Public Spaces

Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Garden, Thiruvananthapuram

Entrusted with the responsibility to preserve, conserve and research flora from around the world in God’s own country, the Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Garden is no walk in the park.


Formerly known as the Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute, Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute, was renamed in the fond memory of visionary Prime Minister of India. It is an autonomous research and development institute established by the Government of Kerala. It functions under the umbrella of the Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment (KSCSTE), Government of Kerala.

In 1996, Saraswathy Thangavelu Extension Centre of KSCSTE – JNTBGRI housing the Bioinformatics component become functioning. During the year 2003, JNTBGRI was bought under the newly formed society, Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment (KSCSTE).

They say every monumental achievement has had the driving force of a visionary. The saga of JNTBGRI also speaks the same story. Prof. A. Abraham, a visionary and a great Botanist, conceived the idea of establishing a Jawaharlal Nehru Botanic Garden and Research Institute to study and conserve the rare and vanishing wild plant genetic resources of the country.

KSCSTE – JNTBGRI is the only organization in India, which maintains a 300 acre conservatory garden for the wild tropical plant genetic resources of the country, besides a well integrated multidisciplinary R & D system dealing with conservation, management and sustainable utilization of tropical plant resources.

During the past 30 years, it has flourished into one of the premier R & D organization in Asia, devoted to conservation and sustainable utilization of tropical plant diversity. The institute is recognized as a ‘National Centre of Excellence in ex situ conservation and sustainable utilization of tropical plants diversity’ by the Minister of Environment and Forests, Government of India and the Centre of Science and Technology of Non-Aligned and other Developing Countries (NAM S&T Centre) JNTBGRI enjoys the membership of Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI). The institute is a recognized centre of research for post graduate and doctoral research of several universities, within the country.


The Institute undertakes research in conservation biology, Biotechnology, plant taxonomy, microbiology, phytochemistry, ethno-medicine and ethno-pharmacology, which are the main areas considered to have immediate relevance to the development of the garden.

While taxonomists prepared a flora of the garden documenting the native plant wealth before mass introduction and face lift which subsequently followed, the bio-technologists mass multiplied plants of commercial importance, especially orchids for cultivation and distribution to everyone.

They also make a comprehensive survey of the economic plant wealth of Kerala, to conserve, preserve and sustainably utilize it. The institute regularly carries out botanical, horticultural and chemical research for plant improvement and utilization; and offers facilities for the improvement of ornamental plants and propagation in the larger context of the establishment of nursery and flower trade.

JNTBGRI gardens medicinal plants, ornamental plants and various introduced plants of economic or aesthetic value. In addition, it also serves as a source of supply of improved plants that are not readily available from other agencies.


They have developed a modern conservatory garden for ex-situ conservation of plants and scientific studies for sustainable utilization. They’ve also established large living collection of trees and woody lianas of over 1000 species, medicinal, Aromatic and Spice plants of around 1500 species, pre-tsunami living collections from Andaman-Nicobar Islands, Orchids, Bamboos, rare and threatened plants, aquatic plants, insectivorous plants, wild ornamentals, Jasmines, etc. for conservation, display and education. This living collection of trees, bamboos, orchids, Medicinal Aromatic and spice plants are the largest in South Asia.
Over all these years, they have developed 12 new phytomedicines and filed 15 patents. They also published 25 books, over 1,000 research papers and20 handouts, bulletins and course materials. Although they don’t permit a camera on campus, it’s worth a visit. The wide variety of flora will be you with many pleasant images.


The Beauty of the Mughal Gardens in Srinagar

Ever wondered how gardens in paradise look like? Look no further. The Mughal Gardens in Srinagar take you as close to paradise you can get on this planet.



