Cubbon Park is not just a vital lung space, but also a social one

Cubbon Park is awash with the colours of summer. Bright yellow tabebuia competes for attention with the fiery red gulmohur, and as you lie on the grass under the jacaranda trees, lilac flowers fall gently to the ground to create a soft carpet.

But ever since the first tree was planted here in the 19th century, Cubbon Park has always been about people. Modelled after Hyde Park in London, this was a place to see and be seen in.

Matrons rolled past in hackney carriages through ‘Meade’s park’ as it was called, after the then acting commissioner of Mysore, Sir John Meade, and Hussars galloped down its leafy avenues on horseback.

Nearly a century and a half after it was planned and landscaped by Major General Richard Sankey, a Madras Sapper and chief engineer of Mysore, who also built Sankey tank and the Attara Kacheri (now High Court), the park remains as vital a lung space as it does a social one. Couples meet with a measure of safety, the health conscious take in the fresh air, dog owners walk their canines and cultural groups perform before its verdant backdrop.

Some of Bangalore’s biggest protests have happened here too, before Freedom Park became their designated venue.

Cubbon Park sat on over 300 acres between the Cantonment and the traditional Bangalore ‘pete’ and became the boundary for what city historians called the famous ‘Cantonment-Pete divide’. Stories report toll booths along this line and limited interaction between people on both sides.

It was later called Cubbon Park after Sir Mark Cubbon, who became the British Commissioner of Mysore state (1834-1860) and in 1927, was officially renamed the Sri Chamarajendra Park, during the silver jubilee commemoration of Krishnaraja Wadiyar’s rule.

Frozen reminders

But, reminders of Victorian England remain scattered across the park. Sir Mark Cubbon stands frozen in a statue near the terrace garden and King Edward VII towers over a flowering frangipani tree in the Queen’s Park. On the other side is Victoria, queen of England for over 63 years. Crowned empress of India in 1876 by Benjamin Disraeli at her golden jubilee, she now stands separated from her Albert in the shadows of her lost empire. But the jacaranda blossoms continue to fall around her and on the charming little Cubbon Park traffic police station (1906) next door, which was built to protect her statue.

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