Small wonders at Mysore garden

ASIA’S LARGEST The Kishkindha Moolika Bonsai Garden, with its collection of over 300 plants at Mysore. Photo Aruna Chandaraju

And that’s not all. Facing this is a unusual complex of small, thematic gardens - the Navagraha Vana, Saptarishi Garden, Nakshatra Garden, Devi Panchayatana Vana (five forms of the Mother Goddess) and the Rashi (12 zodiac signs) Garden. All within the precincts of the Ganapathi Sachchidananda Ashram on the city’s outskirts.

The Kishkinda bonsai garden with neat arrangements of plants and their nameplates is accessorised with statues, figurines and small waterbodies with bridges besides pathways for visitors following an oriental/Chinese style. 

There are natural-stone tortoises, monkeys, horses, birds, etc.

The fact that these organic gardens are located within a serene ashram away from the city’s heat and dust helps to accentuate their atmosphere of calm.

There were visitors filing past us as we wandered around checking the plants. Actually, it seemed like a place not only for a causal visit but also for pausing awhile to take in the tranquil atmosphere. It is even conducive to meditation or for some time with oneself.

Sourced from around 14 countries like China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Mexico, Australia, West Indies, etc., these bonsai plants have been meticulously miniaturised and potted. There are about 400 bonsai species, many of them with medicinal value, in the ashram and there is a rotation of plants on display in the bonsai garden.

Bonsai or the art of miniaturising plants is widely believed to have originated in China. However, there are several references in our ancient texts to bonsai plants like the treatise on garden art Upavana Vinoda. Then there is the Ramayana’s well-known Kishkindha Vana developed by Sugriva’s maternal uncle Dadhimukha.

Bonsai is not without its critics, those who say it is wrong to dwarf a plant and stunt its natural growth. However, in its defence, Sacchidananda Ganapati guruji points out that bonsai gardens are a sure way of preserving plants species on the verge of becoming extinct. And like zoos, they have educational value since they provide easy access to a wide variety of plants, including exotic ones for a sight of which one would have to visit several places including trekking into deep jungles.  
A bonsai garden showcases a vast variety of flora in an amazingly small space, we were told.

Facing the Kishkinda bonsai garden, is the herbal garden which is a complex of small, thematic gardens wherein the corresponding plants have been chosen on the basis of mentions in our ancient texts. The Navagraha Vana has nine plants corresponding to the nine plants.

The Nakshatra Vana has 27 plants, in turn bifuricated into two sets of 13 sunrise plants (where the first rays of the sun fall) and 14 sunset ones. The Rashi Vana is for the 12 zodiac signs.

There is also a Sapthaswara series ie seven plants for the seven notes. The Devi Panchayatana Vana celebrates the five forms of the Mother Goddess and the Saptharishi Vana, the seven great sages, through their respective plants.
In their midst is an Akala Moksha Stupa, a huge terracotta shrine dedicated to the performance of rituals for the peace of souls of people who have met with untimely deaths. At the entrance is an enormous rudraksha tree.

Even for the botanically challenged among us, it had been an absorbing tour. Find time for it next time you are in Mysore. Kids will love it and grown-ups will find it interesting.

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