The land of Kashmir, popularized by old Bollywood movies as ‘Paradise on Earth’ stands quite true to this promise. In fact, Emperor Akbar, tired of the heat in his capital city, spent three consecutive summers in Kashmir and with each summer, his love for the place grew even more. Soon enough, Kashmir became the summer resort to successive Emperors as well, including Jahangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb. To Jahangir, Kashmir seemed a paradise of which ‘priests had prophesied and poets sung’. For nearly a century and a half, these four great Emperors came, from far away Delhi and Agra, with glittering retinues and splendid state, from the dusty glamour of an Indian court to the cool and quiet of a Kashmiri summer.

Jahangir spent fourteen summers in the Valley of Kashmir, coming in with the blossoming of the lilac and the wild iris in the spring, and setting out back towards the hot plains of India when the saffron flowers had bloomed in autumn. He died in Bahram-Galah (a small village near Poonch), almost within the sight of his beloved Kashmir.

The Mughal rule in Kashmir may not have been impressionable politically but it will always be remembered for the eternal legacy they left behind, including the gardens they built, and the arts and crafts they serenaded.

The celebrated Mughal Gardens of Kashmir owe their grandeur primarily to Emperor Jahangir and his son Shah Jahan. Jahangir was responsible for the careful selection of the site and maneuvering it to suit the requirements of the traditional paradise gardens.

Although the Mughals never deviated drastically from the original form or concept of the gardens, their biggest challenge in Kashmir was to exploit the chosen site and the abundance of water resource to its maximum potential. The sites selected were invariably at the foot of a mountain, wherever there was a source of water either in the form of streams or springs. This feature eventually resulted in terraced garden layouts. Undaunted by the challenges offered by mountainous terrain, the Mughal engineering skills and aesthetics helped in exploiting the dominating natural landscape and the available water resources to their maximum potential and achieved an unparalleled height of perfection.

Almost all popular Mughal gardens in Kashmir except Verinag follow a similar pattern with a central water channel sourced at natural springs. Avenues of poplars or chinar trees further enhanced this channel, which formed the central visual axis of the garden. There are one or more baradaris or pavilions with a central open space ‘dalan’ placed over these water channels. These water channels cascade down from one terrace to another in the form of chadars or falls, where they fill in the larger water tanks, hauz, squarish in form and having an array of fountains. Finally, the water from the central channel joins a water body, either a flowing stream nearby, as in case of Achabal, or a lake, as in case of Nishat Bagh and Shalimar Bagh.

Laid out in the 17th C. (1634 AD) by Mirza Abul Hasan, the Nishat Bagh is amongst the most prominent gardens that the Mughals developed in the erstwhile Hindustan. The bagh or garden is located directly along the eastern bank of the Dal Lake on the foot of Zabarwan mountain range. Nishat Bagh’s exceptional quality lies therefore in its setting, the complex terraced layout, the play of water cascades, the views it offers, and its ecology. Length-wise, the garden consists of twelve terraces, supposedly symbolizing the twelve signs of the zodiac.

Shalimar Bagh is more ostentatious in architectural quality when compared with its other parallels in Kashmir. Almost all the terrace edges at the Shalimar Bagh have something interesting to offer in the form of pavilions, pools, or water cascades. The whole texture of the garden, in fact, is a result of the relationship of the garden’s built and landscaped environment.

The royal garden of Achabal is located near Anantnag predates the arrival of the Mughals in Kashmir. The spring at the Achabal Bagh was popular at one time for its curative values and the amount of water it supplied. The Achabal Bagh, with its abundant Chinar trees and roaring water channels, is yet another embodiment of the Mughal landscape genius demonstrated in Kashmir.


Chashma Shahi continues to retain the natural spring around which it was built and is unique for its high terraces, and distant, yet outstanding, views of the Dal Lake from its terraces. The garden is known to be at its best during late afternoons and evenings. Pari Mahal is also located west of the city centre of Srinagar, near Chasma Shahi, on the slopes of the Zebanwan Mountains.

