This is a picture-less post since no cameras are allowed inside the Mughal Gardens which are part of the President of India’s residential complex (Rashtrapati Bhawan). No phones are allowed either, so you are not likely to find any blurry low resolution images of the gardens either – although, since the time I visited, I have been informed that many people manage to take their phones inside, so it can pretty much go either way. In fact, had I been suffering from short term memory loss, you might not be reading this post as not even pens or pencils were allowed to be taken inside.
Now, even if it may seem so, this is not a rant about being unable to take a camera or a pen inside the Mughal Gardens. I am just preparing you so you don’t end up there with your DSLRs and what not only to be disappointed.
Each year, from Mid-February till Mid- March, – always check for the exact dates – the grand presidential gardens are opened for the general public. Leaving aside Mondays, which are kept for maintenance, you can visit the gardens from 10:00 am till 04:00 pm and marvel at the beautiful horticulture that is painstakingly developed year in and year out.
On some occasions, if you are really lucky, the Presidential Palace is also opened up for the general public, however you would have to make a prior “reservation” for the same. I am also informed that at times they arrange special viewings for groups – not tourist, but for clubs or schools etc. – which needs to be planned by contacting the office well in advance.
The entry to the garden is through Gate No. 35 – again, always best to check each year- and once you are in the general area of the President’s house, ask any police official and he/she will guide you to the gate. Else, if you know the area, you can head towards Church Road where the entrance is situated. Or best, take the Metro and hire a three-wheeler to take you there.
On arrival, if traveling in your own vehicle, you might have to park at a distance, but it is easy to find Rickshaws that will take you to the entrance and back for about Rs. 20-30 one way. This is especially recommended if you are traveling with small children, as we were, since you don’t want them getting tired before even reaching the entrance.
Entry into the Gardens is free. It’s best to leave behind your phones, purses, bags in the car. Although there is facility to leave bags near the entrance, but that just means standing in line to deposit and collect your items before entering and on exiting. Also, any remote devises are not allowed. I would guess car keys with automatic locks were included in this, but we were able to take ours inside with us. If you can leave them behind as a precaution, that is the best. Basically, take nothing!
Once inside, there are officials at every step who will tell you to keep on moving, thus if you are meeting people to go in a group, assemble outside first and then go in. The fact that no one is allowed to loiter around in the complex/gardens or wait for more than a few minutes, means that the line is always moving and it never gets too crowded with a regular inflow and outflow of people. There are a few seating areas (Lounges) before and after the gardens (within the complex) where you can rest for a short while.
All the security precautions might seem complicated, but they are not, and once you do reach the Gardens, they are such a wonderful sight that everything seems worth it.
We visited towards the end of February, and the weather had already started turning hot, but the earlier in the month you visit, the better. It is also advisable to reach the gardens as early as possible in the day to avoid the crowds and the afternoon heat.
You do have to walk, a lot. Since we did not see any strollers in the vicinity it is my guess they are not allowed. So as expected, towards the end, our little bundle of joy who was starting to weigh quite a bit by then was just that… a bundle that we were alternatively carrying.
Starting with the Herbal Gardens, onward to the Bonsai area, the main Mughal Garden, The Rose Garden, and lastly the Circular Garden, each section is well marked with labeled plants and flowers. There is a myriad of colours in every direction with the omnipresent magnificence of the President’s house in the background.
The Bonsai “Garden” was a little less impressive, maybe due to the weather, and the extensive care these plants require, but the main Mughal Garden with the fountains and beds of flowers made up for that. The Circular Garden thought is truly splendid and the most colorful of the lot.
While visiting the Mughal Gardens every year might not interest most, it is highly advisable that you do have a walk around every few years. If you are a tourist, it’s still free of cost and since it is situated centrally in New Delhi (very close to Connaught Place), it doesn’t take much to get there. Time wise, the entire trip is a maximum two hour affair, considering you walk real slow.
I do wish that there were special events or experts available on site who could do walks, maybe for a fee, during this time. Then again, keeping in mind the security issues I think we should just feel lucky enough to view the gardens in the first place.
Update: As someone mentioned in the comments below, they have allowed mobile phones to be taken in, but as the comment further suggests, that comes it its own issues. My suggestion, skip the phones for an hour or two and enjoy whats on display.