The Garden Guide

Book: C.M Villiers Stuart Gardens of the Great Mughals
Chapter: Chapter 2 Gardens of the Plains - Agra

Babur Mughal garden design

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This long account of the building of the garden-palace at Agra gives a good illustration of the style of garden-design which the Emperor Babar introduced into India. The Mughals, with their fine traditions, laid most stress on the choice of site. Babar was evidently too wise to suppose, as many modern garden planners suppose, that he could build a great garden without a great idea or a great opportunity; and to his disgust, the dull monotony of the plains of Agra offered neither. Water, too, was a vital necessity to cool the dwelling rooms, supply the baths, and irrigate these immense terraced, enclosures. All the finest Mughal gardens or their ruins are found in beautiful situations, centring round a hillside spring, like the gardens of Achibal, Verinag, Wah, and Pinjor; or else built across a narrow ravine or valley through which a constant stream of water flows, such as the Kashmir Shalimar Bagh, the Gardens of the Ghat near Jeypore, and older still, the ill-famed Persian gardens of the Castle of Alamut,-the Paradise of the Assassins, of which Ser Marco Polo left such a quaint description, and the crusaders brought home strange tales. No spring or rivulet being available in the vicinity of Agra, Babar perforce had to start the work by digging wells; next, he proceeded with the tamarind tree enclosure and its octagonal tank, and then the great hall of audience. In Persia and India a house or palace is always understood to be included under the name of garden, and the whole composition was closely and beautifully interwoven. How much the finest Mughal buildings lose by the destruction or alteration of their gardens can be easily seen in the great palace-forts at Agra, Delhi, and Lahore, and the many desolate enclosures, all that are now left of the once 'Paradise-like orchards' of the Moslem garden-tombs.