The Garden Guide

Book: C.M Villiers Stuart Gardens of the Great Mughals
Chapter: Chapter 3 The Gardens of the Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal history - Bernier

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Bernier gives an account of the gardens as he saw them in about 1660. Looking over the grounds from the high platform of the mausoleum, he says: 'To the left and right of that dome on the lower surface you observe several garden walks covered with trees and many parterres of flowers.... Between the end of the principal walk and this dome is an open and pretty large space, which I call a water parterre, because the stones on which you walk, cut and figured in various forms, represent the borders of box in our parterres.' Here it would seem that Bernier is describing the great platform of the Taj itself. Although he is, as a rule, singularly clear and accurate in his observations and statements, in his account of his visit to' the Paradise of the Indies' (Kashmir) with the Emperor Aurungzeb he speaks of sailing up the whole length of the Shalimar Bagh, but as this garden is on three distinct levels, it is a little difficult to understand how he accomplished the feat. Be that as it may, in spite of his natural preference for all things French, this genial old Parisian cannot restrain his admiration for the Mughal buildings, even though he finds 'the columns, the architraves and cornices are, indeed, not formed according to the proportion of the five orders of architecture so strictly observed in French edifices.' When, as in 1660, a splendid living art flourished in Europe, that of India was not despised. And I cannot leave Bernier at the Taj without quoting the following delightful extract: 'The last time I visited Tage Mehale's mausoleum I was in company of a French merchant, who, as well as myself, thought that this extraordinary fabric could not be sufficiently admired. I did not venture to express my opinion, fearing that my taste might have become corrupted by my long residence in the Indies; and as my companion was come recently from France, it was quite a relief to my mind to hear him say that he had seen nothing in Europe so bold and majestic.'