Spring in Baldha Garden | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 19, 2011 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, March 19, 2011


Spring in Baldha Garden

Ashok Flower in Baldha Garden. Photo:
Ihtisham Kabir

I went to see Baldha Garden in spring.
Dhaka's miniature botanical garden in Wari, containing over 800 species of plants, is an oasis of serenity. It took Narendra Narayan Roy Chaudhury, a wealthy Dhaka landowner, over three decades (1909-1943) to build it. In 1962, descendants of Mr. Chaudhury transferred the garden to the government. Now the Forest Department takes care of it.
One half of the garden is open to the public. Here, a network of walkways crisscrosses the trees, bushes and nurseries. A large pond, called Shankhanidhi, dominates the ground.
Walking in, I was greeted by a profusion of delicate red flowers of Raj Ashok (Amberstia Nobilis). Directly across, a giant Muchkunda Chapa (Pterospermum Acerifoliam) tree was in bloom, the unusual flowers shaped like miniature bananas dropping at its foot. Ashok (Sarica Indica) trees also sported their yellow-orange flowers.
Along the banks of Shankhanidhi were large Keya plants and a Tabebuia with brilliant orange leaves reaching for the sky. I walked under Joy House, the raised cottage where Rabindranath Tagore wrote facing the pond. The Garden has several Magnolia trees, which Tagore named “Udoy Poddo” in Bengali.
Turning at the far corner of Shankhanidhi I saw tiny star-shaped yellow-orange flowers on the ground. These are blossoms of wild nuts (Jongli Badam) and the big nuts were dangling like tennis balls from the tree overhead.
At another corner I found a Kontok (Caperis Zeylamis) bush, about seven feet tall, bursting with white flowers with alternating yellow and purple centres.
There were some disappointments. I was hoping to see Kanchon (Bohunia Variegata) in bloom, but that tree appeared dead. On an archway, the Golden Shower (Begunia Vermesta) bloom was over, a few remaining flowers withering in the branches. When in bloom this archway is a sight to behold with the sun behind it.
Hundreds of bats hung from the tall branches of Eucalyptus, Buddha Narikel, Champa and Tamarind trees. Every so often, a bat spread its wings and flew slowly from one tree to another, perhaps searching for a comfortable spot to dangle from and soak in the sun.
The flower fragrances mixed with organic smells and permeated the entire garden. Depending on wind direction, the odour alternated between sweet and fetid, perhaps originating from the bats. Leaves were covered with the dust of dry season.
I chatted with two boys from Jagannath University. They had heard of the blooming Ashok trees and came to take pictures on a free morning. Many couples found private spots to romance, especially around the pond. Two housewives brought their toddlers and enjoyed the breeze on the benches at the top of the pond.
Signs everywhere asked visitors to behave themselves and “Not Embarrass Others” presumably to encourage discretion from the courting couples. But all visitors to the garden friends, lovers, parents, children, students - enjoyed this fine spring morning among Mr. Chaudhury's trees. Baldha Garden is definitely worth a visit. Come prepared with patience and tolerance.


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