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Abhishek Khan’s Fragrance Walk through Lalbagh is a lesson in botany that goes beyond textbooks

There is no denying that the Lalbagh Botanical Gardens in south Bengaluru is a favored haunt for morning walkers, nature-loving locals, and tourists. This sprawling garden is spread over 240 acres and houses close to 2,000 species of plants.

Apart from their famous biannual flower show, the gardens are popular for nature trails as well as activities such as bird watching. Did you know you can also participate in a Fragrance Walk each Sunday where you can immerse yourself in diverse scents ranging from fruity, floral, and even spicy notes? Well, this is possible due to the efforts of 37-year-old Abhishek Khan who is also the creator of Lalbagh.info, a site that serves as a free guide for this spectacular garden.

Abhishek Khan during a Fragrance Walk

A sensory experience

The Fragrance Walk is a narrative experience meant to tell the stories of how botany has shaped the aromatic aesthetics of the Western world. The walk features flowers and leaves which can be located in plain sight as one walks through the garden. Whether it is the fruity aroma of the frangipani vine the mild fragrance of a golden gardenia or the citric notes of the bottlebrush tree, the walk is a treat for the senses.

“At a Fragrance Walk, we traverse through the garden, all the while smelling, tasting, touching, and listening to what it has to say. This walk is always accompanied by a narrative where I talk about trees and plants that usually go unnoticed. I have curated a special set of trees, plants, and botanical aspects that have an interesting story and shared context,” says Abhishek.

Previous walks, Abhishek says, covered the Botany of Alcohol and Mafia of House Plants. “I am currently on the Botany of Psychedelics. Lalbagh has each of these botanicals in plain sight whose stories are waiting to be discovered.”

Abhishek Khan’s info card on mushroom types

In Botany of Alcohol, Abhishek talks about plants used to make spirits, apart from the popular ones, such as the fruit of the sausage tree, sea grapes, Mysore figs, and the like. “Mafia of House Plants is about those botanicals associated with poaching which cause ecological disruption and extinction, while the Botany of Psychedelics covers the entheogenic use of botany by shamanic cultures.”

Abhishek says he weaves these narratives into the sensory experiences of the walk as he wants trees to be seen beyond their ornamental or nutritional value. During these walks, he also tries to teach people to read trees by breaking down features of their anatomy.

“Each tree has its unique morphology. For example, people are always surprised when they first taste the rain tree pod. It is sweet like dates and the fact that we are so familiar with that pod and never considered it to be edible blows people’s minds.”

The route of the walk changes by the season which again provides a refreshing perspective on how the garden is viewed.

At a Fragrance Walk

Motivated by Climate Change

Abhishek who is a letterist by profession and practices calligraphy, lettering, and typography, firmly believes that in the context of climate change, it makes sense to help people befriend trees. His site is an explorer’s guide and has a detailed map of Lalbagh which includes monuments and botanicals apart from a flower finder. The latter provides a list of flowers that are in season and blooming with a navigator to help find them.

“I also give away cards to help people identify leaf shapes, mushroom caps, etc. I believe once we learn to recognize different aspects of anatomy, we learn to read these trees better and it leads to a more intimate connection with them.”

Abhishek Khan’s map of Lalbagh info card

According to Abhishek, Lalbagh is a treasure house of botanical species and is akin to a tree museum; helping people read and understand the specimens within the garden is what motivates him. His plans include drawing a book of maps for Lalbagh and continuing to help people read trees, mushrooms, and birds.

Walk the talk

– Book a spot on the Fragrance Walk by sending Abhishek Khan a DM on @lalbagh.info on Instagram

– Price: ₹800 per person

– Meeting point: Double Road Gate

– Timings: Sundays 8 am-10 am; plan to arrive at least at 7.50 am for parking and walking to the gate

– Suggested materials to bring along include a refillable water bottle (no single-use plastic), sun hat, sunglasses, a small basket to collect flowers/ botanicals (optional), and snacks (optional)

– Please note the following will not be allowed: DSLR cameras, single-use plastic bottles, and strong perfumes as they keep birds away

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