Reviews of the latest books from and on Southasia

Gardens of Lanka
photography by Luxshmanan Nadaraja
edited by Sarala Fernando
Wildlight Private Limited, 2009

Gardens have embellished Sri Lanka's landscape for more than two millennia, the ancient knowledge of their aesthetic creation supplementing a host of other better-documented accomplishments such as monastic architecture and irrigation hydraulics. Existing gardens are usually encapsulations of Sri Lanka's extraordinary biodiversity of flora, with an inevitable accent on colour and lushness, and so provide a matchless photographic experience. The photography of Gardens of Lanka is by the country's leading exponent in the ecological field, Luxshmanan Nadaraja, whose The Nature of Sri Lanka (2008) set new standards.

In the beginning was the royal garden, exemplified today by the one at the rock of Sigiriya, the oldest surviving large-scale garden form in Asia. From the third century BC, after the encounter between the monarchy and the Buddhist mission of Emperor Asoka, royal gardens were mostly transformed into Buddhist sites. The island's botanic gardens began in 1371 when the king declared Peradeniya a royal garden. In 1861 it became the first permanent British-established botanic garden, and is today Sri Lanka's prime garden destination. Another botanic garden, at Henaratgoda, has the distinction of growing Asia's first rubber trees.

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Himal Southasian