January 15, 2021

Alyia Phelps-Gardiner –Krumbiegel on the ‘Lalbagh legacy’

This is a different story as we have this mum, grand mum talking on a legacy that ensured its mark on the city for generations to remember.

Bangalore is known for its gardens though it is diminishing over the years. Yet landmarks like Lalbagh gives the city its instant recognition and it surely does not fail to keep the residents and the visitors in awe.

Mums and Stories was delighted to reach out to one of the pioneers who had a hand in building the legacy of the city. An individual who had surely changed the landscape in Bangalore. Get to hear from Alyia Phelps-Gardiner-Krumbiegel , great granddaughter of Gustav Hermann Krumbiegel, the German botanist –architect known for his invaluable work at Lalbagh gardens and others in Bengaluru.

Alyia is also part of several social media groups encouraging green activists to retain and nurture greenery in  Bangalore.

Alyia Phelps-Gardiner –Krumbiegel who is based in London, shares with Mums and stories , “My fondest memories are listening to my grand mother, Hilda G.H. Krumbiegel (Krumbiegel’s oldest daughter) telling me about Lalbagh.  My Great grandfather was even given tiger cubs by visiting the Maharajahs as gifts. My grand mother for a long time remembered her life in India. I have memories of us opening the  treasure box of sarees and so many other things like the treasured bracelet gifted to my grandmother by the Maharajah of Mysore for her 18th birthday.

In a memoir shared elsewhere she writes, “My great grandfather studied horticulture and garden design at Pilnitz, Germany and after graduating, wrote several letters for an opportunity to work with The Royal Parks in London, until finally, he was offered a job to design the flower beds for Hyde Park, the largest Royal Park in London, UK.

( Gustav Hermann Krumbiegel)

The beautiful gardens of London were a usual visit for most of the Indian Subcontinent’s Royalty and thus an impressed Maharaja of Baroda, Sayajirao Gaekwad III, asked for a horticulturist for his gardens. When GHK was presented with the offer to be his horticulturist for the Baroda State, and considering a radically different climate of the Tropics, I have no doubt that my great grandfather would have thought of it as the most interesting opportunity, and accepted the offer. GHK moved to India in 1893, at the age of 26 was soon joined by his wife, my English great grandmother Katie Clara who arrived at the shores of Bombay at the age of 18. My Grandmother Hilda, Great Aunts Frieda and Vera were all born in Baroda (now in Gujarat).

My great grandfather designed his way across northern India with over 50 gardens, tea and coffee plantation estates of Ooty, several palaces and towns in Kerala and down south to the rocky terrain of Bengaluru when he was introduced to Maharaja Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV, the King of Mysore.

In 1908, GHK was offered the job as the superintendent to redesign the Lalbagh layout and was gifted a home, a bunglow known as Granite Castle. The family embraced Bangalore with their hearts and decided to make it their home.”

“ I also have memories of my mother owning a box of dresses that had been sewn by the local tailor. A few etched memories like “ While sitting on the Veranda at 22a Residency Road after Mother and Grandmother had come back from the cinema, mother always wanted the latest dress made out of sari material.

So even at school I was always interested in India I felt this deep pull. I always knew about him but now I realize I didn’t know quite enough.

My mom was always very upset about having to leave Granite Castle after Great Grandfather died and come back to a country where she had no connection with.”

My parents too had no intention to go to the UK. It was just a different time in history.”

Reminiscing the connections, Alyia shares, “Great grandfather’s blood runs deep in my veins so Bangalore is very important to me as he was also buried there. His contribution to the Karnataka state is massive although I still sometimes have to correct people who say he was just a ‘gardener’.

Finally he is spoken in the 8th grade State school text book and that is a massive achievement.

I still look forward to the day when his work will be acknowledged as one of Bangalore’s architects. My daughter and three grandchildren are far more informed than I was about him, few years ago. I need to kick start his legacy to ensure the great grandchildren carry on the special Krumbiegel legacy.

Walking in Lalbagh, over a year ago, I cannot express my thoughts. Sitting in what was his garden, in the superintendents bungalow, looking through the window and imagining Great grand mother cooking…she was a master baker.” she drifts in her thoughts.

( Alyia Phelps-Gardiner –Krumbiegel stands in front of the wall that lists the name of all the superintendents of Lalbagh.)

” Kicking my shoes off and feeling the lush Lalbagh grass and laying on the grass, looking up through the trees. Walking around trying to guess, where perhaps he stood ..I stood there too.

The GHK Foundation dedicated to him is in turn dedicated to nature, recycling and beautifying spaces. When I am back, I will be launching the GHK Foundation Public Park awards too.”

Talking on her mom, Alyia shares, “My amma passed this year and I miss her so much. She had dementia, so she didn’t really understand how much it meant to me to be finally walking in Great grandfather’s footsteps.

Our children and their children have to understand that nature is not a born-given right and if they want to enjoy nature, they need to take care of it. They are the architects of the future but it’s up to us to give them the right building blocks.

They surely need to know what’s happening to our planet and how they can help by planting a tree, recycling and taking part in community action.”

After 1932, Krumbiegel continued to live in Bangalore, working as consulting architect and advisor in town planning and horticulture, till his death in 1956. He was buried at the Methodist cemetery on Hosur Road, Bangalore.

The Krumbiegel Road, located between Lalbagh and Mavalli is named after him.

As writer Suresh Jayaram wrote a book on his life named as GH Krumbiegel: Whatever he touched, he adorned, we too hope his legacy continues to leave the mark in the city.

(Photographs are subject to copyright).

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