Mumbai-based architect Kalpak Bhave has turned the lawns of Mazar-e-Fakhri in Rajasthan’s Taherabad, into a source of visual delight best appreciated from a distance.
Situated in Taherabad, Rajasthan, is the shrine of revered saint Syedi Fakhruddin Shaeed (A.Q.), who has been a symbol for religious conviction and courage for his followers. The shrine situated in the dry and rocky, low mountain ranges and tucked away from the hustle bustle of city life, holds great auspicious value for the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community in particular.
This shrine of Syedi Fakhruddin Shaeed, who was attacked and slaughtered by dacoits in the dark of the night while he was immersed in offering the ‘maghrib namaaz’, attracts visitors of all faiths around the year.
The structures of the shrine sprawling over 25 acres of land have been designed to accommodate the large number of devotees thronging to the holy site throughout the year. The complex comprises a roja, mawaid, residential units and other minor structures, and bears semblance to a five-star resort rather than a place of religious relevance.
The beauty of the premises is augmented manifold by the intricately landscaped lush gardens that have been painstakingly developed by architect Kalpak Y Bhave.
Kalpak, who started his career as an architect after graduating from the Academy of Architecture in Mumbai in 1989 soon bifurcated to the realm of landscaping and has since used his tasteful creativity to devise many a landscaping marvel in his career spanning over two decades.
Given the tough terrain, lending the landscape an artistic appeal must have been a true challenge. So how did Kalpak and his team achieve this? “Taherabad being part of a dry and rocky mountainous range required a great deal of upgradation to prepare the land for plantation. Availability of water was a decisive factor in making this project successful.”
“In most religious places, landscaping serves the prime purpose of visual appreciation. The basic concept was to evolve a landscape, where there would be no human interaction up close (of visitors) and create patterns that were best viewed from a distance and could be sustained year after year even after the completion of the project.”
“Buildings around the landscape offer the visitors a bird’s eye view of the landscape, and that’s where the real beauty of this landscaping project lies,” he says.
Speaking of the several factors that played a key role in turning the landscape into a visual delight, Kalpak says, “The most important consideration was the choice of the right species of plants that would not only survive in the hostile weather conditions of Rajasthan but thrive in its dry arid soil. Since we were creating patterns, it was equally important to select plant species with the right colours and adequate foliage.”
“The rich, vibrant colours of many ornamental plants present a striking contrast when juxtaposed with one another. We spent a great deal of time studying the water requirements of the plants, as only plants with similar requirements can be clubbed together. The trees used in the landscape were chosen on the basis of their full-grown height and the thickness of their cover, as it is important that the trees do not shade the foliage growing underneath it.”
“With these factors in mind, we decided to use Ivy Creeper on the walls, Bottle Palms along the entry path, Quisqualis Indica creeper for the pergola, besides Duranta Broadleaf, Bauhinia Purpurea and Michelia Champaca. Recently, seasonal plants were added to the patterns to enhance the visual appeal of the space during the blooming season,” he adds.
The landscape architect has recently accomplished another similar project at Dargah-e-Hakimi in Burhanpur, Madhya Pradesh. When asked about the key similarities between the two projects, Kalpak explained, “Both the projects are related to the famous, ancient and auspicious shrines that are extremely relevant to the Bohra community. Since the style of landscaping at Burhanpur was well received by the community at large, we have replicated similar patterns at the Mazar-e-Fakhri shrine at Taherabad.”
Explaining the process of bringing about an element of uniqueness in every project, he says, “To me, the first step toward accomplishing any design project is to study the expectations from the landscape. We work relentlessly to ensure that every project is different from the kind of work we have done in the past. The landscape at Taherabad, for instance, took two to three years to execute from the time it was planned. We had the entire architectural layout ready before we even started the actual work on the landscape.”
“Contractors are given precise specifications that ensure a square looks like a square and site visits made at regular intervals and specific guidance plays a huge role in the success of a landscape design such as this,” explained Kalpak.
According to Kalpak, landscape design is much more than a group of flowering shrubs and patches of lawn with a waterfall. Landscape design, apart from being good to look at, should also be something that stirs emotions within you.
Text By Arushi Chaudhary
Photographs Courtesy Kalpak Bhave