HC Javaraya, eminent Karnataka horticulturist whose apple cultivation technique is still used in Switzerland

A pictorial biography on the illustrious life and career of Rao Bahadur HC Javaraya was released in Bengaluru on Friday.

ByDeeksha Devadiga

Published Apr 15, 2023 | 1:08 PMUpdatedApr 15, 2023 | 2:03 PM

Rao Bahadur HC Javaraya (seated, right) with apple growers in Kashmir

The popular lantern-shaped granite watchtower we see today at the West Gate of Bengaluru’s Lalbagh was once set to be demolished. Back then, the structure was in the house of Dewan PN Krishnamurti’s grandson and there came a time when they wanted to tear down the building.

But there was one individual who had a different plan for the structure. Rao Bahadur HC Javaraya decided to translocate the structure to the Basavanagudi gate at the Lalbagh Botanical Garden.

He conceptualised the idea, meticulously numbered each granite stone, dismantled it, and put it back in the garden.

HC Javaraya was among those who transformed the Lalbagh Botanical Garden and nurtured Bengaluru into the Garden City we know today.

Did you know that his apple cultivation technique is still being used in Switzerland?

The watchtower that was dismantled and placed in Lalbagh

The watchtower that was dismantled and placed in Lalbagh (Supplied)

Pictorial biography

A pictorial biography of Rao Bahadur HC Javaraya (1889–1946), the first Indian director of horticulture during the British colonial regime in the princely state of Mysore, was released on Friday in Bengaluru.

The biographical book ‘A Gardener and a Gentleman’, with the help of archival documents, photographs, and testimonials, outlines Javaraya’s vital and lasting contributions as one of India’s most eminent horticulturists.

A dapper-looking young CH Javaraya

A dapper-looking young Javaraya (Supplied)

HC Javaraya’s grandson Harish Padmanabha spoke to South First and traced the highlights of his journey before the book was launched. “The visions for the idea of a model state were translated by enlightened individuals like him,” he said.

The book was a long time coming, said author Meera Iyer. Talking to South First, she said, “The family had preserved a lot of archival photographs, letters, and original certificates. It was only right to pen down this history.”

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HC Javaraya’s early life

The biographical book is titled ‘A Gardener and a Gentleman’. (Supplied)

HC Javaraya, born in Madikeri (then Mercara) in Karnataka, was the eldest son of a judge, Rao Sahib H Chennaiah. He completed his formal education in agriculture at the Coimbatore Agricultural College in 1913 and later joined the Mysore Horticulture Society as assistant superintendent.

Soon HC Javaraya went on to train at the distinguished Royal Botanic Garden in Kew, London. He spent a year of rigorous training there in all forms of horticulture and also requested an extension of time for a few more months to travel around Western Europe to visit most of the famous horticultural gardens in Scandinavia and Germany.

Archival Images from the book

Archival Images from the book (Supplied)

After having seen the processes adopted by the West, he came back to India and successfully implemented them here while also keeping our tropical climate in mind.

GH Krumbiegel, the then superintendent of the government gardens in Mysore, recommended Javaraya as his ‘worthy successor’. Javaraya was then just 30 years old.

Javaraya carried forward the efforts of Krumbiegel in retaining the city’s identity with his vision of establishing and sustaining agricultural marketing along with gardens.

Only two years later in 1934, Javaraya was appointed as the senior marketing officer at the newly formed Agricultural Produce Department of Greater India. He was behind the start and the marketing of the campaign for AGMARK, which is now a standard mark for any agricultural produce.

Mr & Mrs HC Javaraya in Mysore Durbar Dress

Mr & Mrs Javaraya in Mysore Durbar Dress (Supplied)

During his tenure, Maharaja Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV entrusted him with the responsibility of the public gardens in Mysore, the Royal Fruit Orchard ‘Madhuvana’ at the foothills of Chamundi Hills, and the popular Brindavan Gardens at the Krishnaraja Sagar dam.

Still used in Switzerland

Padmanabha believes his grandfather was more of a ‘fruit man’ and calls apple cultivation his forte.

Javarya would go to Kashmir and check the quality of apples before they were dispatched.

Apples need a specific weather to grow. Nevertheless, Javarya grew an apple variety called the ‘Rome Beauty’ in Bengaluru. He wrote a paper explaining the process of growing these apples in unfavourable conditions.

Javaraya with a Rome Beauty sapling (Supplied)

Javaraya with a Rome Beauty sapling (Supplied)

When author Meera Iyer started penning down Javarya’s biography, she went the extra mile looking for his paper on apple cultivation.

Iyer, speaking to South First, said, “I had heard a lot about the paper and I had seen many scientists cite it in their research. But I couldn’t get my hands on the actual paper. I searched many archival libraries including foreign universities. And finally, somebody from Switzerland found it for me. To this day Switzerland uses his method to grow apples in unfavourable conditions.”

The Maddur Fruit Orchard, the Ganjam Fig Garden, and the Government Fruit Research Station (FRS) in Hessaraghatta were founded by Javaraya.

“Not many know this but when Javarya started FRS, it was just a small land of 40 acres and he got the funds from the federal government. Today it has become the Indian Institute of Horticulture Research with FRS as its forerunner. It now spans more than 300 acres,” Padmananbha said.

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Transforming Lalbagh

HC Javaraya circle in Bengaluru

HC Javaraya Circle in Bengaluru (Supplied)

The glasshouse at Lalbagh was conceptualised by John Cameron in 1889, the year Javaraya was born.

Cameron took inspiration from the Crystal Palace, England, to envision the glasshouse. He built a conservatory that had three wings and just a small jetting out of the eastern wing.

Javarya extended the glasshouse in 1935 with a fourth (eastern) wing using steel from the newly operational Bhadravathi Iron and Steel. The new wings were very strategically and symmetrically aligned with the old wings.

The main gate of Lalbagh facing north is named after John Cameron and the roundabout outside the main gate is known as Rao Bahadur HC Javaraya Circle.

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He was also involved in the landscape planning and beautification of Delhi’s avenues and gardens and introduced flower shows in that city. He was bestowed the coveted honour of “Rao Bahadur” by the then viceroy of India, the Marquis of Linlithgow in 1940, for his contributions to the nation.

He was bestowed the coveted honour of “Rao Bahadur” by the colonial government

He was bestowed the coveted honour of “Rao Bahadur” by the colonial government (Supplied)

Javaraya conducting the Vicerine Lady Linlithgow around Delhi Flower Show, 1939

Javaraya conducting the Vicerine Lady Linlithgow during the Delhi Flower Show, 1939 (Supplied)

He was one of the few horticulturists to have received the Kew Garden Fellowship, the Royal Horticultural Society (FRHS) fellowship, and the even rarer distinction of being a fellow of the Linnean Society of London (FLS), an honour given to very few naturalists.

After he retired in 1944, Nawab of Bhopal appointed him as the horticulturist and agricultural advisor. Shortly thereafter he died of a heart attack at the age of 57.

Remembering HC Javaraya

Javarya’s family to this day remembers him as a sharply dressed and disciplined man. He was a keen golfer and tennis player and also was a captain of the football team in the city. While he imbibed British culture, he didn’t forget Indian traditions.

Javaraya was also a keen sportsman (Supplied)

Javaraya was also a keen sportsman (Supplied)

To write the book, Meera Iyer went through many archival documents such as contemporary newspapers, the British Library, National Archives, and other small libraries around the world.

Her father and cousins who grew up with Javarya or heard his stories were her best source of information.

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