Garden of visual wonder

Garden of visual wonder

Some of the bonsais on display at the Kishkindha Moolika Bonsai Garden in Mysuru. PHOTO BY AUTHOR

If trees are the most marvellous creation of nature, bonsais represent the outcome of man’s creative intervention with nature. Potted replicas of their natural forms, bonsais are both a visual feast as well as objects of wonder for the visitors of the Kishkindha Moolika Bonsai Garden in Mysuru. Located in the premises of Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Ashram, the bonsai garden sprawls over four acres and has over 400 carefully grown and miniaturised trees with gnarled trunks and globular fruits hanging from the tiny branches on display. 

A casaurina tree welcomes the visitor at the gate of the bonsai garden. The multiple bushy canopies are held aloft by branches that go in several directions. The 180-year-old tree is said to be the oldest in the garden. The Adenium obesum tree, commonly known as desert rose, is a sight to behold. Its roots twist and turn around each other in a manner suggestive of two corpulent wrestlers locked in a do-or-die tussle.

Though the picturesque garden has been in the making since 1986, it was opened to visitors only in 2005. It is a brainchild of  Ganapathy Sachchidananda Swami, the founder of the ashram. The enclosure with potted dwarfed trees is dotted with pools, streams, waterfalls, gazebos, fountains and statuettes of epic characters that enliven the atmosphere.

The trees that have been dwarfed are the ones that carry medicinal, ornamental or spiritual value. They come in all shapes like standing upright on solid stem, portraying a laboured rise from a bend towards the ground, going up in ‘S’ form, rising over a bulbous and twisted trunk, sending out forked trunks, and supported with multiple adventitious roots. The trees represent spiritual themes like plants for the nine planets or navagrahas and plants for the five elements or the pancha tattvas.

Kishkindha implies ‘compact space’ and finds a mention in epic tales such as the Ramayana. A clear emphasis is on trees with religious significance and this is something that one can notice even from a cursory look. Trees belonging to several species of genus Ficus have been carefully developed into their bonsai form. Stone sculptures of the mythical characters are etched on the pots.

The care that has been taken to develop and maintain the garden is noticeable as one walks through the garden. Sachchidananda Swami, a nature lover, says he sees a paradox in bonsais as they represent a uniquely human endeavour to miniaturise the giant-sized form of nature without missing any element of their natural architecture.

The dwarfed trees include the five sacred trees of Hinduism: Ashwatha (peepal), Vata Vriksha (banyan), Amalaka (amla), Bilva (bael) and Ashoka. Curiously, even miniaturised forms of banana plants can be found in a pot. With so much work put into grooming and maintaining the bonsais, it is of little wonder that the ashram hosted an International Bonsai Convention and Exhibition in 2016. As this Japanese art form gains prominence, spaces such as this act as a springboard to start growing bonsais and a green haven for those who love nature.