Wednesday 13 March 2013

The Sultan and his fruits

Over the last few years, Karnataka has emerged as a major horticultural hub of India and part of the credit must go to Tipu Sultan, the Tiger of Mysore.
As per the latest estimates, horticultural crops occupy an area of 18 lakh hectares with a production 136.38 lakh tonnes. Although the area under horticulture comprises only 14.44 per cent of the net cultivated area, the total income from this sector stands at 40 per cent of the total income derived from the combined agriculture sector (This includes income from agriculture, floriculture and horticulture put together). This sector accounts for 17 per cent of the GDP of the state.
Tipu Sultan took keen interest in the cultivation of crops, planting of  trees and encouraging setting up of farms and gardens in his Mysore State.
People today seem to have remembered only Lalbagh in Bangalore as Tipu’s green gift to the people of the State. What they have forgotten or seem not to know is that this ruler took an active interest in greening of the entire Mysore State that he ruled.
Tipu encouraged planning of mango and cypress trees. Such trees were not only planted in Lalbagh but also in his gardens in Srirangapatna, Sangam, Ganjam, Sira, Malavalli and many villages around Srirangapatna-Mysore and Bangalore-Mysore belt.
Tipu also took keen interest in developing varieties of mangoes and he encouraged people to go in for large-scale mango cultivation. When he died in 1799, the British found thousands of mango trees in Malavalli in Mandya district. Unfortunately, the mango grove is gone and all we can see today is a vast expanse of green.
Tipu also planted a number of trees in and around Srirangapatna. The Gumbaz and Dari Daulat in Srirangapatna were full of flowering plants and shrubs. Even Lord Cornwallis, the then Governor-General of India, was moved to remark that when he visited Srirangapatna, he found it to be full of gardens and farms.
Tipu was a pioneer in developing different species of plants and trees. He sent missions abroad, particularly to Iran and Turkey, to collect seeds of flowering plants, vegetables and fruits including the famed Ganjam fig and the Devanahalli pomelo.
There are enough records to prove Tipu’s interest in developing horticulture. In 1799, immediately after the defeat of Tipu Sultan, the British asked Francis Buchanan to survey South India.
Buchanan visited several places in south India, including the erstwhile Kingdom of Tipu, and wrote the historical work, “A journey from Madras through the Countries of Mysore, Canara and Malabar (1807)”.
This book gives an interesting account of horticultural fields which were called tota, as they existed during Tipu’s regime. Buchanan lists 48 types of vegetables grow in Mysore State and also the four types of Thota- tarkari tota or kitchen gardens; tayngana or Tengina tota or coconut gardens, Yele tota or betel-leaf gardens and Huvina tota or flower gardens.
Tipu’s library, when looted by the British, had many books on fruit bearing plants and their management. Interestingly, the library had also a book in which Buchanan had taken notes on horticulture when he attended lectures at the Botanical gardens in Edinberg in 1780 in Scotland.
Buchanan had lost the manuscript and it had come into the possession of Tipu. The book was bound in leather and was discovered in his library in 1799.     
Records indicate that an 80-member mission headed by Mohammed Darwesh Khan was sent by Tipu to France. The mission reached Paris on July 16, 1788, and met the French Emperor and handed over a memorandum given by Tipu.
Among other things, the memorandum sought seeds of flowering plants, vegetables, European fruit plants and trees. The mission was successful in procuring spice plants and camphor seedlings from Molucca.
Tipu next sent a trade mission to Turkey which met Sultan Hameed in Constantinopole on November 5, 1787. It carried large quantities of black pepper, cardamom, sandal wood  and succeeded in identifying an overseas market for this produce.

