By Dyumni Pandit
As its name suggests, Zen Garden, located near Anand Park in Mumbai’s Dahisar, exudes tranquillity with its resplendent greenery and stillness. With its preserved volcanic rocks, bamboo plantations and nourished flora, Zen Garden has been able to retain the naturalness of the space.
The park’s circular track takes one on a tour of different parts of the garden – the gym, playground, badminton court, gazebo, rock paintings, and seating areas. The organic contours of the park have not been altered and therefore, the jogging track is not linear or level.
The jogging track moves towards a gazebo placed right in the centre of the park and is lined with benches for visitors to hang out on lazy evenings. Rows of various species of plants decorate the area around the gazebo. On sunny afternoons, senior citizens can be seen relaxing in the shade.
A gym and huge volcanic rocks
A small path from the gazebo leads to the gym area. Zen Garden was one of the first gardens in Mumbai to have an installed gymnasium and, over the years, it has grown to become a daily halt for several people. There is a separate playground with an open space surrounded by rows of swings, slides and seesaws for children. The playground has a badminton court as well where adults play friendly matches every morning.
The park’s jogging track has an incline that leads walkers through the beauty of the rocks. The huge volcanic rocks placed at regular intervals have been painted with the faces of different animals, like elephants, tigers and lions – a fun way to preserve the boulders while turning them into photo spots for adults and fascinating sights for children.
The track is also lined with hooded private benches so that individuals can sit privately amid the natural beauty of the space. There is an entire section that comprises only plants and trees, along with a small scenic pond. The well-maintained garden has a small shed-like toilet placed separately.
Mangrove right next door
Adding to the park’s luscious greenery is a mangrove forest situated right next to it. The park leads right into the heart of a mangrove forest preserved by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). It acts as the only entrance to the forest. Individuals going for a long run jog right along the park’s track that takes them to the forest.
These mangroves are a major tourist spot due to their uniqueness and ability to sustain abundant flora and fauna species. It is home to over 105 species of fishes, molluscs, 229 species of crustaceans, and 20 species of shellfish. There is also a collection of honey bees like Apis dorsata (rock bees and European bees). Plant species like shore purslane (Acanthus ilicifolius), sea dates (Phoenix paludosa) and golpatta (Nypa fruticans) sustain here as well.
Harish Pandey, a member of the New Link Road Residents’ Forum that works for the protection of the mangroves and who walks in the park daily, said, “In the beginning, when we were giving feedback for the park, this park was something different, so we named it Zen Garden.”
Inside the park, there is a high-rise wooden platform overlooking the mangroves that people can climb on to take in the view. The mangroves not only maintain the aesthetic of the area, but also the air quality. The park’s clean air and well-maintained features make it an inviting space that always remains cool and shady. The location of the park is such that there is minimal sunlight streaming in even in the afternoon.
Maintained by the BMC and the Dahisar Sports Foundation over the last decade, the park used to be an unmaintained space before locals decided to approach the civic body and the local MLA with a request to redevelop it.
Today, the park stays open from 5 am to 12 noon and from 3 pm to 8 pm and follows a strict no-litter policy. Like most such spaces, evenings are the busiest here. After 5 pm, when the heat reduces, senior citizens, schoolchildren and college students come to enjoy the park.