Indian Rose Federation History
In 1978, Mr. P. L. Mokashi, President and Office Bearers of 'The Bombay Rose Society' including Past President Mr. Krishnaram Kapadia, Vice Presidents, Mr. H. S. Sethi, Mr. V. S. Padhye, Mr. Sharad Palande, Secretary Mr. M. S. Pai, successfully organized the 1st 'All India Rose Convention'. An enthusiastic response from rosarians across the country made the Convention a grand success. The concept of forming an All India body was mooted during the deliberations at the convention. The MOA was drafted at Bombay for registration and dates for the Second Convention finalized, Jabalpur was selected to be the venue and December 1979 the month and year. "The Indian Rose Federation" (IRF) officially came into being. Justice K. K. Dubey and Mr. M. S. Pai were appointed the first President and Secretary respectively of the IRF. Initially the Office of the Federation was at Bombay, but was later moved to Jabalpur for many reasons. In 1983, Lt. Col. C. P. Diddi (Retd.) took over the responsibilities of the Secretary a duty he ably discharged for many years. Justice K. K. Dubey retired as President in January 1987 and was succeeded by Dr. P. S. Rao from Hyderabad. Dr. P. S. Rao retired in 1990 and Mr. P. L. Mokashi took over as the President.
Apart from functioning as the Apex Body representing Rose Societies based in different states of the Nation, the activities of IRF so far have included :
Publication of the Indian Rose Annual, with write ups contributed by Rosarians and Scientists the World over, on various aspects of the Rose. It was initially edited by Mr. V. S. Padhye and Mr. M. S. Pai. Since 1985 (Annual IV), it was edited by Mr. V. S. Padhye, Mr. M. S. Viraraghavan and Mrs. Girija Viraraghavan till 2005. From 2006 till date it is being edited by Mr. M. S. Viraraghavan and Mrs. Girija Viraraghavan. The Indian Rose Annual is revered in India and across the World. The IRF has published till 2014, '30' very informative and prestigious Annuals.
Implementation of "Quality Standard" of Rose Plants sold by IRF accredited rose nurseries.
Holding Annual Convention and All India Rose Shows, in different states of the country.
Establishing 'Guidelines' for Judging Roses in India.
Rose Trial Grounds : Establishing and setting Rules & Regulations for implementation in accordance with Global standards.
IRF represents India in the World Federation of Rose Societies.
Our aim and objective is to widely spread, educate and inform the art and techniques of growing roses, both as a hobby or for commercial purposes. To encourage growers and breeders to breed new rose varieties suitable for cultivation in various climatic zones in our country. Breeders, Researchers and Rosarians doing outstanding work in spreading rose culture and hybridizing new varieties are honoured with IRF Gold Medals every year at the Convention.
It is recommended that every rosarian should enroll as a member of IRF, which in turn will enable contact with all major activities on the rose front in the country and abroad. Attending Annual Rose Conventions, meeting fellow rosarians, exchanging information, taking opinions, perspectives, suggestions and views, of fellow rosarians on the art of growing roses.
The History of Roses in India ( Arts & Medicine )
The association of roses with Indian history goes back to the very beginning of time. India has had an unbroken thread of civilization stretching to well over 5000 years. The archaeological sites of the " Indus Valley Civilization " - Harappa, Mohenjodaro, Dolavira etc. date to around 3000 B.C. and show a very advanced culture - well planned, geometrical grid - constructed cities, with wide streets, brick houses, zoning, water supply, sewage disposal systems etc. which were carefully coordinated. However, earliest Indian history is based on oral not written words. The Hindu view of past has traditionally centered on myths, legends and folklore, an oral tradition prone therefore to distortions and revisions. But those legends which persist have a cachet of authenticity. One such about a discussion between the two Gods, Brahma, the creator and Vishnu, the protector, on which flower was the most beautiful. Brahma favoured the lotus and Vishnu the rose. After seeing the arbour laden with fragrant roses in Vishnu's celestial garden, Brahma acknowledged the supremacy of the rose over all the flowers, including the lotus. Another legend has it that Vishnu created his consort, the Goddess Lakshmi out of the rose. Whilst most authorities claim she was created out of the lotus, as a rosarian I would prefer to believe it was the rose.