The mission brought back seeds of many flowers, vegetables and fruits.The famous Ganjam variety of fig was brought from Turkey.
Tipu also wrote to the Darogha at Muscat and instructed him to buy saffron seeds and date palms. The Darogha was also asked to obtain silk worms from Qishm island and send them to Srirangapatna along with a few men knowledgeable about sericulture.
The Mysore Kingdom encouraged farmers to cultivate mulberry in their lands. In several diplomatic and trade missions sent by Tipu Sultan to countries like Muscat, Oman, Jordan, Iraq, Iran and Penang, export and import of horticultural produce was a major component.
Tipu encouraged Tigalas near Salem to come to Bangalore and Mysore and lend their expertise in cultivation of vegetables. Several families of Tigalas migrated to Bangalore, Hoskote, Kolar, Devanahalli and Sira, and helped the State boost cultivation of vegetables.
Tipu exempted farmers growing vegetable crops and cash crops like cashew, cardamom and cinnamon from payment of land revenue. The famous Devanahalli pomelo was also introduced by Tipu.
He made it mandatory for the village patels to plant avenue trees on either sides of the roads throughout his kingdom. He wanted mango and tamarind trees to be planted.
Hyder Ali, father of Tipu, laid the foundation of Lalbagh in Bangalore. Initially, the Lalbagh was in the style of Char-bagh and it was planned on 40 acres.  
Hyder imported plants form Delhi, Multan, Lahore and Arcot, apart from laying out a garden at Malvalli and another fruit garden at Srirangapatna, also called Lalbagh.
Tipu expanded the Lalbagh in Bangalore by acquiring more land. The garden was earlier known as cypress garden because the roads from the entrance to the garden and inside the garden were lined with cypress trees.

This is evident from a painting of this garden drawn on the spot by R H Colebrooke and published in 1793 at London. Another painting of the Lalbagh by James Hunter published in 1805 and showing many cypress trees is captioned East view of Bangalore with the Cypress garden.
The Lalbagh of Srirangapatna was equally well-known. The Gardens around the Gumbaz where both Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan are buried were full of fruit trees, flowers and vegetables of every description. This Lalbagh is also believed to have served as a nursery for the kingdom. Fruits like apples, pears, guava and plantains were successfully grown here.
Betel nuts, coconuts, sandalwood, sugarcane, indigo, cotton, mulberry, cereals and pulses were also grown.
Unfortunately, many of the magnificent Cypress trees in and around Srirangapatna were axed by the British during the Third Mysore War (1792) to provide firewood for British troops. After the war, Tipu restored much of the glory. But in the final war of 1799, British troops breached the fort wall and devastated Lalbagh. Nothing remains of this garden today except a painting of the entrance to Lalbagh at Srirangapatna by James Hunter (1805).
The fruit orchard at Malavalli also no longer exists. Buchanan who visited this garden after Tipu’s death noticed 2,400 trees with mangoes and oranges in abundance.
What is little known is that Tipu’s love for horticulture was so great that he linked this with dispensation of justice. For petty offences, convicts had to plant fast growing plants and for major offences, they had to plant trees like jamun, mango and coconut.
In 1788, Tipu Sultan issued a circular to all Amildars and in 1792 he passed a regulation that the fines of the farmers shall be commuted if the offender plants two trees, waters them and nurtures them till they reach a certain prescribed height.
No wonder, horticulture in the State has taken off. Today, even the farmers of dryland areas of Bijapur, Bagalkot, Gulbarga and Raichur are being encouraged to go in for horticulture cultivation.
About 58,000 hectares has been brought under horticultural crops through the watershed programmes. Horticulture provides higher unit productivity and offers great scope for value addition and this sector is taking inroads throughout the length and breadth of the state.
 Karnataka has the highest acreage under dry farming in the country next only to Rajasthan. At present, there are 1533 licensed processing units in the State with annual production of 2 lakh tons of processed products. The processed fruits are Mango, Grapes, Pineapple, Papaya, Guava and others.  The major vegetables processed are Tomato, Potato, peas, Gherkins and others
The state has emerged as the country's largest exporter of pomegranates.
Farmers in north Karnataka had exported as much as 700 tonnes of pomegranates and had dethroned neighbouring Maharashtra. Maharashtra exported 600 tonnes of pomegranates annually last fiscal. The first two months of the current fiscal saw exports already cross the 200 tonnes mark.
Horticultural crops are grown in an area of 16,300 km² and the annual production is about 9.58 million tons. The income generated from horticulture constitutes over 40 per cent of income generated from agriculture and its is about 17 per cent of the state's GDP.
An offshoot of  horticulture is floriculture. Karnataka occupies the second position in India in terms of production and 700 tons of flowers (worth Rs. 500 million).
A majority of the 3500 crore silk industry in India is headquartered in Karnataka, particularly in the North Bangalore regions of Muddenahalli, Kanivenarayanapura and Doddaballapur and the Ramanagar-Channapatna-Maddur region.

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