A Garden from Memoryland
Old Mysore was full of parks and gardens. And Nishat Bagh was one of the most beautiful gardens in town. It is frozen in my memory like a beautiful Renaissance painting.
Situated next to the Hardinge Circle , this ( approx.) 10 acre lung space was lush, cool and beautifully laid out. The huge, sprawling rain trees there seemed more than a century old. And the cobbled avenue running from one entrance to the middle of the park was lined with two straight rows of magnificent palm trees which gave it such a regal, ceremonial look. Small fountains and old fashioned wrought iron lamp posts dotted the emerald spread of lawns.
And best of all, the park boasted the loveliest Gazebo in the whole royal city. This small pavilion, which served as the Band Stand, had pretty , turn- of- the -century European style railings and pillars and a high dome panelled with Glass Paintings of Mysore Art style.
From the centre of the dome hung a sparkling victorian lamp- shade of brilliant green glass. When sunlight streamed through the glass panels, the paintings glowed like carved gems ! I have never seen lovelier artwork of this type anywhere else. I have distant memories of listening to the Police Band play here , of families strolling around peacefully and of turbanned gentlemen walking their dogs.
I have used the past tense throughout the foregoing paragraph because though that park is still very much there, it is no longer in its former form. Firstly, it got renamed. "Nishat Bagh" was the original name given to it when it was laid out in the first quarter of the last century during the reign of Nalvadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar, who had been much inspired by the famous Nishat Bagh Gardens of Kashmir . Later, with Royalty becoming history, the Park too became a proletariat "Kuppanna Park" ( I have no idea who Kuppanna was).
Then, a considerable slice of its outer fringe was claimed by the City Corporation for widening a road and laying a gutter
And then, a Bus Stop shelter appeared , close to the Pavilion end. People tired of waiting for the buses felt free to use the Band Stand for lunching, sleeping, playing cards and vandalising.
But the gardens continued to be maintained , albeit in a haphazard manner, mostly during the Dasara festive season only. The weekly Bands vanished , but the park continued to serve as venue for the occassional pet show or a consumer awareness meet. While hedges around the compound started turning into wild thickets............
Most distressing of all was the fact that the brilliant Mysore Art Glass paintings on the pavilion's dome started falling off in pieces .
Nothing was done for years. Three years ago I dragged my son there to get the few remaining panels photographed for my own album, lest everything vanished one fine day.
Last year, the City Fathers suddenly woke up and decided to put that huge expanse of prime land to "good use". They announced a grand plan to convert Kuppanna Park into a Public Recreation Area at a cost of Rs.160 Lakhs. There'd be a rose garden, a musical fountain dancing to AR Rahman tunes , an amphitheatre for folk performances . And a promise to get the Glass Art work restored by a descendant of the family of artisans who had executed the original . The Corporation actually managed to trace the artist in T.Narsipur town and work out a contract with him. Small mercies.
But, nothing happened.
This year, there was a sudden flurry of activity and the magnificent palms started falling like nine pins ! Amended plans now include open air fast food restaurants, public loo, a parking lot and retail outlets . In short, another urban fair ground. Grief .
"Development Work" is in progress, amidst protest from many horrified quarters. And the pavilion's dome is still sporting yawning holes and shattered glass.
I do not know what the metamorphosis will finally unveil - restored glory or recycled novelty.
Suffice it that I have my memories and these photographs.