Although not exactly located in the City of Joy, Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden is more popularly known by its older name- Calcutta Botanical Garden. Anything abandoned doesn't necessarily extinct, and clearly 'Calcutta' is one such entity. Whether you hail from Bengal or not, 'Calcutta' can hex you with her old world enigma and make you long for a canvas comprising: fleet of yellow taxis, rattling trams, semi-spoiled streets, British style dilapidated architectures, unfriendly humidity from the Ganges and of course a fast-paced modern world that seems to be so indifferent to the coexistence of its bygone imprint! Situated at Shibpur (Howrah), near Kolkata, Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden is considered as the largest botanical garden in India and famous for its most veteran member- the Great Banyan Tree. Official Opening and Closing times of the garden are:- March to September- 5:00 AM to 5:30 PM and October to February- 5:30 AM to 5:00 PM respectively. Garden authority permits morning walkers in the first 2 hours of the early morning.
|The Calcutta Botanical Garden is ideal for the students of botany, researchers, bird watchers and attention-shy couples.|
Last weekend I traveled to Howrah for health related issues and thankfully my work got over by early afternoon. It was one of those sunny and sticky afternoons of August where your hankie fails to keep your forehead sweat-free for more than a couple of minutes. Taking a train back to Bardhaman was practical but definitely not an interesting way to conclude the Sunday. Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden, or let's just call it- Calcutta Botanical Garden was around 8 kilometers away from where 'indecisive' yours truly was standing. Most of the auto-rickshaws were least aware of the Botanical Garden (at least they pretended such). Just when a cab driver refused to take me to that route, a minibus arrived from nowhere as if sent to me by my guardian angel! Whether you are in front of the Howrah railway station or at Esplanade (Kolkata), lookout for buses going to B-Garden. They are painfully sluggish but acquaint you with the congested portrait of old Howrah.
|As the area is huge there is facility for electric vehicles to give quick tours to visitors who are physically less sound but ready to spend little extra.|
Entry ticket would cost you 10 bucks and your still camera another 20. The entrance of the Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden might make you feel good that it's a plastic-free zone. As you step in you'll be disillusioned. On the other hand if you're into littering (like most of us) you'll feel at home. Good readers, pardon my willful sarcasm. Rampant plastic wastes in this 270 acres of green zone truly saddens me and kills my dying optimism towards natural rehabilitation of this planet. The Calcutta Botanical Garden houses a huge collection of 1,200 plant species (according to Botanical Survey of India) which includes a wide variety of rare plants. As the area is huge there is facility for electric vehicles to give quick tours to visitors who are physically less sound but ready to spend little extra for the love of plant kingdom.
|With its large number of aerial roots which grow from the branches and run vertically to the ground and look like so many trunks, the Great Banyan Tree looks more like a forest than an individual tree!|
As I mentioned earlier, the Great Banyan Tree is the prime attraction of Calcutta Botanical Garden. The Great Banyan Tree draws more visitors to the garden than its collection of exotic plants from five continents, the plant houses of the special gardens of bamboos, palms, succulents etc. Botanically known as Ficus benghalensis L., belonging to the family- Moraceae, the tree is a native of India. The fruit is like a small fig but not edible, and is red when ripe. This Great Banyan Tree is over 250 years old and in spread it is the largest known in India, perhaps in Asia! There is no clear history of the tree as to the time of planting etc but it is mentioned in some travel books of the nineteenth century. It was damaged by two great cyclones of 1864 and 1867, when some of its main branches were broken, exposing it to the attack of a hard fungus.
|Leaves of Giant Waterlily (Victoria amazonica) are so huge that they can hold weight up to 40-45 Kg!|
With its large number of aerial roots which grow from the branches and run vertically to the ground and look like so many trunks, the Great Banyan Tree looks more like a forest than an individual tree! Interestingly enough, the tree still lives in perfect vigor without its main trunk, which decayed and had to be removed in 1925. As per the available data of 30th June, 2015: The circumference of the original trunk at 1.7 m from the ground is 16.5 m. The area occupied by the tree is about 18,918 sq m. The present crown of the tree has a circumference of 486 m and the highest branch rises to 24.5 m. Presently it has 3,772 aerial roots reaching down to the ground as prop roots. As of now, the entire tree has been fenced with proper security measures and visitors can only stare at the green wonder from a safe distance. I support this initiative whole heartedly as humans can't be trusted.
|Unfortunately, the entire Botanical Garden looks grossly under-maintained and fails in living up to its old reputation.|
Apart from the Great Banyan Tree, various points of attraction (Worth visiting only if you have a full day to play with but you do not know what to do with that many free hours!) inside the Indian Botanic Garden includes- Oreodoxa Avenue, Large Palm House, Kyd Monument, Cactus House, Roxburgh Monument, Janardan Lake, Flower Garden, Dewan Lake, Boat Ghat, Scotrechine Lake, Rock Garden, Sadir Lake, Prain Lake, Leram Lake, Kunstlar Lake, King Lake and Kanta Pahar. Unfortunately, the entire Botanical Garden looks grossly under-maintained and fails in living up to its old reputation. I have visited many gardens throughout India and I can rank this garden nowhere in "Top 10" despite it being the largest one in India. However bad it might sound, the pitiful state of the Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden highlights the misery of tourist infrastructure of West Bengal. I found Calcutta Botanical Garden to be ideal for the students of botany, environmental science, researchers, bird watchers and attention-shy couples. The garden is also good for someone who wants to spend a lazy day amidst untrimmed nature. But, tick it off your itinerary if you're an outsider who just landed in Kolkata with the aim of exploring Bengal. Love and conserve nature. Please do not litter.