Chandigarh: It is an event that continues to have an important place in the cultural calendar of the city. As Chandigarh`s Rose Festival this week enters its 40th year, residents throng in large numbers.
The star attractions are the millions of roses themselves, but there is also a host of activities, including competitions and cultural shows, at the festival being held at Rose Garden in upscale Sector 16 here from Feb 24 to 26.
Children would be crowned "Rose Prince" and "Rose Princess" and there will be painting and flower contests. Commercial and food stalls will be set up in the adjoining Leisure Valley in Sector 10.
In recent years, the footfall at the festival has crossed over 300,000, officials here said.
The Rose Garden has nearly 40,000 rose plants of over 800 rose species from all over the world.
The garden was set up in 1967 and was essentially the brainchild of Chandigarh`s first chief commissioner and keen horticulturist M.S. Randhawa - a man credited for giving the city millions of trees and a number of gardens and green belts.
The authorities here claim the Rose Garden, spread over nearly 30 acres, is the largest in Asia. Along with the roses, the garden also hosts trees of medicinal value.
"The Rose Festival is an important event for Chandigarh. Though the city itself is young, different generations of families have been coming in the last four decades to be part of it," former councillor Chander Mukhi Sharma told reporters.
The Rose Garden has been divided into 10 sections. These sections are not only for roses but also for a children`s play area, scrubs, medicinal plants, a hillock and musical fountains.
Some of the roses at the garden have been named after international and other personalities - from Britain`s Queen Elizabeth and former US president John F. Kennedy to former prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and M.S. Randhawa.
Some of the unusual names given to the rose varieties are: Only You, Dulhan, King`s Ransom, Hippie Girl, Love Me Tender, Careless Love, Lover`s Meeting, Delhi Prince, Oklahoma, American Heritage, Louisiana, Canadian Centenary, City of Belfast, Wild Plum and Dorothy Peach.
"We have to take care of the roses so that they are in full bloom when the festival comes. This year the winters have been excessively cold," said Subhash, a gardener.
For a few years the name of the festival was changed to Festival of Gardens by the local administration. However, for common people, it has always remained the Rose Festival.
Hundreds of people from Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh visit the city for the annual festival. They come here packed in buses, trucks and even tractor-trolleys. The festival also attracts people from other parts of the country and foreigners.
Chandigarh, which was planned and designed by French architect Le Corbusier and his team in the 1950s-60s as a symbol of a resurgent, independent India, has a total population of over one million.