Saturday, February 16, 2008

School yard banyan at the Baden Powell’s

We, at Mysore, tend to take for granted our heritage. A long-time Mysore resident, and a tree-lover, told me the other day that he had driven past the Baden Powell Public School near Crawford Hall so many times, for so long, that it had never occurred to him to stop by for a closer look at the great banyan sprawl that covers a fair chunk of the school ground.
The mightiest among the tree species Banyan spreads out its green cover, with drop-roots mushrooming in ever widening radius around it main trunk. Because of drop-roots the banyan has propensity to survive even if its trunk gets weakened. The Adyar banyan at the Theosophical Society in Chennai had its trunk uprooted in gale in 1989. Horticulture experts and engineers moved in with a crane to rehab the stricken tree. Surviving on the strength of its drop roots Adyar Banyan continues to attract thousands of sight-seers. It is said to be the second biggest in the country, next to the one in Kalkota. In contrast to Adyar, the banyan in Mysore, which can rank among the top ten in India goes widely unnoticed. A local tree lover, Mr K R Kumar, speaks of another banyan on the Mysore University campus at Manasagangotri.

Mr Kumar, who has written extensively on trees, could share his thoughts on the banyans of Mysore. I wish the school authorities, in consultation with the forest department, put up a board, containing a brief account of the school yard banyan’s known history and vital statistics such as its age, the spread, trunk width and tonnage, for the benefit of interested visitors.A scout master at the school said the tree could be over 150 years, adding that the head of the school management knew a lot more about its history. With inputs from him and other knowledgeable persons we could compile a folk account – anecdotes, customs and rituals (some banyans are worshipped) connected with the tree – of the Banyans of Mysore, as material for eco-tourism promotion.

Schools all over the city could organize students visit to the banyan at Baden Powell school. They could be encouraged to hold annual on-the-spot painting contest under the tree, on the banyan theme. Friends Of Roadside Trees or some other organization could sponsor such contest.

On my part, I propose to send these pictures for inclusion in Kelly Martin’s web gallery that has over 50 images of celebrated banyans of Kolkota, Goa, and from the US, Mexico and Vietnam.

6 comments:

Gouri Satya said...

I cherish the memory of this tree because here I spent my boyhood evenings as a scout and this beautiful banyan was the ideal spot for we scouts of the Ramblers' Scout Group to learn roping and earn a badge. Sadly, the Ramblers' Scout Group, like the Jaya Scout Group, is no longer in existence. But, I am happy that this banyan has grown big to house a number of birds, if not nurse the scouts as it did a few decades back. The banyan had two ideal branches for we scouts -- one to tie the thick rope above and the other to stand underneath it, catch the rope and swing till the sunset, unmindful of the bird-droppings and the fear of snakes from the nearby anthills. We loved the engine whistle of the train that went past on the Mysore-Nanjangud track close-by and some times the firing of the bullets from the nearby firing range. This was our most enjoying game, when the banyan rocked us to joy and happiness practically every evening for a couple of years. It was cool and refreshing underneath the tree. Awaiting our turn to swing, we spent our time sitting on the few boulders that were scattered around it. That was nearly half a century back!

GVK said...

Mr Satya, Makes interesting reading. Such input would help us build up folk history of Mysore heritage trees.
Elsewhere in the world they make eco-tourism capital out of such green asset, by organising some events/activities around the tree. I believe they do it in Kolkota. The Adyar banyan attracts a steady flow of sight-seers.
That the banyan at the Baden Powell's has been a training ground for scouts and guides for generations is in itself something worth writing about. This would interest folks like you, who have been with the scouts and guides movement. The banyan ground serves as a suitable place for scouts camps, involving students from other schools. We need to spread the word,among scouts in India and abroad, about the role played by the school yard banyan in training generations of scouts and guides.

Anonymous said...

Mr. GVK, I fully endorse your views. On a latter thought, I feel this sprawling tree should be named after Baden Powell, the founder of the Scout Movement, because this tree was there even before the Jayachamarajendra Scouts & Guides Headquarters building was constructed close-by, over half a century ago. Jayachamaraja Wadiyar was himself a boy scout and offered the land for the construction of this building, behind the Deputy Commissioner's office and he declared it open when the building was ready. The adjacent grounds was the open ground where boy scouts and girl guides were trained for the marchpast in the Vijaya Dasami procession by an officer of the reserve police every evening after school hours, for nearly a fortnight. This tree has sheltered many scouts and guides on this and several other occasions like the scouts and guides camps, city level scouts and guides competitions, and jamborees. On a few occasions, a few boy scouts from aborad had pitched their tents and camped here when they were on a visit to Mysore.

shanks said...

Intresting reading from both GVK and Satya. Even I remember it from the school days from 1973. We used to play cricket in that ground and also we used to have our NCC parade there.

I very well remember the picture post card beauty of sun setting over the horizon, with Kukkarahalli Tank and birds flying in wonderful formation and of course adding charm was the Steam Engine train to Nanjangud. We used to enjoy this setting day after day sitting and swinging in this banyan tree. Long Live the Tree.

Gouri Satya said...

'Anonymous said' should read 'gouri satya said'.

Rohit Agarwal said...

This has reminded me of my class and my friends how we use to climb and swing and jump from one branch to another...we use to play football, cricket and other sports games in this play ground and our weekend Saturday exercises and sports events..

I remember even today how all classes and teachers and others were gathered in this ground due to a false alarm about an earthquake...


It has a memory of my childhood in it....