Recreating Jallianwala Bagh in plants

Recreating Jallianwala Bagh in plants

A sketch of life-sized plant topiaries being made in Jallianwala Bagh.

The 1,650 rounds that were fired left several badly wounded soaked in a pool of blood. Ninety-two years later, historic event in India’s freedom struggle is being recreated with plants at the massacre site in Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar.

At least 30 hand and fist images in plants, a symbol of freedom fighters braving the bullets at the time of the massacre, will emerge out of the ground where dead bodies lay all soaked in blood. The front of the planted fist images will bear slogans of “Jai Hind” in plants reiterating the indomitable spirit of freedom.

At a distance will be a life-size topiary of Gen Dyer ordering his men to fire. Along sides will be nearly two dozen other life-sized plant topiaries of his soldiers aiming at innocent people who had once gather­ed in the park, which had just one narrow entry and exit point. Plant images of soldiers kneeling and standing while aiming are being created.

This historic park, a testimony to sacrifice of hundreds of unheard and unsung freedom fighters and considered a turning point in the campaign for India’s freedom movement, is being made in plants to showcase the tragic event of April 13, 1919. Once done up with life-sized topiaries of soldiers and freedom fighters, impressions of the past will promise visit­ors a rare experience of struggle, sacrifice and spitefulness, Dr Satish Narula, senior horticulturist of Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) and consultant adviser to the Chandigarh Administration, told Deccan Herald. Dr Narula, who has conce­ptualised and designed the entire project, said: “A grant of about ~60 lakh has been sanctioned for the project and work has just begun. It is a project close to my heart and inspiring too. For the younger generation, there are lessons from the past.”

For onlookers, the park will appear as a true-life presentation of the ill-fated day’s events on that sweltering afternoon. Imag­es in plants of Gen Dyer and his armed men on one side and innocent freedom fighters facing a barrage of bullets on the other will recreate history with plants, Dr Narula said.

For the nation, the Jallianwala Bagh is a revered place. With this in mind, Dr Narula has conceptualised hand-fist topiaries by using exotic and fragranced plants. “It will be a tribute to the martyrs. The message that will be disseminated is that martyrs will continue to live and spread the fragrance of life, liberty and freedom,” Dr Narula said. 

The project is being executed by the PAU under Dr Narula’s guidance.

Scores of bullet marks on the wall inside the park are a horrifying reminder of British brutality. To prevent damage to these walls and bullet marks, which conti­nue at present since these walls are within reach of visitors and tourists, certain low headed plants and plant topiaries will be erected to avoid further damage.

It all started last year when Dr Narula visited Jallianwala Bagh. He was appalled since the historic park looked “no better than any other park in the neighbourhood”. A sudden sense of urgency crept in and Dr Narula was soon burning midnight oil working out concepts and modalities. “I felt Jallianwala Bagh did not evoke a sacred feeling. The display of the tragic event before the eyes of visitors was a must. As a horticulturist, I felt a twist of plants could make the place more unique and even more revered,” Dr Narula said.

Around the same time, the PAU received a request from Deputy Commissioner Amritsar K S Pannu who desired that Jallianwala Bagh be improved. Then started elaborate surveys and preparation of designs. Within a month, a concept report was prepared and even approved, Dr Narula said.

The plan included precise budget estimates and timeframe to execute the project. Dr Narula’s estimate of Rs 30 crore was doubled by the district administration. A nine to 10 month period will be required for the project to get shape. But work on grassing and plants will start in its season beginning early summers. Until then, work on life sized topiaries and landscaping will be completed, Dr Narula said. 

For now, the original open view of the site is completely blocked because of few high growing shrubs and other plants.

Dr Narula said : “We are removing some falling trees and those hit by disease. This will provide a view so that the exact line of fire could be made visible.”  The area
surrounding the concrete memorial that stands tall would also be re-planned as the plantation near it has dried up. A state-of-the-art irrigation system for the park too has been planned. This will ensure that the entire five-acre park is well irrigated in less than four hours.

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