The Garden of Dreams is situated within the premises of Kaiser Mahal (a palace, now the Ministry of Education) which was built in 1895 by the then Prime Minister Bir SJB Rana. The palace was later inherited by his son Chandra SJB Rana who later created the garden and presented to his son Kaiser SJB Rana as his wedding gift. Being a man of great essence, Kaiser Shumsher extensive landscape program for the garden included eastern lawn, wooded and cultivated areas, and a duck pond to name a few. It is learnt that he was an impassioned traveler especially to European Countries and the Garden of Dreams was an inspiration he received from the gardens in Europe.
Within the Garden wall Kaiser Shumsher created an exquisite ensemble of pavilions, fountains, decorative garden furniture, and European – inspired features such as verandas, pergolas, balustrades, urns, and birdhouses. He erected six impressive freestanding pavilions, each dedicated to one of the six seasons of Nepal namely- Basanta (spring), Grishma (summer), Barkha (monsoon), Sharad (early autumn), Hemanta (late autumn) and Shishir (winter).
However, after the death of Kaiser shumsher in 1965, his family bequeathed some portion of the Kaiser Mahal including his dream garden and Kaiser library to the government after which the garden remained in dilapidated from for several decades. Once the dream garden of Kaiser now covered with overgrown weeds. So, its structural disfigurement caught the sight of some of the national and international environmentalists, and heritage conservations during the visit Nepal Year 1998, when Nepal celebrated the year as the tourism year.
Originally, the garden was spread within the domain of 19 ropanies, which has now cringed to 10 ropanies only. Likewise, the three of the pavilions in the western part of the garden has been encroached by urban expansion, with the remains of some structural fragments but the central and eastern sections of the garden has remained intact.
These sections include the focal fountain pool, a myriad of original details, and fragments of the original planting scheme.
To create awareness about the heritage preservation within the metropolis, the plan to preserve the dream garden continued until 2001, when a million –dollar Garden of Dreams Project was born and was funded by Austrian Government in cooperation with the Ministry of Education & Sports and executed by Eco Himal.
After almost 6 years of restoration procedure, the garden is all set to cater to the public; however, there are some impending services and facilities, which will be continued until September 2007. “Even if the garden has lost half of its original size to the development of Thamel, three of its neo-classical pavilions as well as its central lotus pond and most of the other architectural and sculptural elements have survived their complete restoration now securing the legacy of Kaiser Shumsher’s creation for future generation.”
To maintain the standard, the renovated garden aims to become self- sustaining though entrance fees, café, bar along with other cultural programs, corporate events, private functions, etc. To uphold the architectural beauty of the garden, it has been decided that the garden will be a non-commercial garden i.e. free from advertisements, posters and banners.
NTB, as a member of the Garden considers that the garden will be an icon for cultivating interest in the people towards greenery and will help promote tourism activities in the valley.
A number of elements have been added by utilizing latent resources of its existing layout like an amphitheater has been created for open-air cultural programs and two of the historical pavilions have been converted to serve as a garden café and lounge bar. The ‘Ratounda’, another pavilion garden’s lost portion has been reconstructed as a new focal point and a range of new water bodies, fountains, pergolas, lush green garden, and varieties of flora complements on the elegance of the garden.
The Garden of Dreams- an oasis of peace and tranquility amid the hustling city of Kathmandu is open for public. The entrance fee for Nepalese and tourist is NPR 80 and NPR160 respectively and there is also a provision of different types of memberships and group visitors.
This article has been extracted from magazine, “Nepal Traveller, July-August 2007.”
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