Recently I saw some flower-filled spring photos of India’s capital city on a social media platform. Delhi travel bloggers are having a heyday with their cameras during spring walks and their photos triggered a massive homesickness in me. The best way to distract homesickness when “going home” is nowhere in sight, is to think of the good memories and I consciously dug up my Delhi parks moments of last year.
Delhi parks in spring are the perfect antidotes of the city’s negative image
Naturally, I had to brag about it to my German spouse, when he insensitively burst the bubble by snarkily commenting, “And you are claiming this about the world’s most polluted city!” The comment which initially made my blood boil (because I am very much in love with Delhi), also set me thinking. It is true that Delhi receives a lot of bad press in the Western world and most travelers just cannot wait to escape from it. It is such a pity because Delhi can be a very pleasing place to experience and it is indeed lovely in spring. When I checked the statistics regarding the most polluted cities online, there were some good news as well as bad. While India still had many cities ranking in that list, happily Delhi had slipped to the 11th spot. This was a sharp fall from the previous 1st spot and it made me think, that perhaps the good citizens of India’s behemoth capital city are finally waking up to be more aware. There has been a change in the mindset of Delhities and the proud residents are gearing up to protect the green areas of their city. They are flaunting spring walks in numerous Delhi parks and gardens and social media is abuzz with the sudden change of the city’s “most polluted” image.
Let’s experience Delhi with “glass half-full” perspective
Recently, I read a very interesting article by Bill Gates where he focuses on the good things that our earth is experiencing rather than the grim news of disasters and it had a very interesting perspective of looking at things from the “glass half full” angle. He mentioned that while we have all circulated the news of impending environmental disasters with full fury, not many have bothered to keep track of whether the unfortunate event has actually occurred or not. In most cases, these disasters have been averted, thanks to the massive hue and cry, and damage control steps have been implemented. The sudden boost of flowery “spring in Delhi parks” viral social media posts made me feel the same way and I am confident that eventually, Delhi will recover from its imposed stigmas. This does not, however, mean that India’s capital city is an easy place to navigate especially for the first time visitors and new expats. Try to cross a street in Janpath amidst beggars, dangerously driven tuk-tuks, and buses, with toddlers in tow and you will want to board a plane immediately to rush back home. However, there are also plenty of places to go with children to let off steam in Delhi and the key is getting away from the traffic. Nehru Park in Chanakyapuri is one such idyllic green space, which provides a much-needed respite after a day of hectic sightseeing.
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Lenin stares with immortal eyes amidst flowers at Nehru Park
Sprawling on the edge of the diplomatic enclave, Nehru Park is an 85-acre park which is highly popular with joggers. Named after Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, this well-tended park has gently rolling lawns, blooming flower beds, and hosts of resident parakeets. These winged beauties especially love the Palash trees and during spring can be seen sipping nectar from the clusters of red rubbery petalled blossoms. The park also attracts a lot of migratory birds during the winter months and they love to hop and skip about the 1987 statue of Lenin, which is located at one corner. This statue was unveiled to display India’s political affiliation during the Cold War and is a bizarre relic which stands mute today.
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And then there was the violet floral vision
At the time of my visit, Delhi parks and gardens were at their blooming peak and every tree, shrub, and vine sported different floral hues. The flowers came in vivid yellows, red, orange, and white, and omnipresent bougainvillea painted the town pink. Many trees were covered with tender young shoots and the new leaves glimmered like gold in the spring sun. Akash and I spent a very relaxing day at the park, which was a breather after being stuck in traffic and all around us picnicking families enjoyed delicious food spread out on sheets. Very much in love couples tried to sneak some privacy between flowering bushes and energetic cricket matches were in action. On our way back to the homestay in Ghaziabad, we passed by the quiet Maharishi Raman Road, where a startling sight met our eyes.
So this is how spring looks like in the most polluted city in the world
Far away from the well maintained Delhi parks and gardens, the Maharishi Raman Road was bordered by a few tall trees which were completely draped with wispy violet flowers. The drooping flower bearing branches swayed in the evening breeze, showering the passers-by with a fine violet drizzle. Having limited knowledge about botany, I had no idea what these trees were, but they seemed to smile sardonically at a large billboard advertising pollution masks. Was it a subtle ironic humour or a sarcastic foreshadowing? That is also something I would never know, but the sight of those fully blooming trees remain in my mind as the perfect image of spring in Delhi: the world’s most polluted city.