The presumption that legends such as these have a stamp of authenticity is because the abode of the Gods. Again according to legend, were the Himalayas - the sweeping range of snowcapped mountains from the northwest to the northeast of India, which are home to more than 15 species of wild roses – roses which grew from time immortal, as substantiated by the medical treaties of Charaka and Susruta, founders of the Indian system of medicine called Ayurveda. They are believed to have lived in the 1st Century B.C. The medicinal properties of the different rose species were well known and the characteristic Sanskrit name ( the language in which all ancient texts were written ) given to each rose signified its curative properties for particular ailments. For example, in the Charak Samhita ( i.e. the treatise of Charaka) the rose was named in 8 different ways - "satapatri" ( having 100 petals ) - centifolia perhaps?, "sivapriya" ( loved by God Siva who lived on Mount Kailash in the Himalayas), "Saumyagandha" ( having a pleasant smell), gandhyadya, susita, sumana, suvritta, satapatrika, - i.e. it is cool, bitter, laxative, an appetizer, cures fever and boils, lessens stomach burning etc. The rose was also called atimanjula, sevantika and tarunipushpa.
The wild roses of the Himalayas are R. brunonii, R. sericea, R. webbiana, R. foetida, R. longicuspis, R. macrophylla, R. gigantea, R. beggariana, R. eglanteria, R. laevigata, R. baksii and R. bracteata.
Going back to earlier ages, Gautama the Buddha lived in the 6th Century B.C. The Gandhara School of Sculpture (1st Century B.C. to 2nd Century A.D.) which is an amalgam of Indian and Greek traditions ( Alexander the great invaded India in 327 B.C.) depicted the Buddha in many Statues. Most show him sitting on a pedestal of lotuses, but a few seem to depict him seated on a 5 petalled rose.
Coming into Christian era, the monk Vatsyayana, who wrote the Kama Sutra ( Manual of Love) sometime between the 1st and 3rd Centuries A.D., mentions that one of the duties of a virtuous wife was to tend a garden, "In the garden she should plant beds of green vegetables, bunches of sugarcane and clumps of fig tree, the mustard plant, the parsley plant, the fennel plant and the xanthocymus pictorius, clusters of various flowers, such as the trapa bispinosa, the jasmine, the tabernaemontana coronaria, the CHINA ROSE and others should likewise be planted together with the fragrant grass andropogon schoenanthus and the fragrant root of the plant andropogon miricatus. She should also have seats and arbours made in the garden in the middle of which a well, tank or pool should be dug. There is a school of thought which considers that the reference to the "china rose", is to the hibiscus and not rose.
Obviously trade with China existed as early as the 2nd century B.C. as a Yue – chi chief took Buddhist scriptures to China (after Kasyapa Matanga introduced Buddhism to China). Chinese pilgrim who visited Buddhist sites talk of rose garlands being commonly used. Fa Hien and Hieun Tsang, two Chinese travelers (5th and 7th centuries A.D.) mention in the diaries that beautiful gardens with a variety of plants including roses, fountains, streams and tanks of clear water were part of garden landscapes.
Trade with China as with many other eastern and western countries was carried on over the centuries by the various kingdoms ruling different parts of India and rose products were very much a part of such commerce. A stone pillar inscription dated 1244 A.D. at Motrupalli, near Guntur on the eastern coast mentions that the King Ganapati, belonging to the Kakatiya dynasty of Warangal, waived the custom duties on various items from China including rose water. Marco Polo, the Venetian traveler, visited this kingdom around this time - 1288. It is thus obvious that roses were very much a part of the social, medical, cultural and religious fabric. India, while being largely a Hindu country, has also one of the largest populations in the World. Again, it is one of the original Christian countries - the apostle St. Thomas arrived on its western shores nearly 200 years ago in A.D. 40.
In 1300 A.D. a Muslim traveller and chronicler, Rashid – ud - din, who visited Gujarat state in Western India remarks that "the people were very wealthy and happy and grow no less than 70 kinds of roses".
One of the greatest dynasties of South India from 14th to the 16th centuries was the Vijayanagar Empire and records of many travelers show that roses were integral to the daily life of both aristocrats and commoners. Domingi Paes and Fernaz Nunis, two Portuguese travelers who came to this kingdom around 1537 mention seeing plantations of roses, bazaars where baskets laden with roses were sold, both as loose flowers and made up as garlands, and gardens of the nobility which had rose plants growing in profusion. Both men and women from all walks of life used roses in great quantities as ornamentation. And the King, dressed in robes of pure white, embroidered with golden roses and wearing lots of jewels, would offer his morning prayers, daily shower white roses on his favourite courtiers, his favourite elephants and horses, which would be bedecked with chaplets of roses. They describe the King's bedchamber " which had pillars of carved stone, the walls all of ivory as also the pillars of cross timbers, which at the top had roses carved out of ivory, all beautifully executed and so rich and beautiful that you would hardly find anywhere another such."
Abdur Razzak, a Muslim diplomat from Persia, who visited the same royal court in 1443, writes, " Roses are sold everywhere. These people could not live without roses and they look upon these as quite as necessary as food ". Rose perfume making was known and in fact was exported to other countries.
In the 16th century when the Muslim Mughal emperors came from Persia and Afghanistan to rule India, they brought camel loads of roses. In fact the first Mughal emperor, Babar, is said to have brought the damask rose into India. This royal dynasty had a great interest in art and architecture, poetry and music and the Mughal style of gardening - a very formal plan with geometrical beds, fountains, paths etc. all done on a grand scale, were part of the edifice they built, like the Taj Mahal, and roses were lavishly planted. The famous Shalimar gardens of Kashmir, built by Jahangir for his empress Nur Jehan are well known to this day. At a much later date this is the garden which delighted visitors with the incredible display of Marechal Neils which were planted to climb the grey - green walls of the Hall of Public Audience to hang their soft yellow globes head downwards in clusters from the carved cornices".
The same empress, Nur Jehan, celebrated for her beauty and intelligence, is credited with discovering attar ( or Otto) of roses. When she was taking royal bath in hot rose scented water, she saw a scum forming which had a concentrated rose fragrance. She collected this scum. According to Emperor Jahangir "it was of such a strength in perfume that if one drop was rubbed on the palm of the hand it scented an entire assemblage, and it appeared as if many rose buds had bloomed all at once. There is no scent of equal excellence. It restores hearts that have gone and brings back withered souls."
The finest of rose liquors was distilled for emperors and royalty. About 20,000 rose flowers were distilled in order to get one bottle of rose liquor. Practically every painting of this period, of royalty and aristocracy, show the person holding a rose in their hand. Indeed, roses are considered so much a part of the Mughal period of Indian history that most Indians believe that roses came to India only with the advent of the Muslims - 10th century onwards.
When the British came to India in the 17th century, originally as a trading company, called The East India Company (later they took over the reins of the government from the Mughal kings) their ships from China carrying merchandise to England stopped for refueling at the port and capital city of Calcutta, on the east coast. Nearly every ship would carry live plants, including roses, which are becoming popular in England and France, and they would be kept in the Botanical Gardens of Howrah, a suburb of Calcutta on the banks of the river Ganges, to recover before continuing on their journey to England. Some plants from each batch would be planted down in this garden which was started by Sir William Roxburgh in 1793. One such plant was fortune's Double yellow as also other Chinas, Noisettes and Early Teas. Many of them are still available in old nurseries and gardens, though they are nameless , have names mauled beyond recognition or have names other than the ones given them after they reached their final destination - England.
Unfortunately, with modern day roses being easily available, interest in these old beauties - these heritage roses, has been lukewarm. However, with rose rustlers like my husband and myself scouting all around, searching for these old varieties, we have been able to enthuse others to collect these varieties before they disappear. We have a large collection and we have been able to tentatively name most of them, after looking at descriptions and photographs in old rose books.
Coming now to Rose products which are distinctively Indian, roses are the basis of many rose formulations, cosmetic, medicinal and dietary. In many areas of north India, especially where the soil is rich and the water abundant, like Pushkar in Rajasthan, and parts of Uttar Pradesh, Rosa Damascena as also Rose Edward are grown on a commercial scale, both for distilling Rose Oil and Rose Water. Another heritage rose widely grown is Gruss in Teplitz.
Tonnes of rose petals are dried in the shade to make Pankhuri, to be sent everyday to Middle East for use in beverages, food and medicine. When we visited Pushkar a few years ago the entire air was scented throughout the day with a heady rose fragrance.
Rose water is used as a coolant and medicinally in eye drops and lotions and as skin moisturizers. It is also used as food flavouring, especially in Indian sweets and as a welcome spray at all festive occasions, like weddings. "Arkprakash" an old Sanskrit text mentions rose water distillation and a famous Buddhist monk, Nagarjuna, who lived in the 8th / 9th century A.D. has given details on how rose water is to be distilled. Around the same time the Arab historian, Ibn Khaldun also described the process.
Rose Attar or Otto ( the westernized word) is Rose Oil, also called Ruh Gulab. 10 gms of rose attar are equivalent in price to 10 gms of gold! and 1 kg of oil is obtained from 4000 kgs of petals. "Attar" is a Persian word meaning perfume and is made from steam distillation of rose flowers plucked very early in the morning. The first product is rose water and from the water, over a period of days, rose oil in minute quantities is collected. Bulgaria, Morocco, France and India are the major rose oil producing countries. Rose damascene and Rosa bourboniana are the varieties generally used in India for rose oil (though R. centifolia, alba and gallica are also used elsewhere). Rose oil is used in perfumes, soaps and other cosmetics like creams and lotions, for flavouring soft drinks and alcoholic beverages, as also in the Indian system of medicine.
Gulkand is a kind of preserve made by mixing equal quantities of rose petals of R. Edward or R. damascena and white sugar and kept in the sun till they coalesce together. This is used as a tonic and a laxative.
Gul roghan is a hair oil made by maceration of rose flowers with warm sesame seed oil. Rose essence, rose syrup, rose sherbet, rose wine, rose liquor, rose honey - these are some of the ways in which Indian cuisine uses roses. Rose hips are high in vitamin C - they also contain vitamins A, B, K and folic acid and they do not lose their efficacy when cooked. Rose hip jam can be delicious. In the north - eastern state of Manipur, in fact, Rosa gigantean hips (which are huge) are sold in markets along with other fruits and vegetables. We have personally seen this and Nancy Steen mentions it
Potpourris and sachets for perfuming rooms and linen closets are common too. In fact the ways in which roses are used in India are many and very much a part of daily life and a "must" for festive occasions.
Thus far on the past. What could be called the modern era in rose growing in India started with the advent of the pioneer Indian hybridizer, B. S. Bhatcharji in the 1940’s. After Independence in 1947 rose growing received a tremendous fillip when the eminent agriculture scientist and rose lover, Dr. B. P. Pal, became the Director of the Indian Agriculture Research Institute. His enthusiasm led to the establishment of a rose society in the capital, New Delhi, He also hybridized many roses suited for the north Indian climate and started a programme of rose breeding in the I.A.R.I. His example has led to a great interest in rose hybridisation in the country.
A vast range of modern roses are cultivated in India, including classics like Crimson Glory, Ena Harkness, Mr. Lincoln, Christian Dior and many others. The latest western roses, including cut - flower roses, are well represented thanks to the enthusiasm of various rose nurseries. A landmark was the WFRS Award of Garden of Excellence to the Centenary Rose Garden, located in the southern mountains, in Ootacamund.
I would like to conclude with a quotation of Gandhi, whom we refer to as Father of the Nation. "A rose does not preach - it simply spreads its fragrance".