The Saharanpur Botanic Garden is one of the oldest existing gardens in India and dates back to before 1750. Then named Farahat-Baksh, it was originally a pleasure ground, set out by a local chief in the 1770s. In 1817, it was acquired by the East India Company.
The first Superintendent of the Saharanpur Garden was George Govan, followed in 1823 by John Forbes Royle (1799-1858). He was mainly interested in growing medicinal plants however his experiments were not always successful. Between 1829 and 1831, he employed plant collectors to travel with traders, obtaining plants from far northern Kashmir. Later, further specimens were added to the hundreds already growing in the garden from Kunawar.
As early as 1819, it had been suggested that the Garden might be suitable to trial the growing of tea, but this was not to take place until later, c.1845. By then, there was extensive transport of plant specimens around the world via botanic gardens, using Kew Gardens in England as the hub of the network. Economic plants were a particularly important area of interest and seeds were made available through the East India Company in London. Saharanpur was one of a few gardens included in this research, sending to London as much as 2000 pounds weight of seed in 1863.
When the Botanical Survey of India was established in 1887, to reform the country's botanical science, Saharanpur became the centre for the survey of the northern Indian flora. Overall, the Garden is seen historically as being second only to the Calcutta Gardens in terms of national significance for its contribution to science and economy. Saharanpur Gardens were specially noted for their botanically interesting plants that were sent out to other Indian botanical gardens. It was significant for its role in the introduction and acclimatisation of medicinal plants and as a plant taxonomy research centre.
The Garden, now known as the Horticultural Experiment and
Training Centre, Sahranpur, operates on a commercial basis,
producing saleable seeds and plants, as well as carrying out
research into tropical and subtropical fruits, flowers and
vegetables. It also helps to conserve many ornamental, economic
and medicinal plants.
With each new Superintendent of the Garden, new drawings would be made and added to the collection. The 311 watercolours held by the Natural History Museum are believed to have been prepared c. 1855 under the guidance of Deputy Surgeon-General William Jameson who was the Garden Superintendent from 1844 to 1875. The collection provides a remarkable record of some of the plants that were present in the Saharanpur Garden in the mid-nineteenth century. Unfortunately, there is no record of the various artists who contributed to this wonderful archive.
These drawings have not previously been displayed to the public.
Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation (1980) A selection of late 18th and early 19th century Indian botanical paintings recording the indigenous and introduced flora of the subcontinent, commissioned by the Honourable East India Company and executed in watercolour by native artists, variously lent from the collections the British Museum (Natural History), India Office Library, Linnean Society of London, and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. The Institute : Pittsburgh. 72pp.
Cleghorn, H. (1861) The forests and gardens of south India. W. H. Allen and Co : London. 412pp.
Chakraverty, R. K. et al. (1990) A directory of botanic gardens and parks in India. Botanical Survey of India : Calcutta. 192pp.
Chakraverty, R. K. et al. (2003) Directory of plants in the Botanic Gardens of India. Flora of India Series 4. Botanical Survey of India : Kolkata. 555pp.
Desmond, R. (1992) The European discovery of the Indian flora. Royal Botanic Gardens Oxford University Press : New York. 355pp.
Museum - detailing conservation activities of John Forbes
Noltie, H..J. (1999) Indian botanical drawings 1793-1868 from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh : Edinburgh. 100pp.
Noltie, H. J. (2002) The Dapuri drawings : Alexander Gibson and The Bombay Botanic Gardens. The Antique Collectors Club in association with the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. 240pp.
Roxburgh, W (1814) Hortus Bengalensis or a catalogue of the plants growing in theonourable East India Company's botanic garden at Calcutta. Mission Press : Serampore. 105pp.
Seligmann, F. R. (1859) Prolegomena in Codicem Vindobonensem sive medici Abu Mansur Muwaffak bin Ali heratensis librum fundamentorum pharmacologiae linguae ac scripturae Persicae specimen antiquissimum &c.. Vindobonae. lvp.
White, J. J. and Farole, A. M. (1994) Natural history paintings from Rajasthan Catalogue of an exhibition 17 November 1994 to 24 February 1995. Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, Carnegie-Mellon University, Pittsburgh. 43pp.
White, J. J. and Bruno, L. B. (1999) Portraits of Indian trees. Catalogue of exhibitions : Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation 'Portraits of Indian trees: Arundhati Vartak' 16 September 1999 to 29 February 2000. 44pp.