Landscape architecture, garden design, planting design and management - Rowland Byass

Picnic in Rani ka Bagh

16/02/2013

Winter is the most pleasant time of year in northern India. It's the season for weddings and outdoor activities, before the heat drives people into the shade. About this time last month, Raju, who runs the Lost Gardens restoration project in Rajnagar, organised a small picnic for some of the tourists staying in his family-run guest house, his family and some of the workers from two of the gardens under restoration. We spent half a day in Rani ka Bagh, enjoying the winter sunshine, sharing food and company. It was an idyllic and quietly memorable afternoon.

Mother and calf united

The samadhi platform with water channel from the garden's well skirting it. At one time this would have been used as a place of cremation, probably for the royal patron for whom the garden was created.

The garden temple, viewed from the samadhi platform under the shade of an old Bael or wood apple tree (Aegle marmelos)

Like the samadhi platform, the temple is raised on a masonry plinth, denoting its status as a sacred precinct. African marigolds (Tagetes), used throughout India in Hindu worship, have seeded themselves into cracks in the lime mortar.

The kothi (storehouse). In the foreground is the site used for making lime mortar for use in the restoration of the garden buildings. Ground bricks are combined with slaked lime in the circular groove to make the mortar.

The recently restored rear facade of the kothi

Making spinach pakoras over an improvised wood stove

Eating pakoras

Raju's wife, hyperactive son and extended family

Looking down on the garden from the kothi roof terrace

Shiva, elephant and corner chhatri on the temple roof

Raju (manager of the Lost Gardens project), his wife and daughter in law

One of the best things about the picnic was the way that foreign tourists, workers from the gardens and Raju's family met together to share food in the garden. It's not always easy for tourists to meet locals on such easy and intimate terms in a tourist centre like Khajuraho.

Raju and his son, eating thali with toffeelike country jaggery (unrefined sugar) accompaniment.

Picking chickpea shoots. They taste great raw in a salad or cooked.

Calf. The cow's digestive system turns biomass into fertiliser for the garden.The calf: cattle, and their digestive systems, are the key link in the cycling of nutrients in traditional Indian agriculture.

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