Breathing life into century-old park in Bihar capital

Breathing life into century-old park in Bihar capital

Breathing life into century-old park  in Bihar capital

Fifty two-year-old Sushil Mishra, a sportsperson-turned-banker has found a new place in the state capital to jog. Amid the huge real estate boom over the last several years, Mishra was having a tough time to find a suitable green space near his home to brisk walk and jog. But the state government’s decision to open it for the general public after it remained closed for nearly 3 years, the historic and arguably the oldest park in Patna – Hardinge Park – has come up as a breath of fresh air for all those morning-walker enthusiasts craving for clean air.

Spread over 22 acres of prime land, the park area occupies nearly 16 acres while the rest is an open space separated from the main garden. “The park was constructed to commemorate the visit of Viceroy Lord Hardinge in 1913 as he was sympathetic towards the demand of a separate statehood for Bihar,” said a senior official of the Culture Department.

“On September 28, 1913, authorities of the state  (East India Company) constituted Hardinge Memorial Committee. Two years later, a deed of grant was signed between the Patna’s Collector and Hardinge Park Committee for development of a public recreational area – Hardinge Park, which was supposed to be maintained by the committee,” the official said.

“It was on January 31, 1916, that Hardinge Park was thrown open for the common man by the then Lieutenant Governor of Bihar, Sir Edward Gait,” he added.

Apart from the Golghar, Hardinge Park soon became one of the prime attractions of the state capital where a life-size bronze statue of Lord Hardinge, weighing around five tonnes, was installed. In later years, the park was rechristened as Shaheed Veer Kunwar Singh Park, named after the legendary freedom fighter from Bhojpur, who played a significant role during 1857 mutiny. Eventually, the statue of Lord Hardinge was uprooted from the sprawling park and preserved at the museum.

The park, however, grew into a large and lovely garden, the abode of several varieties of tropical flora and birds. It extended up to the railway line on its south and was bisected by the road connecting the railway station.

In later years, the eastern end of the Hardinge Park became a camping ground for various circus parties. Later, the southern portion of the garden was converted into a bus stand. It became a den of criminals and the Veer Kunwar Singh Park gradually lost its glory in 90s. Call it a coincidence, the railways took over the bus stand area in 2005 for its expansion programme following which anti-social elements too left the park area.  

The park was, however, closed in October 2012 for redevelopment after the Patna High Court asked the Bihar government to do so. The closure of the park for nearly three years led to growth of bushes and wild plants. The jogging track, a fountain  statue and benches too were damaged during the closure period.

It was then that the Urban Development Department, Housing Department, Municipal Corporation, Forest and Environment Department joined hands to give the historical park a facelift.

Also, Patna Commissioner Anand Kumar personally took interest to revive its glory and redevelop it as a model park. “We want to revive the Hardinge Park, an important historical site, with recreational facilities like toy train, musical fountain, boating and other sporting facilities,” said the Commissioner. He had already issued instructions to have a rock art, an eco-friendly cafeteria, water coolers and eco-friendly toilets. Plan is already underway to install 50 benches, put up musical boxes (which would play music for the visitors), and plant new saplings for roses, dahlias, marigolds, chrysanthemums, which would make it a horticulture delight.

“The importance of this park can be gauged from the fact that when the Prince of Wales visited Patna in 1921, he was accorded a reception at this garden, which was then one of the finest park in the country,” says UN Choudhary, a retired engineer who earlier worked with the Public Works Department.

The redevelopment of this park was taken up following a lawsuit in the Patna High Court. The Hardinge Memorial Fund Trust had challenged an order of the Patna District Magistrate in October 2005 for claim of 20 acres of park’s land by the district administration. As per the deed of grant signed in September 2015, the Hardinge Memorial Fund Trust is the owner of the park’s land.

Later during the hearing of the case in 2007, the High Court asked the government to appoint a consultant and prepare a detailed plan for the development of the park in the next three months. However, it took the government more than eight years to redevelop and reopen the park for health enthusiasts, who now jog in the morning hours.

“A comprehensive plan is afoot to develop this beautiful park on the pattern of Rajdhani Vatika (another park developed recently which has a wonderful landscape apart from modern artwork by Subodh Gupta). There would be a host of facilities at the park which would include open air gym, fountains, ponds, boating facilities, wash room and drinking water,” informed a state government official.

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