Founded in 1820 by Rev William Carey, an English Baptist Missionary, the Agri Horticultural Society of India serves as a heaven for horticulture enthusiasts. The Society was founded with the set- out objectives of development and promotion of agriculture and horticulture in India. William Carey was encouraged and supported by the Governor-General of India, The Marquis of Hastings, who also became the first patron of the Society.
Dr. Carey was a distinguished orientalist, a very distinguished botanist, but most distinguished as the founder of this Agricultural Society. William Carey’s mammoth contribution in improvement of Indian agriculture and horticulture is widely eminent. Carey holds the position of having been the founder of the Agricultural and Horticultural Society of India in 1820 and the position of president, 1824-1826. The Society continues to give prominence to Carey, “The Father of Modern Bengal” as called by Rabindranath Tagore, in its ongoing development, history and heritage.
Sir George King
Dr. N. Wallich
In 1820, Carey published an essay presenting reasons for the establishment of an Agricultural Society in India. His purpose centered upon the development and promotion of agriculture and horticulture in India." On September 14, 1820, Carey and four other Europeans including Joshua Marshman established the Society, but by October 23, 1820, over fifty persons had joined the Society. Not only Lord Hastings even Lady Hastings had been a longtime supporter of Carey's interest in agriculture and horticulture. Now, almost two hundred years old, the society has a long and distinguished history in Indian culture.
Carey's essay on advocating the establishment of an agricultural and horticultural society in India states the following purposes Carey envisaged for the Society:
- Improvement of the land, by encouraging a superior mode of cultivation,
- The best method of properly cropping land and the best rotations of crops,
- Introduction of new and useful plants,
- Improvement of implements of husbandry,
- An attempt to improve animal stock,
- Inclusion of waste lands into a state of cultivation
With the foundation of the society a wide variety of vegetables and fruits were introduced in the market to which the Indian society was completely oblivious. Before the formation of the society good vegetables were scarcely possible to be procured even in the gardens of private gentlemen. The result of establishing the society has been that the finest vegetable are easily procurable in the bazar.
Up to 1829 the society had limited their attention to the extension and improvement of market vegetables and fruits. Later on their attention had been directed to the more important objects of agriculture, especially cotton and the sugar-cane. The members had done their best to spread their Otaheite cane, thick cane with high sugar content, that gave high yields on virgin and relatively new land.
In its initial days the Society was known as the Agricultural Society of Calcutta. After 1824, the word “Horticultural” was included and the society was rechristened as Agricultural & Horticultural Society, presently known as The Agri Horticultural Society of India.
The Society served as the de facto ministry of agriculture up to 1900. India owes a great deal to Carey as he pioneered the import of winter vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, tomato and beet that were otherwise impossible to grow in Indian climate. From acclimatizing these crops to modernizing the cultivation techniques, Carey's contribution in the current progress of Indian agriculture is remarkable.
Mr. Percy-Lancaster is another revered name in the history of the Society whose immense contribution would be remembered across generations. He introduced many new plants from abroad and institutionalized the concept of hybridization in India. Many plants found in the Society owe their origin to him. He discovered many interesting mutants in: Acalypha, Canna, Codiaceum, Hibiscus, Malvaniscus, Panax and Sansevieria.
The Society was awarded the 'Royal' Charter in 1935 by King George V.
The Society since its inception in 1820 has successfully taken ahead the tradition that was initiated by these stalwarts. The Society continues its endeavor in introducing a plethora of better strains of cereals, vegetables and fruit trees. The Society has introduced maize from America, wheat from Europe and high yielding rice from Carolina. Potato, tomato, cauliflower, cabbage, turnip, carrot and all of the European vegetables from England and Europe.
Since its inception, various Governor-Generals and Viceroys were the Chief Patrons of the Society and, after independence, the President of India has adorned this position upto Shri K. R Narayanan.