Verinag is an octagonal pavilion-garden, built around a spring. Verinag was the personal favourite of Emperor Jahangir and it was his great wish to be buried here.

These gardens seemed to be untouched by time. It still slows down a little when one takes a stroll across these gardens. And a first-hand experience is a must.


Located in the historic Fort area of South Mumbai, Azad Maidan is a triangular shaped cricket ground with covers about 25 acres of land. Besides being a popular venue for cricket matches, the Azad (means liberty in Persian) Maidan is also known to host important political rallies, protest meetings and morchas and so on…



FROM political rallies to protest meetings, the Azad Maidan has seen it all. This pizza slice shaped community space in downtown Mumbai has seen many great cricketers make their way to the top as well as landmark political and social rallies making steady headways. Let’s take a tour of this legendary piece of land in south Bombay.
Early in the morning, buses full of kids dressed in all white and carrying hefty cricket kits can be seen making their way to Azad Maidan in Mumbai. It is a simple triangular Maidan or sports ground. But like all things Mumbai, this ground has seen its fair share of historical events and milestones too.
Just a stroll away from Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Train Station, Azad Maidan is an impressive 25 acres of land. It is so big that you could squeeze two-and-a-half Wankhede Stadiums into it. It can comfortably accommodate some six to seven cricket matches here that can be played here simultaneously. But like everything else in Mumbai, Azad Maidan too is also cramped for space. There are 22 cricket pitches in the whole ground. But one of these 22 pitches stands out with a perennially green and well-maintained turf. That portion belongs to the posh Bombay Gymkhana and is separated from the rest by a narrow walkway. The Bombay Gymkhana Clubhouse was built in 1875, at the southern end of the maidan. In the rest of the space, 21 pitches jostle for room with their imaginary boundary lines criss-crossing.
If you take a birds-eye view of the ground on a busy weekend, when nearly all the pitches are in use, you’d

think there was some elaborate, nonsensical game of dodge ball meets cricket being played.
Azad Maidan is a microcosm of Mumbai’s odd sense of order within chaos: on weekdays, in overcrowded trains, we pack in more people than they were made to hold. On weekends, at public grounds like Azad Maidan, Cross Maidan, Oval Maidan and Shivaji Park, we pack in more cricket matches than they were meant to ever accommodate.
Even with all this chaos, the cricket pitches at the ground have produced many international cricketers. On 20 November 2013, Prithvi Shaw created history by scoring a whopping 546 runs. Parsis used to come down here on Sundays to watch first class cricket. Somewhere in the 1960s, Polly Umrigar, who played first class and test matches, also played at the Azad Maidan for the Parsi Cyclists Club. And in 1987, youngsters Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli shared a huge 664 run record partnership during a Harris Shield school match held at Azad Maidan.
But walk around the periphery, and you still see garbage strewn about. In the rains, players hurt themselves on discarded bottles and other trash left loosely in the long unkempt grass. And that’s not how the nursery of Mumbai cricket should be.

But apart from fun and games, Azad Maidan has seen its share of violence as well. On August 11th 2012, it saw a protest that quickly turned into a riot. The protest was held to condemn the Rakhine and Assam riots.

The riot reportedly began when the crowd got angry after hearing an inflammatory speech and after seeing photographs of Assam violence and Rakhine state riots. The riot resulted in two deaths and injuries to 54 people including 45 policemen. Mumbai Police estimated that the riots caused a loss of ₹2.74 Crore in damages to public and private property.
Despite its shortcomings and non-existent facilities, this is still the biggest cricket ground in Mumbai. In a real-estate-hungry city, that’s still something worth holding on to. And on a crowded weekend, it does make Azad Maidan quite a spectacle, one that’s worth being a part of if you enjoy the game. And you could head over on a fine Sunday too for a game. Just remember to duck in time.


