Tourists Throng Srinagar’s Tulip Garden

9 April 2008

Srinagar: Thousands of tulips of various hues at the foothills of the Zabarwan hills on the banks of Dal Lake here are drawing tourists and local Kashmiris alike these days. The flowers have bloomed in a 30-acre expanse of land previously known as Siraj Bagh and renamed as Indira Gandhi Tulip Garden by Congress president Sonia Gandhi last month. “It is a riot of colours. There are more than 60 varieties of tulips, which have come to flower in the garden. It is a visual feast,” S.K. Sharma, a tourist from Delhi, said. At least two Bollywood producers have already approached the administration for permission to shoot films inside the garden. “Bollywood blockbusters like ‘Silsila’ had extended song sequences in the Dutch tulip gardens, which are famous all over the world. We hope this tulip garden provides a matching locale for filmmakers,” said Naeem Akhter, state tourism secretary. The tulip garden is the brainchild of Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad who personally supervised every detail to make it possible. “We imported 900,000 tulip bulbs from Holland to lay the garden. More than 400 gardeners worked in three shifts daily to meet the deadline to get it ready by the end of March,” director of floriculture Ghulam Sarwar Naqash told IANS here. “Tulips come to flower in spring and we had to import and sow the bulbs at the right time to ensure their flowering and maturity,” said Naqash. “The garden shall finally cover 50 acres of land even though this time it is already Asia’s largest tulip garden.” The authorities have fixed Rs.50 as the entry fee to the garden. But many people feel this is exorbitant. “It may be okay for the tourists to pay such an entry fee but the majority of locals cannot afford it,” said Bilal Ahmad, 43, a shopkeeper in the city centre, Lal Chowk. “We have approached the higher authorities to reconsider the entry fee. But we must understand that tulips are delicate flowers and overcrowding inside the garden can damage them,” Naqash said. Railway Minister Lalu Prasad, his wife Rabri Devi and their family visited the tulip garden this week. “We have been highly impressed by the effort of the state chief minister. It is really a dream garden,” Lalu Prasad said at the end of his two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir.