Srirangapatna: Not many Millenials would know that Ganjam at Srirangapatna once had vast fig (Anjeer) estates that produced fruits that were consumed by the royals and the rich. So popular were the figs that the fruits which had distinct reddish colour and taste would give Australian figs and Pune figs a run for the money. They were called Ganjam Anjeer or Ganjam Anjur.
Now no one grows Ganjam figs here and the fruit is extinct. However, in an attempt to revive the fig farms, the Horticulture Department is nurturing saplings and are distributing over 1,000 to 2,000 saplings per year and it has its own nursery of 80 plants that are being nurtured to bring back the lost glory, Shashikumar, Assistant Director of Mandya Horticulture Department told Star of Mysore.
In fact, the Department has nurtured the same sweet variety that was grown at Ganjam centuries ago and is grafting the old stems into new ones to retain the originality, he added.
The erstwhile Mysore royal family had gifted land to over 150 families to grow these figs in Ganjam near the historical Nimishamba Temple in Srirangapatna about 100 years ago.
While Tipu Sultan encouraged the people to grow Ganjam Anjeer, Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar and Dewan Sir Mirza Ismail — who were bowled over by the taste of the Ganjam figs — gave a boost to fig cultivation by gifting lands and the growers had vast fig estates.
Abundant till 1960
Fruits were grown till about 1960 and later they became extinct, thanks to lack of water, encroachment and also lack of encouragement. Over the years, the dependents of the families who had got lands constructed buildings while others went on to cultivate other crops. Some left the land barren.
There are three popular varieties of figs — Australian and Pune figs and there are the unique Ganjam figs. History tells us that the Wadiyars gave subsidies and donated five guntas of land to each of the 150 growers. They also initiated steps to irrigate the fig farms with water from the Cauvery and even now, the remnants of rusted pipes and pumps that were used to pump water to fig farms can be found in Ganjam.
Served to dignitaries
The figs grown on these 150 farms were initially sent to the Mysore Palace where the royal family took pride in serving them to the British officers and visitors from foreign lands. Of course, these now remain interesting memories.
Soon, Ganjam figs were exported and the fruit commanded a good price. They even formed a cooperative society to export the fruit and also supplied a big chunk of the dry fruits to Mysore Palace. There was a marketing centre exclusively for Ganjam Anjeer on the Gumbaz Road at Ganjam. Now the building is dilapidated.
The legend of Ganjam Lakkaiah
Ganjam Lakkaiah used to carry the juicy Ganjam figs and also dry ones to Mysore Palace in a horse carriage after neatly packing them in cane baskets. He used to ensure that not a single fruit was damaged. After Lakkaiah, his family members used to take the figs to the royal family.
It was Dewan Sir Mirza Ismail who appointed Lakkaiah and entrusted him the responsibility of getting the fruits to the Palace and the Dewan trusted none for the job. Lakkaiah was close to the Dewan. “My grandfather used to protect the fruits from birds when they turned reddish in colour and used to take them safely to the Palace after placing them in bamboo baskets,” Lakkaiah’s grandson Dhananjay told SOM.