Architect Kalpak Bhave’s landscaping project, Dargah-E-Hakimi is a reflection of creativity evolved in sync with a community’s religious beliefs.
As a fresh graduate from the Academy of Architecture in Mumbai in 1989, Kalpak Y Bhave began his career by assisting a leading architect of the city at the time and was introduced to a world of seamless creativity through landscaping. The experience gripped his sensibilities, motivating him to pursue a master’s degree in landscape architecture a year later.
This proved to be a turning point in his career, where he decided to focus his energies solely on landscape designing. Since 1992, when he began his journey as a landscape architect, Kalpak Bhave has created landscaping marvels across the country. One of his most popular creations includes the sprawling lawns of the Dargah-e-Hakimi.
Located in an obscure town, Burhanpur, in Madhya Pradesh, Dargah-e-Hakimi is a shrine dedicated to Saiyyadi Abdul Qadir Hakimuddin. The place is of great religious relevance to the Dawoodi Bohras and attracts visitors from across the globe, all year round. The dargah complex spread over 125 acres of land, houses mosques, gardens and world-class accommodation facilities, for the visitors.
At first glance, the structure looks more like a five-star resort, rather than a shrine. The beauty of the interiors and the tombs made of plush marble is further accentuated by its sprawling lawns, complete with colourful and intricate landscaping.
Ask Kalpak Bhave, the man behind this landscaping marvel, what factors weighed on his mind the most when he conceived and executed the design, and he says, “Burhanpur falls in a typical climatic zone, where during summer months, the day temperature reaches up to 45 degrees and in winter, night temperature drops to 5-6 degrees. The selection of plant material had to be made keeping the weather condition in mind. The plants needed to be strong enough to sustain this variation and also look alive and fresh throughout the year, as the dargah receives visitors all year round.”
So, what kind of plants did he use for the landscaping? “In all, 905 plants used in the landscape were done so precisely for the beauty of their foliage. We have used varieties such as Durantas which offer a wide colour range, right from parrot green to dark green with a mix of white. Acalyphas in hues of dark green to red and dark brown with pink and light green have also been used. Casurina trees have been used as hedges in the pilgrim accommodation areas as they offer a thick and dark green cover and have a life span of at least 30 to 40 years.”
In addition to this, Alternanthera for its dark brown colour and Wedellia for its vibrant green with ribbon grass offering a combination of green and white, Allamanda dwarf variety that yields large yellow flowers and Lantana Sellowiana with its purple flowers, have all been used as ground covers. Over and above flowering shrubs such as Lagerstromia Indica, Bauhinia Tomentosa, Heliconia and Cannas with Bougainvillea have been planted at several places.
Kalpak adds, “Since the place has an essentially dry climate with minimal humidity, flowering trees bloom here to the maximum. Keeping this factor in mind, they used trees such as Bauhinia Purpurea, Lagerstromea Flos Reginae, Michelia Champaca, Plumeria Acutifolia and Plumeria Rubra. Certain seasonal winter plants have been used to create temporary patterns in the lawn areas, primarily with different colours of petunias.”
Explaining how he worked around such a large space, using the natural setting as a launch pad, Kalpak says, “The overall area to be landscaped stretched over 75 acres, with sparse structure placement in between. The site was flat and did not have any contours to work with.”
He continues, “The settings of proposed buildings were planned with large open areas initiating a good view of the landscape. The landscaping project was commissioned in phases, where we were offered different areas to design as each of the buildings around them was completed.”
This turned out to be benefical for him, “I had already conceived the broader landscaping picture for the entire expanse of land and this served as a good guideline towards working on one small patch at a time. This also ensured that the style of landscaping did not become hurdle for my creativity and went a long way in giving the place a cohesive, unified look.”
Speaking of his experience of taking on a design initiative of such mammoth proportions, he says, “I was most moved by the challenge of designing the landscape concept for this project. I invested a great deal of time in understanding the religious beliefs and lifestyles of the people visiting the shrine, and used that knowledge to evolve the ‘right’ style of landscape. Successfully evolving a style of landscape that is in sync with a community’s religious beliefs was the highlight of the experience for me.”
Text By Arushi Chaudhary
Photographs Courtesy Kalpak Bhave