New Delhi: Marking the end of a glorious era or the beginning of a beautiful yet indigenous future, India on Saturday renamed Rashtrapati Bhavan’s Mughal Gardens and it will be called Amrit Udyan from now on. The move comes as India celebrates ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ marking 75 years of India’s Independence and its struggle for development from the shackles of colonialism.
“The collective identity of all the gardens at Rashtrapati Bhavan will be ‘Amrit Udyan’. Earlier there were descriptive identities, now a new identity has been given to the gardens,” ANI quoted Ajay Singh, the President’s press secretary as saying.
While the renaming of the iconic Mughal Gardens is warmly welcomed by most people who called it a long overdue step’, some took to social media to slam the government for the move and claimed that it was nothing else but an instance of BJP’s petty politics.
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However, Mughal Gardens or Amrit Udyan, the spot that is also known as the ‘soul of Rashtrapati Bhavan’ has a long trail of history attached to it and is important for posterity to know. Here’s a brief history of Amrit Udhyan in 5 points:
Mughals and their love for gardens
The Mughals and their love for nature is not a hidden fact and the best way to bring nature to your courtyard is through gardens. The architecture and design of gardens of the Mughal time are worth applauding.
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According to Babur Nama, Babur says that his favourite kind of garden is the Persian char bagh style (literally, four gardens). The char bagh structure was created to depict an earthly utopia – jannat – in which humans co-exist in perfect harmony with all elements of nature. That’s why this char bagh structure of gardens can be found in most places ruled by the Mughals in their time.
How did the Rashtrapati Bhavan get Mughal Gardens?
In 1911, the British administration moved its capital from Calcutta to Delhi, involving huge construction to create spaces for its top officials. For this exercise, about 4,000 acres of land was acquired to construct the Viceroy’s House with Sir Edwin Lutyens being given the task of designing the building on Raisina Hill.
When it came to the construction of the Viceroy’s House, which today is known as Rashtrapati Bhavan, a large garden was one of its most crucial elements. While the initial plans involved creating a garden with traditional British architecture, the wife of the then Viceroy wanted something in the Mughal style and urged the planners to create a garden in that style.
Mughal Gardens, now Amrit Udyan’s inspiration came from a book
It is believed that the wife of the then Viceroy, who wanted Rashtrapati Bhavan to be adorned by a Mughal-style garden was inspired by the book Gardens of the Great Mughals (1913) by Constance Villiers-Stuart as well as her visits to Mughal gardens in Lahore and Srinagar.
Roses of Amrit Udyan
While the layout of the Amrit Udyan was in place by 1917, the planting of flora only began in late 1928 and the responsibility was given to Director of horticulture William Mustoe, who planted the garden and was especially skilled at growing roses and introduced more than 250 different varieties of hybrid roses gathered from every corner of the world.
Lady Beatrix Stanley, a prominent horticulturist, noted in 1931 that she had not seen better roses in England. Later, more variety was added, especially during the presidency of Dr Zakir Husain.
All Presidents leave their touch to Mughal Gardens
In Amrit Udyan, roses remain the prime attraction of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, all the presidents who have stayed in the house have left their personal touch on the monument.
C Rajagopalachari, who was the last Governor General of India, made a political statement during a period of food shortage in India when he ploughed the lands and dedicated a section of the garden to food grains. Today, it is known as the Nutrition Garden, popularly known as Dalikhana.
President R Venkatraman added a cactus garden (he just liked cacti) and APJ Abdul Kalam added many theme-based gardens: from the musical garden to the spiritual garden.