The garden was built under the supervision of three chiefs of Ranjit Singh, namely Faqir Aziz-ud-Din, Lehna Singh Majithia and Desa Singh. Apart from the grandeur of its buildings, this garden was famous for its medically useful plants, including three kinds of my robalan. lnterestingly, the garden is now known as 'Company Bagh' and the name'Ram Bagh' has been transferred to a nearby locality. The original name was elbowed out by the East lndia Company, which set up its offices in this garden, and gradually it came to be known as 'Company Bagh'.
 Among the princely states of Punjab, two more places are known for their beautiful gardens Patiala for its Bagh Baradari, and Sangrur for its Banasar Bagh. The Baradari garden of Patiala, before coming up as a garden, used to be the temporary residence of the Patiala ruler, Maharaja Mohinder Singh. But when Maharaja Rajinder Sinqh (1880-85) shifted the residence permanently from the fort to this place he ordered to plant flowers and trees to adorn it with the garden.
Since this garden has been the residence of of Patiala’s most voluptuous ruler Maharaja Bhupinder Singh its trees have seen the days of princely splendor. They also stand witness to the
 scenes of Mahajas last days when hundreds of ladies with new born babies in their arms, thronged the gates of the garden with the hope that the dying ruler would recognise his illegitimate children and declare them his lawful heirs. A miniature Simla with a nude statue, was designed in the heart of the garden which was named Rock Garden but the public in general, calls it Simla.
The rulers of Jind in their capital city of Sangrur built another beautiful garden called 'Banasar. Since the design of the garden had a focus on the arrangement of trees (Ban) and the construction of a tank (Sar), it has given this name.  Maharaja Raghbir Singh enclosed this garden with a strong rampart and built quite a few magnificent buildings inside. A marble inscription in poetry composed in 1904 by Brij Narain Verma records an exaggerated story of Garden.
Two such gardens built by non-rulers also deserve mention here. These are Bagh-e-Baqari' of Malerkotla and Bagh Kothi Abdul Halim of Bassi Pathanan. Bagh_e_ Baqar , thouqh completely devoid of buildings and even an attractive layout  has gained a historic importance. The dissident ruling dignitaries made this garden their marching point for a religious attack over the state in a row caused over a Shari ritual.
The garden came up through single handed efforts of Baqar Ali Khan in 1896. In  1908 his  nephew Ehsan Ali Khan refused to participate in a state procession of the symbolic horse taking in memory of the Prophet's crucified grandsons. ln- stead, he asked his followers to assemble at Bagh-e-Baqari, from where the ritual was solemnised independently and in defiance of the state. The row had its echoes in the British court and the Shias won the case. Since then, the Shias of Malerkotla take out the symbolic 'Horse of Hussain' in a procession twice a year from this garden.
The garden at Bassi Pathanan was built by Abdul Halim, a poor labourer of the city, who became rich by a sheer stroke of good luck. To have the privilege of invit ing the Maharaja of Patiala to a dinner at his 'own' house, Abdul Halim engaged architects from France to plan and execute the job. This garden provides for the visitor's eyes, a combined scene of death and life as it not only houses the splendid kothi of Abdul Halim, but also has in its periphery a family graveyard of the Halims.
The present age is an age of lack of time and resources for ventures of this nature and to hope that such gardens, with magnificent buildings, will continue to be built, seems to be well-nigh impossible. lt would be enough for us to properly preserve the existing ones when a few of them are fast losing their erstwhile glory and grandeur.
With today's social and bureaucratic attitudes of neglecting" historic landmarks and things of antiquity, it will be no surprise if some of these great gardens also lose their identity and importance in the few ensuing decades.    
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