(Photos: Muneeb ul Islam/The Quint)
With 20 lakh tulips of 46 varieties, Asia's largest tulip garden, located in Srinagar and overlooking the picturesque Dal Lake, was on Saturday thrown open to visitors, marking the beginning of the tourist season in the Kashmir Valley.
The mega 15-day tulip festival, part of the ‘Bahaar-e-Kashmir’ (Spring in Kashmir) event, kick-started with the opening of the Tulip Garden as authorities focus on a revival of tourism, which was badly hit last year due to the unrest triggered by the killing of militant Burhan Wani in July.
Formerly known as Siraj Bagh, the Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden was opened in 2008 by the then Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.
The idea of the garden, spread over 30 hectares in the foothills of the snow-clad Zabarwan range, was conceived to advance the tourism season in the Valley by two months.
Nearly 1.75 lakh tourists visited the garden last year, generating a revenue of Rs 58 lakh.
A tourism department official said:
The Tulip Garden was opened to the public despite the rains today (on Monday). With pleasant weather prevailing in the Valley coupled with the Tulip Festival, we are expecting the number of visitors to the garden to cross the three-lakh mark this time.
He said a majority of the bulbs in the garden had bloomed thanks to favourable weather conditions, presenting a mesmerising sight to visitors.
The average life span of the tulip flower is three to four weeks, but heavy rains or too much of heat can destroy them.
The official said the Tulip Festival is part of the 'Bahaar-e-Kashmir' event aimed at showcasing the garden to the outside world and attracting more visitors.
"The festival will also include kiosks that will showcase the rich craft and cuisine of the Valley,” the official added.
(With inputs from PTI.)