It’s all work of ‘Yakub Sahib’, a mali told Rudyard Kipling as he stood in the centre of Ram Niwas Bagh admiring its waterwoks. In fact, the mali was talking about Sir Colonel Swinton Jacob, Superintending Engineer of the Jaipur State, and he was not wrong as Jacob is called Yakub in Urdu or Arabic.
Kipling, who in 1887 was travelling across the Rajputana for his column, ‘Letters of Marque’ for the Allahabad-based newspaper The Pioneer, also gave Col Jacob the credit of devising the city’s water supply and studding the ways with standpipes.
Being a son of a museum curator in Lahore, The Albert Hall Museum was a particular object of Kipling’s attention. Kipling had also worked in Calcutta during the early years of that city’s great Indian Museum but he found the Jaipur museum more beautiful than its Raj counterparts because it was “carefully maintained”. What impressed Kipling most was the museum’s “system”. He says: “The intention was to represent all of the local arts and to compare them with the arts of neighbouring regions and of foreign countries, so that any Jaipur craftsman could see ‘the best his predecessors could do, and what foreign artist have done’.”
Writing about Ram Niwas Bagh in Garden History, Patrick Bowe says it was the result of the 19th century public park movement in Europe. However, the birth of a garden meant for recreation has a tragic story behind it. In 1868, a disastrous famine hit the parts of Rajputana and Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh planned numerous public projects to lessen the suffering of his people. Among the main projects was Ram Niwas Bagh to provide the public of Jaipur with an area where they can get fresh air, light and space for recreation and exercise.
Bowe further says the move was not only consistent with the 19th century movement in Europe to provide public parks in the crowded cities, but its fusion of Indian and European architectural and garden styles influenced public parks which subsequently came up in other parts of India.