Relive History at the Chandrashekhar Azad Park in Allahabad

Certain places especially of historical significance fill you up with a feeling of pride, grandness and patriotism as soon as you step in. Chandrashekhar Azad Park in Allahabad is definitely one of them. Join us as we take you through a worthy tribute to an epic martyr…



Over the years, the city of Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh has gained much popularity from all over for its friendly, helpful people, great food and the ‘triveni sangam’, the ‘confluence’ of two of India’s most important rivers namely the Ganges, the Yamuna, and the invisible or mythical Saraswati. Around this sangam is also where the world famous Kumbh Mela is held every three years. It is considered to be largest peaceful, religious gathering in the world with over 100 million people visiting the mela every time it is held. Allahabad has been called by many names in the past including Illahabad, Prayag and since October 2018, it is officially been renamed Prayagraj. Right in the heart of this very lively city, is a park dedicated to a national hero, Chandrashekhar Azad.

In 1870, Prince Alfred of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha visited Allahabad during the British reign. To commemorate this

visit, a massive park of about 133 acres was built in the center of the city’s English quarters, called Civil Lines.At that time, it was named Alfred Park wherein old cantonments were converted into a park when, after the Rebellion of 1857, new areas were developed for the troops.It is the biggest park of Allahabad in terms of area covered and is also popularly called Company Bagh today. The park is situated in the neighborhood of Georgetown and is surrounded by Tagoretown, Civil Lines and the University of Allahabad.

In the year 1931, something unique occurred that added epic pages in the history of this park. Chandrashekhar Azad, Sukhdev and a few other revolutionaries were returning from Anand Bhawan and crossing this park to go back their base. British policemen suddenly surrounded them from all sides in the park. A fierce gunfight ensued.

Azad got wounded but he enabled Sukhdev and others a safe escape. He even killed three policemen and wounded several more.After a long shootout, Azad was left with one last bullet. He had pledged that he would never be captured alive. And he wasn’t. Azad shot himself dead with his last bullet. On the 27th of February 1931, Azad, at the age of just 24, became a martyr. His colt revolver is still exhibited in the Allahabad Museum. A memorial statue stands tall in the park giving a proud reminder of the price of freedom revolutionaries were willing to pay for freedom.

Another landmark in the park is the Allahabad Public Library, which is also known as the Thornhill Mayne Memorial. A building designed by Richard Roskell Bayne in the Scottish Baronial style with sandstone and granite turrets, and cloisters of arches in 1864, it is the largest library to be found in the state.


Once home to the legislative assembly at the time when Allahabad was the capital of the United Provinces, these premises became the Allahabad Public Library when library dating back to the 1860s was shifted to this building in 1879 and the legislative council’s meetings moved to Mayo Hall. The park also has a Victoria Memorial, a music college called Prayag Sangit Samiti and the Madan Mohan Malaviya Stadium with a cricket ground.The park also has huge Statues of King George – V and Queen Victoria. There’s an imposing white marble canopy dedicated to Queen Victoria. The canopy represents the typical British style of Architecture as it flourished during that period. This colonial landmark attracts a great number of tourists each year. The neatly laid out park lies peacefully in a corner of the city and is worth a visit if you want a moment of quiet in the bustling city.

In the year 1931, something unique occurred that added epic pages in the history of this park. Chandrashekhar Azad, Sukhdev and a few other revolutionaries were returning from Anand Bhawan and crossing this park to go back their base. British policemen suddenly surrounded them from all sides in the park. A fierce gunfight ensued. Azad got wounded but he enabled Sukhdev and others a safe escape.


