Finding Delhi – Sunder Nursery

Some wonderful things are happening in the Sunder Nursery. As the restoration work at Humayun Tomb complex winds down, the attention is focussing on the lesser known Sunder Nursery that lies on the left of the Humayun Tomb parking. Sunder Nursery spread over seventy acres is India’s largest government nursery. Apart from selling potted plants and cut flowers at reasonable rates the nursery is home to several heritage structures from the 16th century currently in different stages of restoration along with significant Sufi graves.

Sunder Nursery played an important role during the establishment of Delhi’s Eighth City by the British. Sunder Bagh, then known as Azim Bagh housed rare plant species from different British colonies across the world. It was also used to experiment with trees that were proposed to be planted in the new city. About 1500 shady trees we see today along the wide roads of Lutyens’s Delhi came from this nursery. Those days, Azim Bagh stood on the historic Grand Trunk Road between Humayun Tomb and Purana Qila. In the build up to Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games there was a proposal to build a road through the nursery to connect NH24 to Lodhi Road for faster connectivity to JN Stadium. The idea was scrapped in the face of resistance by environmentalists. In 2009 DUAC formally approved the plan to convert Sunder Nursery into an ecological heritage zone.

Sunder Nursery renovation is part of Urban Renewal Initiative covering Humayun Tomb, Nizamuddin Basti and Sunder Nursery. The initiative is a Public Private Partnership comprising of ASI, CPWD and Aga Khan Trust for Culture. The plan envisages the entire premises as an amalgamation of Forest, Heritage and Nursery functions. To achieve this, a nursery has been set up over seven acres at the northern end to start with.

Delhi’s first arboretum or micro-habitat zone is being created over 20 acres that will showcase 300 species of plants and trees over different habitats found across the city – Dabar (Marshy), Kohi (Hill), Khadar (Riverine), and Bangar (Alluvial). In addition, there will be a Garden House exhibiting plant species from Tropical & South India and a Bonsai House hosting exotic species.

Running through the park will be a Central Axis patterned on Chahar Bagh or four part paradise garden surrounding Humayun Tomb. The vista will have fountains and lawns and once completed will stretch from Humayun Tomb’s entry plaza to Azimganj Sarai. An amphitheatre is also being built reflecting a lotus pond excavated here. The amphitheatre will be the setting of cultural events in the backdrop of Sunderwala Burj and Sunderwala Mahal. This will add another dimension of culture to this environment and heritage hub.

Sunderwala Burj

Sunderwala Burj

Sunderwala Burj - View from Central Axis

Sunderwala Burj – View from Central Axis

Sunderwala Burj
The Sunderwala Burj occupies place of pride in the complex. Entire Sunder Nursery development is centred on it. The Burj, an early Mughal building is square domed and was originally meant to house a grave. However, no grave is found inside. Recently, the Burj has undergone extensive restoration sponsored by US Ambassador who gave a grant of $50,000 along with matching grant from Aga Khan Trust. The Burj now wearing a fresh coat of white paint and restored inscriptions presents a pretty picture amid the spring blooming flower beds. Due to unknown reasons, the door was locked and you missed seeing the restored floral motifs on the dome ceiling.

Lakkarwala Burj

Lakkarwala Burj

Lakkarwala Burj - Restored Insides

Lakkarwala Burj – Restored Insides

Lakkarwala Burj
Just beyond the Sunder Burj towards right is another hidden wonder known as Lakkarwala Burj. Lakkarwala is similar to Sunderwala but only bigger and perched on a high platform. This burj has also been restored and looks resplendent amid the roses. The dome with its elaborate red coloured motifs, jaali jharokhas and squinch arches looks magnificent.

Sunderwala Mahal

Sunderwala Mahal

Sunderwala Mahal
Sunderwala Mahal lies a few yards to the right of Sunderwala Burj. It is a one storey building with arches all around. The Mahal is awaiting restoration and there is no identifying sign yet. Sitting under shady trees the Mahal seems a little eerie in the rustling breeze.

Mughal Pavilion

Mughal Pavilion

Mughal Pavilion
Moving right from the Sunderwala Mahal and following the concrete path will bring you to the restored Mughal Pavilion. Looking at the ‘before’ photos of the pavilion on the sign board you can’t help admiring the restoration work done on the pavilion. Sitting under overhanging branches of trees, the pavilion in white and red presents a tranquil picture.

Arched Gateway

Arched Gateway

With trees threatening to uproot it, the Arched Gateway is a strange looking structure probably part of a bigger building. The gateway lies towards North West of the Mughal Pavilion. The gateway is unusually large in proportion to the surrounding walls. Marijuana plants grow with abandon all around. You can barely see the Sunderwala Burj through the foliage about 300 metres to your left. You are again in a zone of bliss. The place qualifies as another surprise Delhi throws at you just like at Lal Kot in Mehrauli and Hauz Khas lake.

Sunder Nursery Entrance

Sunder Nursery Entrance

Sunder Nursery is a perfect setting for both nature and history. Come enjoy the tranquillity away from the cacophony of the city. It is one of the best kept secrets of Delhi where you can have the whole place to yourself.

24 Comments

  • Stone says:

    Hearing first time about this place, and tough to believe such peaceful place exists in that side of Delhi.

    Lovely narration as usual, you almost transported us right in middle of Sunder Nursery.

    Thank you.

    • Nirdesh Singh says:

      Hi Stone,

      Thanks for reading and appreciating.

      Yes, until now I would just go to Humayun Tomb and come back. Now Lucy Peck with her lovely book has motivated me to go to lesser known places in Delhi.

