Essences of the past and present come alive at the Lawrence Gardens

Nature flourishes in its different forms at the Lawrence Gardens
Nature flourishes in its different forms at the Lawrence Gardens

Lahores Lawrence Gardens, baptised the Bagh-i-Jinnah in the post-independence era, represent the quintessential Raj ethos. Built primarily for the sahibs and memsahibs , the park has managed to maintain its dream-like beauty for a century and a half. The colonial maps drawn up in the mid-nineteenth century show that eastward of Charing Cross, Gardens existed on the right. In the place of the Freemasons Hall, there was once a circular garden; and what is now the Lahore Zoo was another park called the New Garden. This was followed by the Agricultural and Horticultural Society Garden, which was the original name of the city beloved Lawrence Gardens. The Agriculture Horticulture Society of India established it in 1860 and years later, in 1904, the department of agriculture assumed maintenance responsibilities. Since 1912, approximately seven acres of the park have been managed by the Government College, Lahore; to this day, it maintains a delightful botanical garden replete with a greenhouse and experimental fields.

The annexation of the Punjab in 1849 and the successful control of the 1857 uprising in many regions of northern India resulted in the consolidation of the British Empire; due to its strategic location, the Punjab was central to the architecture of the colonial power. Lahore was to become a major outpost of the empire. Therefore, the sahibs had to create social and cultural spaces for themselves in otherwise unfriendly and unfamiliar surroundings. A garden in the heart of British Lahore was essential. True to the colonial policy, the new garden would be a continuation of the Mughal tradition of creating baaghs as the aesthetic expression of self-indulgence. This project, however, was to reflect the expanse of the Empire. Thousands of saplings of different exotic species were imported from many colonies around the world and by 1860, all the necessary preconditions such as identifying and acquiring hundreds of acres of land had been met.

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