Soaking in fun, fervor and food at Chandni Chowk

One of India’s oldest, busiest and most well-known markets is Chandni Chowk, located in Old Delhi. Built by the Mughals, this more than three century old bazaar still holds as much interest for shopping and food as it did when it was first set-up. Shop for spices, dried fruit, silver jewelry and wedding sarees, or hop across and relive some history with surreal views of the Jama Masjid, the Red Fort and more…



The history of Chandni Chowk dates back to the foundation of Shahjahanabad on the banks of the river Yamuna by the fifth Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan who ruled parts of Northern India from 1628 till 1658. Shahjahanabad was set to be the capital amongst the cities he ruled. Chandni Chowk, or the Moonlight Square, was designed and established by Princess Jahanara Begum, Shah Jahan’s favourite daughter, so that she could shop for anything her heart wished for. The bazaar, shaped as a square, was given elegance by the presence of a pool in the center of the complex. Back in the day, Chandni Chowk was divided and lined by canals that met at a pool in the center. Water would burble through and reflect the glistening moon above. The pool shimmered in the moonlight, a feature that was perhaps responsible for its name. It then became a gathering place for traders and merchants who flocked here from all over the country to sell their wares.

It’s been many years since the canals have been closed but this old market is still as charming.Chandni Chowk soon lost the lustre of the Moon but still remains a very ‘chowk’ and is one of the oldest markets in Old Delhi. And today, Chandni Chowk is nothing short of a chaotic shopping street lined by hawkers, porters, vendors and food stalls in narrow lanes that bring out the true flavours of a traditional medieval bazaar. It is the ultimate “go to” place for all kinds of shopping and food cravings. Those with a love for history can also spot the Red Fort, situated right opposite and enjoy a view of the Fatehpuri Mosque.

In the early days, Chandni Chowk was famous for silver merchants. Numerous shops selling all kinds of goods and street vendors enticing shoppers with delectable food have replaced the original pattern of reflecting pool and shops arranged in a half moon shape.

This market soon gained popularity and went on to become one of India’s grandest markets. The narrow lanes brimming with noise and chaos still retains its historical character.

The first thing that hits you when you enter Chandni Chowk is the intoxicating aroma of food. It is nothing short of heaven for gastronomes around the world. It is the home to some of the oldest and most famous restaurants and confectioners in India. Many of them date back to fifty or hundred years ago. From an assortment of sweetmeat shops to the parathewali gali to delectable, roadside kebabs near Jama Masjid, this place has something to offer for everyone. And like every Indian marketplace, tea and pan shops are to be found at every turn of the road.

And no points for guessing, but shopping at Chandi Chowk is an experience in itself. You’d be surprised just the staggering range of good it can hold. You have shops that sell stuff ranging from books, clothes, electronics, shoes, leather and consumer goods. Walking along these jostling streets can get exhausting but then that’s part of the fun. Each area inside Chandni Chowk has different markets, which are known for various specialties. For example, Nai Sadak is not full of barbers but is mainly known for books and stationery items. It is perfect for students and bibliophiles who will find everything they need here, from second-hand school and college textbooks to rare novels. Dariba Kalan is known for jewellery. But if you’ve come this far, you cannot miss searching for some signature, handcrafted jewellery. And if you let your nose guide you, you will find yourself among some of the most exquisite perfume and essential oils shops in the country.

If you’ve recently decided to tie the knot, first of all, congratulations and secondly, head to Chawri Bazaar to begin your wedding arrangements. It is the place for getting your wedding cards printed. From simple and elegant to sophisticated and extravagant, all kinds of wedding cards are printed here in bulk. Next stop should be the Kinari Bazaar. It is a haven for your wedding shopping needs. This narrow lane known for selling the best zardozi items such as laces and frills. Apart from this, you will also find Parsi borders, motifs, ribbon laces and all the embellishments just in case you were out to customize your wedding lehenga to the last detail.


Keep walking and you will enter Bhagirath Palace, Asia’s largest wholesale market for electrical and electronic items. Right from simple light fixtures to fancy decorative lamps, you will find everything you need to decorate your home.
Then there’s Ballimaran Market for all kinds of shoes, spectacles and sunglasses the befit your style statement.
Apart from these, you can find spices, nuts, herbs and dried fruits in Khari Baoli, There are many more markets dedicated to specific items that you wouldn’t find anywhere else easily.
There are markets for cameras, clothes, and household items and maybe, you’ll discover more.
Whether you’re out shopping with a purpose or aimlessly wandering around to kill time, you will find the charm of this age-old market still lingering around the corners of this once beautiful, Chandni Chowk.