Delhi Parks Travel Information
- Nehru Park – Diplomat Enclave, Panchsheel Road, Chanakyapuri. It is open daily from Sunrise to Sunset. Has parking facilities available for INR 20/hour. The biggest attraction of this park is the 75 different kind of trees which are clearly labeled and nearly 39 types of seasonal flowers including a rose garden. Picnics are allowed inside, though do carry your trash back with you. Photography and videography are allowed and apart from some wandering vendors, there is no food and water facility available inside the park. Bring your own food and water. Toilets are available and there is no entrance fee. Nehru Park is a popular venue for music and food fests throughout the year (especially in winters). Some of the best events hosted there include the Jazz Fest, Palate Fest, NDMC Art Fest, HT Imagine Fest, Maggi Fest and more.
- Lodi Gardens – This is unquestionably Delhi’s loveliest escape. A lush, tree-shaded park dotted with striking Lodi tombs, these wonderful architectural treasures are scattered amidst the typical lawns and flowers of the park. It is open daily from 5 AM – 8 PM and has The Lodi Garden restaurant.
- Deer Park – This park is divided into sections: the Hauz Khas art market, the fountain, picnic spots, the duck park, the rabbit and deer fields, and the old, Mughal-era monuments. Numerous deer roam freely there and the mini forest provides lovely refreshing natural walks. Located in Hauz Khas, the Deer Park opening hours are 5 AM to 8 PM in summer and 5.30 AM to 7 PM in winter.
- Mughal Gardens – The access to the Mughal Gardens inside the Rashtrapati Bhavan is limited. This space is open to the public for a month from mid-February to mid-March and it is worth the wait. The glorious Mughal Gardens is so immaculate that Lord Mountbatten, India’s last British viceroy employed 418 gardeners to maintain it. The garden has fountains, cypress, bougainvillea, climbing roses, symmetrical lawns, and wandering peacocks. Security is obviously strict since it is inside the President’s Residence and visitors must leave all bags, and even water bottles, at the cloakroom by the entrance.
- National Rose Garden – The National Rose Garden is solely dedicated to roses. The park exhibits beautiful varieties of roses sourced from all over the world. Located in Satyamarg at Chanakyapuri, it is one of the most visited Delhi parks. Open from 6 AM to 6 PM, the months of December and January are the best time to visit this rose garden.
- Buddha Jayanti Park – Complete with large green spaces, lakes, flowers, birds, and crickets, the Buddha Jayanti Park is the perfect spot for resting on, picnicking and is a favourite among families. It is open from 6 AM to 0830 PM and is located at Vandemataram Marg inside the Central Ridge Reserve Forest.
- Mehrauli Archaeological Park – The Mehrauli Archaeological Park has more than 440 monuments dotting a forest, step wells, and stunning tombs. The forest has wild pigs, bright-green parakeets, monkeys, and black kites. Stone pillars with the names of the main sights carved onto them guide you along the maze-like network of dusty forest pathways. You can easily spend a whole day here. This park is open from dawn to dusk.
- Humayun’s Tomb – This enclave has a stunning mausoleum along with well-tended gardens and fountains. Located on the Mathura Road, this park is open from dawn to dusk and has the following entrance fees. Indian/foreigner INR 40/600, with car payment INR 35/550, video INR 25.
- Safdarjung’s Tomb – This grandiose, highly decorative mid-18th-century tomb is set within palm-lined gardens. Located at Aurobindo Marg and open from dawn to dusk, it is a lovely place to relax in the afternoon. The Safdarjung Tomb has the following entrance fees. Indian/foreigner INR 25/300, video INR 25.
- Purana Qila or the Old Fort – Complete with a moat, a museum, tunnels, gardens, and ruins, Purana Qila or Old Fort is one of the best kept Delhi parks secrets. Located on Mathura Road, it is open from dawn to dusk and has the following entrance fees. Indian/foreigner INR 25/300, with card INR 20/250, moat INR 20, video INR 25, sound & light show adult/child INR 100/50.
- Qutab Minar Complex – The complex is studded with ruined tombs and monuments, the majestic highlight of which is the Qutab Minar, a 73m-tall 12th-century tower. The monuments are set amidst sprawling lawns and the Qutab Festival of Indian classical music and dance is held here every October/November. Open from dawn to dusk, the Qutab Minar Complex has the following entrance fees. Indian/foreigner INR 40/600, with card payment INR 35/550.
- Hauz Khas – Hauz Khas is a medieval manmade lake and today is thronged by birds. Surrounded by parklands, the impressive historic 14th-century ruins overlook it. There is a deer enclosure and is open from dawn to dusk.
- Sanjay Van – A sprawling forest spread over 784 acres along the picturesque Aravalli hills in south Delhi, Sanjay Van is popular among morning walkers, cyclists and bird watchers. There are tombs and mausoleums scattered inside this forest.
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE