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Asia’s largest tulip garden with 15 lakh bulbs thrown open to tourists in Srinagar

Kashmir’s own town tulip garden laid on a patch of 30 hectares (74 acres) of the Nehru Botanical Garden in the picturesque Zabarvan foothills in 2006-07, offers a tough competition to any aesthetic pride of The Netherlands (Pic. Courtesy Twitter/@sufiyanmalik_)

When Yash Chopra paired heart-throbs Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha for his favourite ‘Silsila’ in 1981, he got everything in the picturesque Kashmir valley but not the sprawling flower beds he wanted for the song “Dekha ek khwaab tou yeh silsile hue”. Only the intro and some mountain shots were filmed at Pahalgam and other places.

For the song written by Javed Akhtar and sung by Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar for the stellar sensations, Chopra’s troupe had to fly all the way to The Netherlands where the unforgettable romantic lyrics were pictured on Amitabh and Rekha in the Keukenhof tulip gardens.

Forty years later, Kashmir’s own town tulip garden laid on a patch of 30 hectares (74 acres) of the Nehru Botanical Garden in the picturesque Zabarvan foothills in 2006-07, offers a tough competition to any aesthetic pride of The Netherlands. Now an ensemble of 1.5 million bulbs blooming with 68 varieties of different colours is proudly calling the Bollywood for its hospitality.

When the tulip garden was thrown open to visitors by Jammu and Kashmir’s Chief Secretary Arun Kumar Mehta, with a delay of 5 days caused by a snowfall last month, on Wednesday, 23 March, honeymooning couples and love-birds were seen humming ‘Phool bhii hoon darmiyan tou fasle hue”.

Officers of the Department of Gardens, Parks and Floriculture told Mehta that daffodils, hyacinths, narcissus and other ornamental plants in big numbers were also being planted on the margins to add to the tulip garden’s attraction.

Thousands of visitors from across the country with multitudes of the local enthusiasts enjoyed the colourful blossoms on the first day. According to Sheikh Fayaz Ahmad, Commissioner-Secretary Floriculture, more than 300,000 visitors to the garden were expected this season. The garden would remain open for the tulip festival for over three weeks before the blossoms wither in the middle of April. Sheikh said that 2.30 lakh people had visited the tulip garden last year, notwithstanding the coronavirus pandemic. “Fortunately, the pandemic has touched the lowest point and not more than 5-20 fresh infection cases are reported per day in the entire Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir”, Sheikh said.

Sheikh revealed to India Narrative that a cherry blossom theme garden on the pattern of Japan’s Sakura was being developed on a patch of 10 acres beside the lotus garden with a budget of Rs 10 crore. Its foundation was laid by Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha last year. “Once ready, it’ll prepone our spring festival by a few weeks and stretch out the same to about two months. Thereafter our spring festival will be starting from 8-10 March every year”.

As of now endemic to the Kashmir valley, tulips are now being grown also in Jammu’s temperate zone. One beautiful garden is being developed on a patch of 5 acres (40 kanals) at Sanasar, close to the famous tourist resort of PatniTop between the two naturally divided regions of Kashmir and Jammu. Officials are hopeful that it would be completed before March next year.

Most of the tulip bulbs, according to Sheikh Fayaz, are imported from The Netherlands through a transparent tendering process every year.

In Jammu, Union Home Minister Amit Shah inaugurated the region’s largest park, Bagh-e-Bohr, near Miran Sahib, 4 km from the airport, in October 2021. Larger than the iconic Bagh-e-Bahu, it has been laid on a patch of 29.37 acres (235 kanals) with different varieties of seasonal flowers and musical fountains.

The Department of Gardens, Parks and Floriculture has also carried out an extensive value addition at Bagh-e-Bahu with an expenditure of Rs 7 crore. It was inaugurated by Chief Secretary Mehta on 28 February.

The department maintains scores of gardens and parks including the famous Mughal Gardens of Nishat, Shalimar and Cheshma Shahi in Srinagar, spread over 1,375 acres (11,000 kanals) of land across the UT. It includes Nehru Botanical Garden, Indira Gandhi Tulip Garden, Harwan, Iqbal Park, Badamwari besides a number of parks and gardens in Bijbehara, Anantnag, Pahalgam, Kokernag, Verinag, Achabal, Shopian, Baramulla and other places.

Mumbai-based JSW Group has been engaged for restoration of Kashmir’s Mughal Gardens last year. Sheikh said that the JSW would execute the works in two phases in 24 months. It has completed a survey in the phase-I in the last 6 months. The works with a cap of Rs 7 crore would be executed by the business group under its corporate social responsibility (CSR).

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