December 8, 2016
A beautiful legacy of Jayalalithaa known by many names
In focus and attracting considerable media attention ever since the demise of former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa,the Government Rose Garden (GRG) in Ooty will go down in history not only as one of the most beautiful legacies of a leader who loved this vacation destination but also as one which within just a little over a couple of decades of its existence had to undergo a number of name changes.
Directly supervised by the late Ms.Jayalalithaa from Chennai the garden was put together by the Department of Horticulture headed by the then Minister for Agriculture K.P.Krishnan. Created over about ten acres to commemorate the centenary of the Annual Flower Show at the Government Botanical Garden in Ooty the Rose garden came into being with 1919 varieties in May 1995.
It bore its creator’s name “Jayalalithaa Rose Garden” and it was inaugurated with the unveiling of a plaque by her at the Flower show venue. A rose named after Ms.Jayalalithaa also found a prominent place just below the threshold of the newly formed rose garden.
Following a change of guard at Fort Saint George, there was a demand by some in the DMK here that Ms.Jayalalithaa’s name should be removed.
Consequently various alternatives were considered and the name “Centenary Rose Park” was chosen because it was born at the time of the centenary of the Annual Flower Show.In Tamil it was referred to as “Nootrandu Roja Poonga”, a literal translation of its English name.
At that time itself eyebrows were raised because both the names were misleading.However nothing was done to rectify them.Adding to the confusion the garden, for many years,was also adverted to as “Centenary Rose Garden”, “Ooty Rose Park”, “Ooty Centenary Rose Garden” and “Government Rose Garden”. Though the farce did crop up in some discussions serious attention was not paid to it.
Over the years,whenever concerned residents including this writer broached the subject of setting the records straight with ministers and officials it was laughed away.
Finally at a press meeting addressed by the then State Agriculture Minister the late Veerapandy S.Armugam the matter was taken up by this writer. After a few minutes of mulling he assured that the name ‘Centenary Rose Park ‘would be officially replaced with ‘Government Rose Garden’. He also asked the then Director of Horticulture B.Chandramohan who was present to take up the issue.
The garden now is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Blue Mountains and one of the largest of its kind in the country. It has over 20,000 varieties of roses.It has been recognised as a “Garden of Excellence” by the World Federation of Rose Societies.