Finding Paradise at Promenade Beach, Puducherry

Sure, long walks on the beach are relaxing and romantic. But this one is a bit different. With a war memorial at one end and a mesmerizing park at the other, Promenade beach is one of Puducherry’s most popular attractions…



The Promenade Beach is one of Puducherry’s most famous attractions. This one and a half kilometer stretch in Puducherry is all about long walks, warm conversations while having cold drinks, munching on peanuts while watching beautiful sunsets over the still waters of the Bay of Bengal and reminiscing about all things simple. That’s Promenade Beach for you.

Puducherry, India’s erstwhile French Colony and now a Union Territory, has been built by following an excellent town planning idea. Everything is in its place and nothing is too far away. Everything is clean, looked after and organized that the place is better known as White Town (referring to the French side of the town). The Promenade Beach is not too far away from the city. It is also referred to as Pududcherry Beach owing to how close it is to the city. The beach is dotted with several landmarks. There’s the French War Memorial that was inaugurated in 1971. It was constructed to commemorate and salute the fallen soldiers from French India in the First World War. There’s a statue of a soldier pointing his gun down depicting the distress. The back of the memorial carries a bronze bas-relief representing the arrival of Joseph François Dupleix.

Then there’s the inspiring Joan of Arc’s statue, the heritage town hall, the statue of Mahatma Gandhi, Dupleix’s statue, the old Light House and then the remains of the old pier and customs house. These speak of the splendours of a bygone era, best enjoyed over a cup of hot tea sold by local vendors throughout the beach. But what really is the crown jewel of the Promenade is the Le Café.

The sunrise and sunset views from the beach are especially beautiful and so does the view of moon shimmering on the seawaters at night.

Soft sands under your feet, coffee snacks and of course croissants; all this and much more while the waves almost kiss your feet. This café feels like a vacation in itself.

Whoever walks this beach, finds something that piques his interest. There’s something for everyone. From fancy restaurants to food carts, guesthouses to luxury hotels; there’s everything for any discerning traveller. Don’t forget to shop and purchase a souvenir from the various handicraft stores on your way back though. There are tiny statues, lamps, incense and candle stands. Or if you’re looking for some fashion, there’s hand-printed kurtis and beautifully knitted bags and beanies.

At the Beach, all activity begins early in the morning. One can spot joggers and runners sweating it out in the morning sun or some just taking a relaxing walk to begin their day with the sun rising. There are also skating and yoga that happens here on a daily basis. And the best part is before 7 30 am and after 6 pm, the beach and surrounding area doesn’t allow vehicles. So people can go about doing what they love and kids can run around free without the fear of speeding vehicles or polluting air. The fresh juice stalls and coconut water vendors make sure you’re hydrated while the

chaat vendors and cut fruits with salt and chilly give you a few more reasons to stay back a little longer.

The Tourist Information Centre of PTDC is at one end of this grand stretch, housed in an aesthetic heritage building facing the sea.

It is well furnished and many visiting tourists simply walk in to ask their questions and to know more about the history of this beautiful beach.

The sunrise and sunset views from the beach are especially beautiful and so does the view of moon shimmering on the seawaters at night. The beach turns golden during sunrises and silvery white on moonlit nights.
And that’s one thing that this beach offers – it’s versatile. There are soft sands and foamy, silent waters on one end and a rocky end with waves crashing in. Whoever comes here finds their peace in the chaos of the city.

Families picnic here often. The colonial building, the salty air and the delectable food, they all make for a perfect day at the beach. Take a trip; a long walk on the beach is surely worth it. We’ve heard it is best enjoyed barefoot.