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Sonia Gandhi dedicates Asia's largest Tulip Garden to people
Vivek Suri | 30 Mar 2008

Sonia Gandhi dedicates Asia's largest Tulip Garden to people Tulip Garden renamed to "Indira Gandhi Tulip garden"

Sonia Gandhi dedicates Asia's largest Tulip Garden to people

Tulip Garden renamed to "Indira Gandhi Tulip garden"

VIVEK SURI

JAMMU,MARCH 30: Amid the protests regarding changing of the tulip garden in Srinagar from "Siraj Bagh" to "Indira Gandhi Tulip garden", by the Ghulam Nabi Azad-led J&K government, the UPA Chairperson, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi inaugurated the first Kashmir Tulip Festival and dedicated to the people of Jammu & Kashmir the Asia's largest tulip garden named after the former Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi on Saturday.

The garden located at the foot of the Zabarwan Hill overlooking the famous Dal Lake is conceptualized and designed by the Chief Minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad who monitored its development on regular basis.

For Sonia Gandhi, coming to Kashmir was a kind of homecoming as she became  nostalgic about her family's intimate relationship with Kashmir. Mrs. Gandhi recalled that Indira Gandhi loved nature in its different manifestations like streams, meadows, snow capped mountains and flowers, especially the flowers of Kashmir. She said Kashmir was not only a place for holidaying for her but the bedrock of her life. She recalled the lyrical description of beauty of Kashmir in the letters exchanged between Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru and his daughter and said that it reflected their joy at the sight of cherry and almond bloom.

Kashmir used to be a regular holiday destination for Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi and the sheer magic of the beauty of Kashmir lessened their tensions of politics and governance. She also alluded to the fond memories of her own and her children's visits to Kashmir with husband and former PM, Rajiv Gandhi.

"Kashmir was the natural habitat and home of tulips and it grew here in wild 1000 years before it was sent to Europe from the Valley,"said Mrs Gandhi adding the tulip was in great demand in Netherlands and a single bulb of the flower would sell at the price of a house.Tulips had tremendous potential for employment, she felt and called for the cultivation of typical local varieties which she said were in good measure available in Kashmir.

Mrs. Gandhi said that tourism was the mainstay of Kashmir's economy. She said during the last 20 years this industry suffered badly but hoped that the initiatives like the Tulip Garden and the massive development activities going on here would help improve the economic profile of Kashmir. She said her heart went out for those innocent people and men who served the country and lost their lives during the past two decades. She called for redoubling efforts to ensure complete peace and development in Jammu & Kashmir. She said combining the first Kashmir Tulip Festival and launch of the Indira Gandhi Tulip Garden was a fantastic idea. She profusely complimented Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad for conceptualizing, designing and laying out the wonderful tulip garden and said she would love to visit here next year when tulips would be in full bloom again.

Mrs. Gandhi also planted a sapling of Magnolia-Soulangia (tulip tree) in the garden. 

In his welcome address, the Chief Minister said that he had envisioned this garden two and a half years ago and developed it to advance the tourist season in Kashmir by two months. He said the season normally started in May and there was not much for the tourists to enjoy here in March and April. He said by laying out this garden tourists could now come and enjoy tulip bloom two months ahead of the beginning of the normal tourist season. He asked the tourism department officials to publicize the Tulip Garden throughout the country to attract maximum number of tourists. He said lighting arrangements had been made to also allow night viewing of tulip bloom. 

Giving an idea of the development of the Tulip Garden, Mr. Azad said that in December 2005, as many as 30,000 tulip bulbs were sown in the garden and extended to 3 lakh bulbs in December 2006. He said the garden was further extended by sowing 12 lakh bulbs last winter, making it the Asia's largest tulip garden. He said there was plan for further extension to 20 lakh bulbs next year. The garden, he said, had been developed in terraces, three of which had already been laid out while two more would be laid next year. He said while he would not like to compare the garden with Shalimar and Nishat Gardens but the Tulip Garden would be double the size of the Mughal Gardens by next year. He said the people of Jammu & Kashmir and tourists visiting the Valley would be benefited by this facility.  He thanked Mrs. Sonia Gandhi for accepting his invitation at short notice to dedicate the garden to the people.

The Chief Minister also presented a picture of the Tulip Garden and a papier machie table to Mrs. Sonia Gandhi and a shawl to the Defence Minister as souvenirs.