The avenue trees of Mysore
The Mysore Maharajas, right from Krishnaraja Wodeyar III up to Jayachamaraja Wodeyar, the last ruler of the Yadu dynasty, took great care in promoting the aesthetic value of their famous roads and streets with choicest trees.
Even till the 1950s, the city had a series of lush green trees offering enchanting flowers, in one season or the other. It was a pleasure to walk on these streets those days.
They planned the selection of trees so well, it hindered neither the beauty of the great buildings the Maharajas built for various purposes, nor the traffic, which of course was not as dense as it is today. The main thoroughfare, Sayaji Rao Road, had flowering trees growing straight and tall, obstructing none. The long white flowers (you find one such tree behind the Chamundi Guest House on Dewan’s Road) spread a beautiful aroma all around and those who most enjoyed its fragrance were the visitors to the Cauvery Handicrafts emporium, then known as Chamarajendra Technical Institute (CTI).
These trees were home for thousands of beautiful parrots, which fluttered and flew, now no longer to be seen today.
One of the complaints that was often heard in the City Corporation meetings then was that these birds were dirtying the Sayaji Rao Road with their droppings—white patches all around!
Another famous road known for its beautiful avenue trees was the 100 feet road or the Chamaraja Road, now a double road. On either side were thick and lush grown rain trees, with wide-spread green canopies, not allowing any sunshine on the road even during the best of summer days!
The small hairy white and red flower bunches were a pleasure to be picked and admired. Only a tree or two are left on this road now. So also the Boulevard Road, now called the Lalitha Mahal Road. The majestic road from the Race Course almost up to the Lalitha Mahal Palace had a series of huge rain trees, giving shelter to men and horses which often passed on this road. It was a pleasure to take an evening walk on this road after resting a while on the stone benches of the Karanji Tank. One would often come across the Mysore Palace Guards going on horseback.
Another royal road from the back entrance of the Palace to the Jagan Mohan Palace, called the Jagan Mohan Palace Road, had beautiful rows of Jacaranda trees with full of bell-shaped blue flowers. The adjacent Seetha Vilasa Road had an excellent row of well-grown neem trees, now a treasured variety for its herbal value.
The beautiful country-tiled wood and mud Agrahara houses here had no problem for neem leaves for decorating their houses during the festivals. The few fallen leafy twigs were enough for their houses. For kids, like me then, gum extraction from the neem trees was a great job! A few neem trees can still be seen on this road.
In and outside and spacious Palace grounds and around the Hardinge Circle were planted the ‘Churuki Kayi Mara’. Its big red flowers added grace to the place all around and provided fun for us as the ‘Churuki Kayi’ had a little water in them They were the mini ‘water pistols’ to tease the other kids! Not many of this variety exist there today.
The gardens around the palace temples were planted sacred trees and plants, providing the daily needs for worship in the temple. They included Aswatha, neem, mango, Bilwa, Shami, Champak trees and Tulsi plants. Many of them have disappeared or are standing with little care. The deserted JLB Road then had a row of Honge trees, spreading beautiful aroma during its flower season.
The avenue trees — each variety for each street and each place—were planted right from the days of Krishnaraja Wodeyar III (AD 1799 to AD 1868) who built the first five Agraharas outside his Palace Fort, Chamaraja Wodeyar and Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV. The new extensions developed received similar patronage from Jayachamaraja Wodeyar, a great lover of flora and fauna.
Soon after Independence, when then Governor-General Rajaji’s “Vana Mahothsava” call caught up with the people, the Rama Vilas Road became the venue for tree planting.
A series of Gul Mohars or May Flower Trees were planted on either side of the road. During May-June, the trees spread a carpet of fiery red and golden colour flowers on this road.
Today, only a few of the old “Peepul” and “Banyan” trees have remained bearing the brunt of the fast developing city. Once revered every morning, these ‘Aswatha’ trees are standing forlorn and neglected, like the ancient ‘Aala’. One should see similar ancient ‘Kauri’ trees preserved and nurtured in New Zealand with utmost care and devotion.
By the bye, what happened to the proposal the Forest Department of identifying heritage trees in Mysore. The proposal was announced a few months back. Any progress or has it also gone into heritage file?