Guwahati, Saturday, November 24, 2018
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A park that had stories to tell
Bhaskar Phukan

An artist’s impression of Jubilee Park.
 MANY, in fact most people now living in Guwahati, do not know about a glorious park that had once existed in the heart of the city, providing an avenue for relaxation and rendezvous, where people could meet each other, and on certain occasions, host gatherings or meetings as well. This park, named Jubilee Garden, used to be maintained with great attention to aesthetic detail, and it boasted a fountain and landscaping of the surface that was done with great care. Flowers that grew on altered heights gave it a special look and a lush green turf added to its exquisite beauty. Its appeal remained undiminished for a period of more than 75 years.

The garden was located opposite the hillock that, till a few years ago, housed the residence of the Deputy Commissioner of undivided Kamrup district. To be exact, the garden existed on the plot of land that now accommodates the water filtration and supply unit located at Panbazar.

Jubilee Garden was the first of its kind in the entire region and was witness to many historic events and visits of many famous personalities, some of whom came to it as mere visitors, while others came to attend meetings hosted inside it.

The park had the privilege of hosting meetings addressed by luminaries like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Swami Vivekananda, Mohd Ali Jinnah, Gopinath Bordoloi, Bhimbar Deuri and others on some memorable and historic occasions.

Late Kumudeswar Hazarika, who carried out an arduous and extensive study on the city’s past, had stated that the park was established to commemorate the completion of 50 years of rule by Queen Victoria. It was the rule of the British crown that India was under, and the year 1887 could be ascertained as the golden jubilee year. And, therefore, the year in which the garden came into being can be assumed to be 1887 or 1888. In those days, the concept of a park was something new to the people of Guwahati, and its citizens, in the late 19th century, flocked to it with great enthusiasm.

The park, along with its beautiful ambience and soulful environment, had a proud history attached to it. Many old timers of the city often mention a meeting held in the Garden, where the issue of ‘grouping’ – a controversial matter prior to the independence of the country – was discussed in the presence of Mohd Ali Jinnah, Sir Syed Sadullah and Bhimbar Deuri. This meeting features in some articles written by political analysts and commentators of the present day. Personally, as a young student of Cotton Collegiate School, which was just a stone’s throw from the park, I have fond memories of many visits to the park with friends during the early 1960s.

Today, Guwahati city has few parks and open places where children can play freely and seniors can relax and spend quality time. Guwahati has always been a place lacking parks and open spaces, which is an essential aspect of urban living. The situation was no better during the early sixties, when the city was just taking off; it was a time when a silent city like Guwahati was on the verge of being transformed into a busy, populous city.

Planning for a growing metropolis does call for establishment of more parks and open areas. But, insensitivity and callousness of the authorities concerned have been such that the Jubilee Garden itself was made to die an unnatural death.

And, in the year 1963, the beautiful, legendary park was made to pave the way for a water treatment and supply unit!

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