neralu – celebrating trees of bengaluru

As citizens of Bangalore / Bengaluru, many of us have come together to celebrate the wide diversity, aesthetics, functionality, ecology, histories and our memories of our city’s trees. The trees of Bangalore through their presence on our city’s avenues, parks and neighbourhoods are silent yet vital aspects of our urban lives. This ever growing city has moved away from a garden city tag to be re-branded the IT city. Yet, as Bangaloreans, we want to revisit the garden days and ways that are tied to our histories and identities and help us relate to our city’s special trees. This celebration and tribute to Bengaluru’s Trees has been christened NERALU.

NERALU, meaning shade in Kannada is a descriptive metaphor for the Tree festival and indicates what trees have meant to so many citizens of Bengaluru. We share historical, cultural and ecological stories and experiences because of trees that enrich our urban existence. NERALU is a way in which this can be celebrated, shared and reflected upon.

Neralu is coordinated by interested citizens from Bangalore and is a crowd-funded event. Many citizens from different walks of life have come together and given their time, resources, skill and interest to make this happen. This is one-of-a-kind public event that celebrates trees, and possibly the only one in the recent times to be a completely crowdfunded, completely Citizen led event.
The Neralu team and community is now a large network of nearly 200 people.

Brief context to Bangalore’s green history

For centuries now, the city of Bangalore has shared a unique relationship with its majestic and diverse trees. Our urban flora has a rich connection to the historic monarchs of Mysore- Hyder Ali, Tipu Sultan, the Wodeyars and European colonial powers that governed the region. Local communities like the Tigalas have historically been involved in the development and maintenance of the city’s green cover for centuries. Other local and migrant communities have connected to trees for sacred purposes, community and religious identities.
Post Indian Independence, many naturalists, enthusiasts and officials, ranging from Javaraya to Marigowda and many more worked hard to expand the glory of the Garden City that Bangalore was turning out to be. All these histories have have left their stamp on the city’s unique culture and complexion.

Change seems to be a constant in Bangalore’s landscape. Massive urbanization and unplanned extension of Bangalore, both by public and private sectors have led to mindless, socially inconsiderate, ecologically unfriendly and inefficient infrastructure. In the bargain, the city has lost many of its precious avenue trees and parks and its still continues unabated. The city’s characteristic tags of ‘Pensioner’s paradise and ‘Garden City’ are losing relevance in the midst of this massive destruction of urban and peri-urban green space.

As citizens and tree-enthusiasts from Bangalore, many professionals have come together to propose a tree festival for Bangalore. This much needed festival is an occasion to bring together ecologists, artists, researchers, technologists, homemakers, professionals, adults and children in dialogue to celebrate the spirit of this beautiful city, its rich natural heritage and its trees.