History of National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI)
and development of CSIR-NBRI to its present-day status and size, with a
25-hectare botanical garden, two laboratories complexes, a rich herbarium, a
voluminous library, an 85-hectare experimental-cum-extension at Banthra and
Aurawan make a fascinating story, set off against a colourful historical back
ground, spanning three distinct eras.
1. The Nawabi Era
The garden part of the NBRI encompasses within its
limits the historical 'Sikandar Bagh', which was laid out around 1800 A.D., as a
royal garden, by Nawab Saadat Ali Khan and was later improved upon by Nawab
Wajid Ali Shah, the last king of Avadh, during the first half of the 19th
century. It was, in fact, Nawab Wajid Ali Shah who named the garden as "Sikandar
Bagh", after one of his favourite queens, Sikander Mahal Begum. Measuring about
150 square metre and having a small pavilion in the middle, the garden must have
been the venue of innumerable performances of the famous 'Ras-lilas', 'Kathak'
dance, music and poetic 'mehfils' and other cultural activities for which the
last Nawab was very well known.
The Sikander Bagh was, later, also the venue for a fierce battle during the
uprising of 1857, when about 2000 freedom fighters, who had barricaded
themselves in the garden, were killed in a vicious British attack. Articles like
cannon balls, swords and shields, pieces of muskets and rifles, etc have been
accidentally dug out of the garden over the years and are displayed in the NBRI
Exposition. Presently the scars of cannon balls on the old walls of the garden,
still remind one of that historic event.
2. The British/State
After the establishment of the British
rule in 1858, some additional land around the Sikander Bagh was also attached to
it, a road was cut through it and it was officially renamed as the Government
Horticultural Garden. Several well known British horticulturists, namely, Dr. J.
Cameron, Dr. E. Bonavia, who wrote one of the early authoritative monographs on
Citrus spp., and Mr. M. Ridley, successively occupied the position of the
Superintendent of this Garden, which gradually became a centre of horticultural
activities, such as, the establishment of the Oudh Agri-Horticultural Society,
organization of flower shows, supply and exchange of plants, setting up of
flower nurseries, etc., in North India. Several fruit orchards, a flower nursery
and lawns were added to the Garden, which was also maintained as a public park.
3. The CSIR
From the very
time it was taken over by the CSIR, the NBG was envisaged to be a combination of
a botanic garden and an applied botanical research laboratory. However, the
course of events over the years has totally changed the very complexion of the
organization. It was renamed as the National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI)
in October 1978. The R & D effort of the NBRI is now geared to the exploration,
introduction, conservation, propagation, protection, genetic upgrading and
utilization of native and exotic plant wealth of India, with particular
reference to non-traditional economic plants and ornamentals, leading to
identification and development of production technologies for new plant
resources of commercial value.