      The entire Humayun Tomb complex has undergone changes. Recently, the Isa Khan tomb has also been opened after two years restoration.

      Thanks again!

  • Thanks for presenting another secret marvel of Delhi.
    How much time we have spent in Delhi and how much we don’t know about here – only you brought this to our notice.

    • Nirdesh Singh says:

      Hi Praveen,

      Thanks much!

      I am taking your lead. Just getting off the road or the metro and walking around the corner with a surprise waiting every time.

  • Thank you Nirdesh for sharing this wonderful post.

    Let me also admit that I have heard and seen the place before (signboard from outside) but, ignore this as just a nursery and moved on.

    There are so many such places around all of us, which we just ignore and such posts will definitely help a lot of people to go there and spend some time with the nature.

    • Nirdesh Singh says:

      Hi Amitava,

      Thanks!

      Yes Sunder Nursery is indeed a pretty place especially in the spring time when I visited. Since its hot now, best time will be to go in the evenings though it is quite shady with trees all around. Once the project is over, the site will become centreplace for nature, culture and performing arts showcase.

  • Harish Bhatt says:

    Another marvellous post. Seeing Delhi through your eyes is a treat

  • Nandan Jha says:

    It is a FOG (First on Ghumakkar). Didn’t know.

    In 1994, I did few visits to Humayun Tomb. We were exploring the option of using the tomb as a backdrop for a play (covering lifes and times of India from vedic to post-babri). At that time the restoration was at its peak for the main area. I did go there again few times, mostly to take someone of the other but I have no clue of ‘Sundar Nursery’. Thank you Nirdesh for educating us about this place and for the brilliant narration and marvellous pictures.

    Super like.

    • Nirdesh Singh says:

      Hi Nandan,

      Thanks for the appreciation!

      So did ASI give permission to let you perform there?

      Humayun Tomb area will need at least two days to see all the places of interest. This would cover the Humayun Tomb Complex, the Nila Gumbad in the back, Damdama Sahib Gurudwara, Nizamuddin Chilla and of course Sunder Nursery.

      • Nandan Jha says:

        No, we were young (and restless and stupid) so we could not focus on one single thing and kept changing our plans. Finally, we did the performance at Aiwan-e-Ghalib, a little known auditorium close to ‘Mata Sundari College’.

  • smitadhall says:

    Wow! Always noticed, never explored. Thanks for sharing the insides of Sundar Nursery. This calls for a visit, in a better weather of course!

  • Nirdesh Singh says:

    Hi Smita,

    Thanks!

    Yes Sunder Nursery does deserve a visit. While you are at it, you can check if Batashewala Mahal has been renovated. Two months back it was closed. It lies walking distance from Sunder Nursery on the narrow road leading to the Gurudwara.

  • Instead of repenting for having wasted so many years going to CP and Chandni Chowk again and again and never exploring Delhi much, it would be better for me to take corrective action at least now and visit at least one new place whenever I happen to be in Delhi. If I am able to do it, I would be doing a great favour to myself.

    Thanks Nirdesh for giving me and my camera one more place to explore which is not in some remote part of the globe where only Praveen Wadhwa has got access to. :D

    • Nirdesh Singh says:

      Hi Sushantji,

      After a long time I visited CP last night. The air was pretty breathable as finally I think all the digging is slowly coming to a close. There was some cultural program going on in the Central Park. Palika Bazaar with its knockoffs doing good business. Intense haggling in Janpath. CP will always hold that romance for Delhiwallahs.

      Yes, Sunder Nursery is very approachable with no known instances of being jumped by leopards! Or getting lost. Sooner or later you will reach Sunder Nagar in the north or the railway lines in th east.

      Thanks for reading!

  • As usual very informative post !

  • Saurabh Gupta says:

    I have visited Humayu tomb but not seen Sunder Nursery. You and Amitva Ji are doing a great job for the ghumakkars. After spending 7 years in Delhi my knowledge for Delhi is very less.

    Thanks again for the great job.

    • Nirdesh Singh says:

      Hi Saurabh,

      Thanks!

      Seven years are nothing, people have been here for more than 40 years and just discovering new sites in the immediate neighborhood!

  • Rajat says:

    Dear Sh Nirdesh

    These are really very nice photos.

    Very interesting information is captured !!

    Thanks & Regards

    Dr. Rajat Goel

  • Hey Nirdesh

    I had never even heard of this before I visited this site. Humayun’s tomb was one of the very first places I ever visited in India, but next time I’m in Delhi, I’ll certainly have to visit Sunder Nursery (and also Neela Gumbad).

    Cheers

    Patrick A Rogers

  • Nirdesh Singh says:

    Hi Patrick,

    Yes, Sunder Nursery is a surprise. Lots of work going on there. I will have to go back to check up on its progress!

    After the renovation work at Humayun Tomb, the focus has shifted to the neighboring places of interest. Neela Gumbad is undergoing renovation and railways plan to shift their scrap so that it is incorporated in the Humayun Tomb Complex. Also the baoli inside the Nizamuddin Village is finally getting a facelift. So lots of nice things going on to dispel the cynicism. And yesterday we discovered more gems in South Delhi area like Mohammedwali Mosque in Siri, Nila Masjid and Chor Minar in Hauz Khas, and the best of all Makhdum Sahib mosque and tomb in Mayfair Gardens adjoining Hauz Khas.

    I am leaving your blog link here so Ghumakkars can discover Delhi and India through your eyes.

    http://evenfewergoats.blogspot.in/2013/07/hampi-pt-1.html

    Keep visiting!

  • J.B. says:

    What can I say, what could it be, just this much, Remember me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *