SUNDER NURSERY – History’s Keepers
The old-fashioned path to the beautiful Sunder Nursery is easy to bypass. You can get to it via the bustling Mathura Road, which coils around a roundabout. In the middle of the roundabout is Subz Burj tomb or the blue-domed Nila Gumbad (Blue Dome). Currently, it has been cordoned off awaiting renovations. The impressive Humayun’s Tomb stands beyond it. On the other side of the road, pilgrims travel through small pathways to visit the revered memorial of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. Not far away is the tiny street fringed with several trees. Swerving to the left, the tomb of Humayun goes unnoticed, hidden by the more famous and magnificent sights. A mere 300 meters down this pathway from the main road, you will be greeted by a modest sign indicating you have arrived at Sunder Nursery.
The historical account of the location tells of present-day Sunder Nursery and the time of the Mughal reign in the 16th century. Initially, Sunder Nursery was called Azim Bagh. It was constructed as a Mughal garden next to the landmarks of Nizamuddin Basti and Humayun’s Tomb, which were already established. More than 100 monuments are scattered about the area of the Nizamuddin-Humayun’s Tomb and Sunder Nursery. Some of them go as far back as the 14th century. The road known as Grand Trunk once ran through the Nursery between Purana Qila and Humayun’s Tomb. At the distant end of the Nursery is the Azimganj Sarai, which is presently inside the Delhi Zoo. It is believed this was constructed as a temporary abode for pilgrims, travellers, craftsmen, merchants, and other sojourners.
When the Mughal reign ended, several of the monuments were neglected and became derelict. This was also the fate of the Sunder Nursery gardens but only for a time because once the British moved their capital to Delhi from Calcutta, they created a nursery at this site. Here, a variety of plant specimens were produced for the lanes and gardens of the new capital. Hence, the former garden has gotten its present designation. It is said that Sydney Percy-Iancaster set out the nursery at the time. He was the second from the lineage of three Englishmen who committed their lives to the development of India’s horticulture.
The Central Public Works Department took over the Nursery. They continued utilize it for field trials of a variety of plant breeds. Unfortunately, several of the memorials and gardens that existed at Sunder Nursery in the earlier centuries dwindled into obscurity over the years.
Ten years ago, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture took on the gigantic responsibility of bringing the Sunder Nursery back to its glorious days by restoring, renovating, and maintaining it. It also developed a city park with a distinguished history, as well as cultural and ecological infrastructure. The possibility that several important monuments would be restored was one of the reasons why this area was selected to undergo such major renovations. At the same time, it created a city park and enhanced the lives of many people. The Sunder Nursery development is similar in standard to other city parks the Aga Khan Trust for Culture has developed all over the world in metropolis like Cairo, Mali, Kabul, Edmonton, Aleppo, Zanzibar, and many others.
These projects of restoration were included in the larger urban renewal plans. Such initiatives included about fifty monuments in the area of Nizamuddin-Humayun’s Tomb-Sunder Nursery, which had extensive work done to preserve them. Twelve of these monuments were designated as UNESCO World Heritage memorials included in the Humayun’s World Heritage Site. Half dozen of these monuments: Lakkarwala Burj, Chota Batashewala Mahal, Sunderwala Burj, Sunderwala Mahal, Mirza Muzaffar Hussain’s tomb, as well as an anonymous Mughal’s tomb are housed inside the Sunder Nursery. Moreover, nine other monuments are located on this property, making the total of fifteen monuments. This figure includes an 18th-century garden pavilion. This makes the recently opened park a new attraction of historical landmarks.
As you enter Sunder Nursery, you are welcomed by a blanket of green scenery spread as far as the eye can see. The vast green area is dotted in part by the white monuments and sandstone pathways of brown that take you further into the Nursery. Leading these pathways is the magnificent central view that flows from the zone of entry at the back of Humayun’s Tomb to Azimganj Sarai situated in the Delhi Zoo on the other side. This follows the direction of the Old Grand Trunk Road. It’s like taking a journey back in time.
The blueprint for the landscape of Sunder Nursery (90-acre property), is made up of distinguished lineage, ecology, and nursery zones. The monuments and trees were specifically integrated into the design. The panorama of the gardens inspired by the Mughals displays grand fountains made of marble with water flowing between the congruous beds of flowers. The scenery around the monuments incorporates tiny gardens with Mughal foliage, for example, the lovely rose garden surrounding the Lakkarwala Burj monument.
Some twenty acres of Sunder Nursery are being actively used as a nursery. Facilities have been specifically constructed to exhibit a plush collection of more than four hundred bonsai plants. A vast open space sheeted with grass is covered in the sun. This maidan is used as a picnic spot in the winter. A hollowed, open-air amphitheatre is on one side to accommodate cultural events. Near the far end of the Nursery is a calm lake with pathways, places to sit, and alcoves along its borders. In the works are plans to construct cafés by the lakeside. Also, a 10,000-sq-metre museum is being built. To add to the intrigue of this place, the now separated Humayun’s Tomb and Sunder Nursery will be joined together by an underground tunnel. This will permit unlimited access to pedestrians between the two landmarks.
This is the ideal place of solace to protect you from the hustle and bustle of the city. Though the future plans are intriguing, it was challenging to rebuild the past and bring it to the current magnificence of this place. It took ten years of effort and time to survey, create a comprehensive plan of action, and put it in place in stages. The broken memorials were carefully rebuilt. In some cases, all the fretwork and inscriptions that were missing were meticulously replaced. Lots of truckloads of rubble were moved from this area. After which the structures for irrigation and electrical installation were prepared. Outlying roads were built and nursery beds were set out over 20 acres. A mammoth 20,000 saplings of some 280 indigenous species of trees were planted. This made the park what it is today and led to the formation of Delhi’s first conservatory. Over the years, 60 types of butterflies and 80 varieties of birds have been seen here. Now that the lakes and other bodies of water are full, more types of birdlife are expected.
The heritage lovers in our midst will be excited about the potential for the exploration of the old jewels that were recently restored. Those who love nature are already jumping for joy. But that’s not all; Sunder Nursery has more to offer. The 20-acre micro habitat zone displays the plants of the riverine, ridge, and marshy ecosystems that used to be Delhi. They went missing in the process of construction and development. Sunder Nursery is really a lost part of Delhi that now stands gracefully.
HOW TO GET THERE:
Sunder Nursery is situated at the back of the well-known Humayun’s Tomb. Jor Bagh on the Yellow Line and JLN Stadium on the Violet Line are the closest metro stations. Auto rickshaws (tuk-tuks) are easily available from each of these stations.
Some Images From Our Trip To Sunder Nursery