Snuggled on the foothills of the Zabarwan mountain range at an altitude of 5,600 feet, overlooking the fabulous Dal Lake, in Siraj Bagh besides the scenic Botanical Gardens, Tulip Garden (Gulelala Bagh) is not only one of the largest gardens in Asia but also a home to several flower species other than tulips, like daffodils, hyacinths, roses, muscaria, iris, and rammeuli. These flowers in the garden bloom towards the end of March to create a rainbow of colours. When gazing upon this nature’s wonder from afar, one feels like a rainbow has descended on the earth to offer us a celestial view of what paradise would look like.
There are seven terraces each with a different variety of flowers, especially tulips, to attract visitors. The garden is truly a treat to the senses – the bright colours will enchant your sight while the mesmerising smell of the blooming flowers will refresh your mind.
Once called the Model Floricultural Center, the Tulip Garden was first opened in 2007. The Dal Lake, Nishat, and Chashma Shahi Gardens surround this beautiful garden on three sides. About 4.6 lakh tulip bulbs were brought from Holland for this garden. This flower garden was the first large landscaping project undertaken by the government after the Mughals built pleasure spots in Kashmir in the 16th century.
Until 2013 I had only heard about the beauty of this garden from others, and had seen the pictures of the tulips either in newspapers or in books. My desire to visit this garden was so much that every year I would crave to see the flowers inside the garden. But then I would get busy with something and my inquisitiveness to see this garden would wither away year after year. Then finally one day, I got a chance to see this lovely landscape of tulips.
I still remember my first visit to this garden in 2013 when I was accompanied by a close friend of mine. After entering the gate, we stepped into an arbour of multi-coloured tulips on all sides. We simply were awestruck. It was truly so winsome that we felt as if we were walking inside paradise. The breathtaking beauty of the thrilling bloom inside the garden left us bewildered for some time, till our senses revived. In Kashmir, the months of March and April bring lovely showers from the skies which add more charm to the scene. It rained that day, too, intermittently from the hovering cloud puffs over the Zabarwan Hills, and not only drenched us but also delighted us in the grand company of tulips. It would rain sometimes so hurriedly that the visitors would run to protect themselves and then, within moments, the dazzling sun would come out again to warm the sightseers up. The brighter sunlight would not only add more to the exquisiteness of the garden but would also rejuvenate the visitors.
No sooner than we entered the garden, we were welcomed by a fountain. Seeing the tourists busy in capturing the bloom with the fountain in the foreground, we could not resist the temptation to do the same. It is an incredible piece of luck, though, if the weather remains sunny during the blooming days in the garden, because when it rains, the rain water not only gets collected in the flower beds but the mud also discomforts the visitors.
Years have gone by since I visited this majestic garden in Srinagar. Now, a lot more would have changed in the interiors. Those days, visitors would relish a cup of Kashmir saffron kehwa inside the garden soon after they would find themselves inside it. The kehwa was served with Kashmiri bread called Chachvor. Being Kashmiris, we are habitual of having kehwa at our homes and offices. But the kehwa that was served inside the tulip garden was especially alluring. I recall we had a cup of saffron kehwa in the company of many laughing tourists. I have also not forgotten relishing gol-guppay (pani-puri) outside the garden gate.
The tulips bloom for weeks on end and fascinate completely the onlookers, but the charisma of the starting days is more enthralling than the closing days. During the initial days the garden remains thronged with tourists. I had an opportunity to strike up conversations with tourists who had come from different parts of the country. They praised the natural beauty of Kashmir a lot which according to them is ‘heaven on earth’. I haven’t forgotten still my conversation with a Sikh couple from Punjab who had put up a hotel in Dalgate, Srinagar, for some days ahead of the inauguration. They had come early to Srinagar and were eagerly waiting for the tulip garden to be thrown open. To them, Kashmir was a land of bliss and beauty where one finds great tranquillity, joy, and feels almost reborn.
Over 15 lakh (1.5 million) flowers of 62 varieties are blooming this year in the garden. An additional two lakh bulbs have been planted, compared to last year’s figure of 13 lakh tulips which unfortunately withered away without catching the eye of any visitor due to the Covid-19 lockdown. However, this year, the garden of tulips will not remain unseen as all the SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) are kept in place. If you are visiting Srinagar this spring season, make sure to visit the iconic tulip garden beside the botanical garden. It is half an hour’s wonderful journey from the city centre to a place where thousands of tulips will toss their heads in a sprightly dance to welcome you.
The writer teaches English at Govt Middle School, Shangergund, zone Dangiwacha, Rafiabad. [email protected]