Bengaluru: A gale that devastated the city and claimed seven lives in October was not kind on the Lalbagh Botanical Garden either. Two gigantic trees as old as the Mysore kingdom of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan were uprooted in the strong wind.
The 255-year-old mango tree and the 250-year-old African eucalyptus tree were planted by the illustrious rulers who set up the botanical park in Bengaluru along the lines of Mughal gardens. The fallen trees were worth a premium in the timber market but the park managers did not want to leave them.
Instead, they invited sculptors from across the country with the help from the Karnataka Shilpa Kala Academy. In a little over a fortnight, the trees were transformed into eyecatching sculptures. More than 40 sculptures on either side of the road near the Glass House has turned the new selfie point in the city.
The African eucalyptus tree, or baobab, was brought from Africa 250 years ago. The tree planted by Tipu Sultan provided the canvas for about 20 sculptors to express their creativity. Visitors to the park were enthralled by the Buddha emerging from a lotus, a peacock and a group of vultures, all carefully carved out of the fallen tree.
Bengaluru-based sculptor John Devaraj is busy creating a ‘Tree of Life’ on the trunk of the tree, which has soft wood inside. The sculpture represents the harmony of nature in contrast with the divisions among humans. From extinct dodos to endangered polar bears, animals of all sizes and shapes find a place in Devaraj’s ark. Fourteen animals including a slender loris, cobra, gharial, black buck, tiger, cheetah, elephant, anteater, pelican, bear, chimpanzee, zebra, dolphin and the mahseer of the Cauvery River share space in the ‘Tree of Life’.
The baobab and the mango tree were veterans in the 40-acre park that was set up in the latter part of the 18th century. Though the park was later expanded to 188 acres and thousands of species of trees and plants added, they remained the original icons.
The mango tree’s trunk has been sculpted into a ‘Homage to Mammoth’, the extinct beasts from prehistory. Prasanna, Sathyaraj and Sunil worked on the trunk along with other sculptors for 15 days to finish the monumental sculpture. Parts of the tree have been transformed to a large chameleon, vulture and more than a dozen other sculptures.
The 15-day camp in Lalbagh was attended by 60 sculptors including four women. They worked from every noon and worked late into night.
They finished the work in time for the flower show that marked the Republic Day.
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