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Build new memorial for Krumbiegel

Bengaluru, DH News Service, Dec 2 2017, 0:32 IST
Krumbiegel Hall, an old building in Lalbagh, Bengaluru. DH Photo/S K Dinesh

Krumbiegel Hall, an old building in Lalbagh, Bengaluru. DH Photo/S K Dinesh

Gustav Hermann Krumbiegel, the German botanist and garden designer, whose body is interred at the Methodist cemetery on Hosur Road in Bengaluru, must have turned in his grave when a heritage building at Lalbagh named after him was mindlessly razed to the ground recently. The excuse given by the Horticulture department for the demolition was that a portion of the century-old building had collapsed during the recent rains and it could not be saved. The officials of Horticulture and Public Works departments should bow their heads in shame, because they had ignored restoration plans for the iconic building submitted earlier and allowed it to gradually go to seed. The government should book the officials concerned for dereliction of duty and criminal negligence to send out a message that such lapses will be taken seriously.

Much of the credit for laying the foundation for greening of Bengaluru and turning Lalbagh into a treasure house of rare species of plants and trees should go to Krumbiegel. After completing the landscaping of gardens at Hamburg and London, Krumbiegel, then 28, came to the princely state of Baroda in 1893 to curate a botanical garden. His love for India made him stay back and in 1908, he accepted the invitation of the Maharaja of Mysore, Krishnaraja Wodeyar, to take up the job of a botanist and superintendent at Lalbagh. He obtained plants and seeds from several parts of the world and turned Lalbagh into a botanical delight. Records show that he was also instrumental in introducing many flower-bearing trees along the main avenues of Bengaluru, carefully choosing seasonally flowering trees so that the city would enjoy the bloom throughout the year. He would organise several lectures at the hall later named after him to kindle interest in nature among the public. After retiring in 1932, he continued to live in Bengaluru, working as a consulting architect and adviser in town planning and horticulture till his death in 1956.

Now that the building is gone, there may not be a point in ruing the fact, but one of the last chances to restore it was lost when a proposal submitted by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Intach) in 2011 to undertake repairs at a cost of just Rs 16 lakh was put in cold storage by uncaring officials. The focus should now turn to putting up a fitting memorial for Krumbiegel at the same venue, keeping in mind the man's own sense of aesthetics. The Horticulture department should also undertake repairs to other neglected structures, like the aquarium and the aviary, and bring back the deer park to restore Lalbagh to its old glory.

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