Thick vegetation had taken over its lawns and the centuries-old tombs on its premises laid decrepit for years, but after a decade-long conservation work, the Sunder Nursery is now reborn as the city’s new horticultural paradise.
Adjoining the Humayun’s Tomb, the 90-acre park, which opened for public from today, was inaugurated last evening by Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and Prince Shah Karim Al Hussaini (the Aga Khan IV).
As many as 20,000 saplings of 280 tree species have been planted making the Sunder Nursery Delhi’s first arboretum. Over 80 bird species have already been recorded since the overgrown and decrepit nursery was replaced with green cover.
The centrepiece of the park is the Sunder Burj, a Mughal-era tomb endowed with embellished artwork on its inside dome and walls, said an official of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC), which carried out the conservation work.
A new central axis has been created rich with fountains and flower beds, replacing the thick vegetation and weeds that had taken over the space.
The Aga Khan said the garden will serve as a space for “recreation, contemplation, education and inspiration”.
“What a lively energetic space it will be. A large number of birds and butterflies have already made it their home since the conservation,” he said.
The global Shia leader, who is currently on an 11-day visit, said that students, scientists, artistes and historians would soon be coming to engage with the open green space.
Artistes indeed would be able to engage with the audience in this horticultural delight, as a sunken amphitheatre has also been created on its premises. The theatre is also a symbol of urban conservation.
“The thin red bricks used for its construction are made out of recycled construction material.
And, there are chambers spread around the amphitheatres from where rain water is collected to recharge the groundwater,” the official told PTI.
The place is an architectural delight too as 15 monuments, belonging to 16th century or earlier, dot this verdant space, with the Sunder Burj, being the first structure to be restored.
The agreement between the AKTC and the government of India and its agencies was signed in 2007 and the restoration work began in 2008. The Sunder Burj was restored between 2008-10.
The Aga Khan also hailed the hundreds of stone-carvers, masons, plasterers, gardeners, and engineers, who worked on the project.
“We also remember Prof. Md Shaheer (projects landscape architect), who is no more with us (he died in 2015),” the Shia leader said. The Aga Khan described the work done on the park as a harmonious interaction of “divine blessings and human creativity”.
“Nature’s gift with human design is deeply embedded in both the Indian culture and Islamic tradition as seen in the gardens and fountains here,” he said.
Besides creating a new fountain-filled channel on the 500-metre-long Central Axis, inspired by the Persian carpet patterns, an old lotus-shaped pond has also been restored, enhancing the aesthetic look of the park.
The park traces its origin to the creation of the new capital of Delhi, in planning of which wide avenues and gardens were incorporated.
“It began as Azim Garden in 1913 when the nursery was started to provide trees for plantation in New Delhi city which was coming up. Local people called Sunder Burj so owing to its beautiful carving and so later the name Sunder Nursery gained currency,” according to the AKTC official.
The AKTC carried out the conservation in partnership with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), and the Central Public Works Department (CPWD), which owns the park.
Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu described it as “magnificent garden” and a “successful story” of public-private-partnership model.
A senior official of the AKTC said, “The monument will be ticketed at Rs 30, and the revenue will go to the Sunder Nursery Management Trust.”
Noted journalist and author Mark Tully, who attended the inauguration function, said, “I used to come here for walks long time back, along with my dogs. It is good to see it has now been redeveloped as a veritable green space in Delhi.