SRINAGAR: With its almond trees in full bloom and its range of amusements from food stalls, singing, painting, a selfie zone and magic shows to a display of the art and heritage of Kashmir, the historic, sprawling Badamwari Garden in Shehre-e-Khaas has been a major draw for nature lovers this season.
Situated in the foothills of Koh-e-Maran, the sparkling clean environs of the 400 Kanal garden provided a soothing experience to visitors to the spring festival celebrated in the Badamwari last month.
Although the garden is open throughout the year, March brings a huge rush of visitors here to partake of the beauty of the almond bloom, which this year lasted from March 10 till March 31.
“It is only for 15 days in a year that we see the bloom of almonds,” said tourist Manoj Kumar. “This garden is like a piece of heaven on earth. It was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen.”
Organised by the Jammu and Kashmir Bank, the spring festival drew almost 1,000 students from various schools, including Blue Bells, Vishwa Bharti Higher Secondary School, Kashmir Harvard and Mars Public School, all of whom participated in different shows.
Apart from shows, local vendors set up their stands, includng food stalls and displays showcasing Kashmiri heritage and culture.
“We received invitations for the spring festival a few days before it started and we were ready with our food stall at once. There is a huge rush of people buying different food items from our stall,” said a member of Hatrik food stall.
Apart from enjoying the food, people got to see a display of different heritage tools from Meras Mahal Museum, Sopore. “We have only displayed a few heritage items, but visitors showed much interest in seeing them,” said Imtiyaz Ahmad, one of the stall’s organisers.
Badamwari holds in its warm bosom the undercurrent of our culture. While poverty was writ large on the faces of many of those attending, the festival invites visitors to feast their eyes on the irresistible charm of almond blossoms and thus forget for a while the hardships of the freezing winter from which they have emerged alive.
As per the official records, 40,000 people a day visit the Badamwari to enjoy the spring festival. The festival was made possible after the garden was taken over by the JK Bank as part of its corporate social responsibility and heritage trust and was formally opened for the public in 2008.
“We took over this garden from the Jammu and Kashmir Horticulture Department in 2005 and started development of the park. We have almost 70 employees here, including gardeners, sweepers, security guards and housekeeping staff,” said the garden incharge, who asked not to be named.
“We cannot compromise on the cleaning and maintainance of the park,” he said, adding, “We need people to come here and enjoy the park’s beauty. Earlier, Badamwari was dead and consigned to history; the area has been surrounded by Tibetan and other residential colonies. But now, because of JK Bank, this garden is well developed.”