Keeping Rao Bahadur Javaraya’s memory alive

The first Indian superintendent of Lalbagh, he was crucial in Bengaluru earning the ‘garden city’ title

Published - June 16, 2023 11:28 pm IST

Mr. H. C. Javaraya

Mr. H. C. Javaraya

Sharmila Bhaktaram from Bengaluru remembers how she, as a kid, used to go to school with exotic Magnolia flowers which her friends would watch with awe.

“Back then they were still rare. But we as kids, while growing up, had all the possible fruits which we could grow and exotic plants such as magnolia planted in our yard.”

For this, Ms. Bhaktaram thanks her grandfather, whose name is etched in the memory of Bengaluru, and all of India’s horticultural history. None other than Rao Bahadur H. C. Javaraya, he was the first Indian superintendent of Lalbagh Botanical Gardens, and the brain behind the fruit research station in Hesaraghatta which later became the Indian Institute of Horticultural Research.

Keeping the memory alive

Named by Gustav Krumbiegal as his worthy successor at the age of 30, Javaraya took forward the former’s vision of the city as a garden, and played a crucial role in earning Bengaluru the moniker ‘garden city.’ While the name has stuck around, the city has changed much since then. Green spaces have been giving way to concrete structures, and many of the smaller gardens are no more maintained.

As the city chokes, keeping the memory of Javaraya and his works alive has become all the more important. With this aim, a film screening, and book discussion on him is being organised by his grandchildren – Harish Padmanabha, Dr. Vivek Bhaktaram, and Sharmila Bhaktaram – on Saturday at the Indian Institute of World Culture.

Film screening and book discussion

The biopic documentary film on Javaraya, produced and directed by Ganesh Shankar Raj, will be screened at the event. A conversation between historian and INTACH convenor Dr. Meera Iyer, and Dr. Harini Nagendra, ecologist and professor at Azim Premji University, based on Javaraya’s biography ‘A Gardener and A Gentleman’ is also planned.

“During Javaraya’s stint, a whole bunch of new public buildings were built around the city all of which used to have a garden. Not just the bungalow gardens that everyone knows of, but even these smaller gardens had an important role in creating and nurturing the image and aesthetics of the city. That has been completely forgotten now,” says Ms. Iyer who authored the book.

Scholarship planned

Ms. Bhaktaram notes that the event is aimed at building more awareness of the importance of having greenery in cities and creating inspiration around the works of Javaraya.  

“From his family’s side, we also are considering forming a trust and offering scholarships to people who want to pursue horticulture. We hope this would encourage people to study streams like botany and horticulture also and that these professions also become popular,” she says.

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