Almost everyone who visits or moves to Bangalore is captivated by the blooms that add colours to the city, all around the year – flaming Gulmohur in summer, pleasing Jacaranda in spring, sparkling Copper pods in autumn. Walking through roads and lanes where these trees have survived the metro and road widening constructions, it is hard to imagine that the man behind these is a German, Herr G H Krumbiegel to be precise.
Goethe Institute located at Indiranagar recently remembered and honoured this "Economical Botanist" who, under the rule of Krishnaraja Wodeyar, imported many exotic plants to Bangalore and monitored the planting of species that flowered sequentially, giving form to the concept of Serial blossoming. An exhibition was held in his honour from April 16th to 30th.
Krumbiegel was born in Dresden, Germany in 1865. He chose horticulture and landscaping for his career. His work at the famous Kew Gardens of London brought him to India to work for the then Baroda Maharaja Sayaji Rao Gaekwad.
Mysore Maharaja noticed Krumbiegel’s extraordinary skills at Gaekwad’s bungalow in Ooty. Krumbiegel moved to Mysore state to work on Wodeyar’s cities and gardens. Lalbhagh, Brindavan Garden and the Government Botanical Gardens at Ooty are remnants of Krumbiegel’s architectural design, landscaping and horticultural skills.
Krumbiegel had been laid to rest in Bangalore in 1956 and as the city began to grow at a monstrous pace, we the current generation have more or less forgotten his legacy and with him the "garden" part of the Garden city.
As Goethe Institute celebrates 50 years of being in India, Suresh Jayaram, an independent visual artist and founder of 1 ShantiRoad, put together a visual art exhibition in tribute to the great artist who adorned Bangalore with trees and flowers.
The exhibition consisted of works by Shamala BJ, Madhu, Shantamani, Surekha, Suresh Kumar, Sunoj D, Anuradha Mathur and Dilip da Cunha who have lent their visual and artistic interpretation of Krumbiegel’s work in such a way that it urges the audience to act and bring back the greenery this city so much deserves.
The exhibition had select few but impressive pieces that were powerful enough to stress upon the issue of vanishing trees in the city. Be it the "City under siege" that displayed a tree limb bandaged and placed on a stretcher with photographs of Bengaluru today or Shamala’s installation that showcased a tree trunk and watermelons, crying out to attract our attention to the need for public places. Every piece had a strong message.
Suresh Kumar’s installation highlighted the common weed indigenous to Bangalore, the "Touch me Not" and the native Brinjal which is losing out to the branded and BT varieties. There were also photographs by Madhu and paintings that depicted the changing landscape of Bangalore with the stark image of cut tree trunks in the background.
Sunoj’s installation depicted an urban farmland, complete with instructions on how to grow and harvest rice right in your drawing room.
The multimedia part of the exhibition featured a 5-min documentary on Salamarada Thimmakka who planted trees on a 4-km stretch connecting two villages, trees which are 50 years old now. The entire experience rounded off with the distribution of Brinjal saplings to all the visitors, something to take home to remember Krumbiegel and his vision for Bangalore.
Even in 1900’s Krumbiegel lamented trees being cut for making way to electric poles. He is lucky not to be around to see shaded avenues becoming barren roads due to infrastructure projects. Ofcourse growth comes at a price and while remembering Krumbiegel, there is something we can do to offset some of it. There are 30 different types of trees that can be planted and cared for relatively easily in Bangalore and Biodiversity Conservation India Limited (BCIL) sells these for Rs 1 a seed ball. Pitch in and plant a tree. For those interested in knowing more about the trees of Bangalore, here is an excellent blog. ⊕
Though it is indubitable that Mr. G.H.Krumbigal rendered unparalleled contribution in laying almost all important gardens and parks in the Princely State of Mysore, it is surprising that the yeoman’s service rendered by his predecessor to Lalbagh in particular and introduction of wide range of of plants and trees in mysore. In 1874 John Cameron was appointed as superintendent of Lalbagh Botanical Garden. The famous Glass House was his brain child and his tenure is called as the Golden era of plant introduction. His extensive correspondences with the Royal Botanical Gardens of Kew, London (now extinct) resulted in the introduction of number of fruit, vegetable, plantation, spice, medicinal, aromatic and other plant species. He laid his office in 1908 and went back to England. It was after his retirement Gustav Herman Krumbigal assumed charge !