Chandigarh in bloom
This season, Le Corbusier's city is a riot of colour, thanks to Nature.
A CITY'S MAJESTIC TREESCAPE: Jacarandas in full bloom. PHOTOS: RAJNISH WATTAS
SPRING is a many-splendoured season in Chandigarh. Its roadsides, open spaces and parks are adorned with the colour and fragrance of flowers and tree blossoms. With the flowering trees there is a riot of pink, lilac, bright red and myriad other colours form the palette of nature's brush; the city's avenues undergo a Cinderella-like transformation. Roads, with hitherto plain looking trees, change overnight, into ethereal vistas of blossoms all the way. The beauty of majestic treescape is a round-the-year symphony with the notes changing with the different seasons.
Chandigarh, one of the greatest experiments in urban planning of the 20th Century, attracts world-wide attention for its architecture and planned landscaping. The landscape comprises avenue plantations, plantations in architectural complexes, green belts and city parks and forests.
As envisaged by Le Corbusier the city's architect-planner the fast-moving traffic roads would have dense foliage evergreen trees and each neighbourhood (called Sector) would be marked by a distinct colour and character of tree blossoms along its shopping streets. As such, many of these are now aesthetic vistas of bright-coloured tree blossoms. The shopping street of a neighbourhood is a "dreamscape" of amaltas trees laden with yellow blossoms while another one is a pink and mauve coloured panorama of lagerstroemias. In one of the southern sectors, one can admire the beautiful pink coloured landscape of cassias.
Another good example of a neighbourhood street planted with beautiful flowering trees is the inner road of a northern sector with its rows of lahura trees that have yellowish-orange flowers. Although a small-sized tree with a drooping branch pattern, a row creates an avenue of great beauty. The shopping retreat of another sector is lined with the florescence of yellow blossoms of kassod trees, which have the rare distinction of flowering in autumn.
At the city park
If one gets away from the avenues and visits the largest city park called Leisure Valley, it has an Arcadian beauty of clusters of flowering trees. The symphony of spring in Chandigarh's Leisure Valley is an unforgettable feast.
The "curtain-raisers" of this concert in the valley are the semul trees. Tall and strapping, with branches jutting out from the stem, they first shed all their leaves in the cold of January.
Then in early February, they don big bouquets of crimson coloured flowers. In fact, the flowering is so profuse that the ground beneath gets carpeted with them. Be careful while standing under it for a huge flower may suddenly drop on your head! As one walks along the serpentine zigzag path in the valley, you notice clumps of magnificent jacarandas covered in lilac coloured blossoms lighting up the adjoining dark, brooding foliage. Along with them is the bright plumage of hoopoes, which are one of the most people-friendly birds.
A VISUAL TREAT: The Laburnum tree.
But the most spectacular display is by the tecoma trees. They first shed their dusty small leaves and then metamorphose into radiant yellow bunches of flowers. As the sun's rays fall on their magical splendour, they are ablaze like yellow orbs. With some of the trees drooping over the stone embanked, tiny rivulet they cast kaleidoscopic reflections in its waters.
A very peculiar, but aesthetic, experience of spring in Chandigarh is the profuse leaf-shedding and change of foliage of some species. Trees like pilkhan and kusum have the fascinating characteristic of heavy leaf-fall during March.
Even in a slight breeze, the old and tired, brown, russet and golden leaves are ready to say goodbye to these trees. They fall from the branches to lazily float down below to their final resting places. Like crumpled pieces of worn-out garments, they lie below silently, ready to be squelched by a passer-by.
As it turns mid-April, you see "gold" on the branches of silver oak trees planted along roads and in parks. Tufts of golden flowers lend a striking contrast to the silver-hued feathery leaves swaying with the breeze. They are the favourite playgrounds of squirrels hopping from one branch to another like tomboys of the tree-tops. Also, one can spot grey hornbills, with their hooked beaks perched on the branches in meditative silence.
And soon enough as spring ripens into summer the laburnums (amaltas) with their sparkling yellow flowers (oozing all the golden radiance of the sharp summer sun), and the gulmohars with their umbrella-shaped crowns, laden with scarlet red flowers, steal the show.
Even if it's too hot to savour the brilliant blaze of these colours; they paint the city with a Van Gogh-like brush into an impressionist painting!
But to truly experience the enchanting beauty of Chandigarh's flowering treescapes be "up with the lark". The morning light as it falls on the efflorescent trees, distant Blue Mountains and the "winged-beauty" of birds makes for paradise. No wonder, it's called the "Garden City" stealthily stealing this crown from Bangalore!
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