The Garden Guide

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

Taj Mahal location

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A steep mountain-side offers one fine opportunity, the bank of a broad river another. The Nishat Bagh in Kashmir and the Taj gardens at Agra are each perfect of their kind: one a stately terraced hillside garden, the other a gracious riverside garden of the plains. From the high embankment of the Taj, where on either hand octagonal towers jut out conspicuously over the stream, the view of the river is very fine. Octagonal buildings, called chattris or baradaris, mark the angles of the walls in all old Indian gardens. Delightful little summer-houses they are, in which to sit and revel in the distant view; and in the contrast of the burnt-up arid land outside the garden's boundary with the misty fountains, glistening leaves, and vivid colours of the fruit and flowers within. Along the banks of the Jumna many of these old towers still mark the sites of ruined gardens. The octagonal baradaris of the Taj are large and elaborate buildings rising up in five stories from the water's edge. Towards sunset, looking back on Agra city and fort, one of these towers is silhouetted against the sky, all its white marble details lost in the warm dusk of the sandstone, forming a dark foreground to the distant view; the bold turn of the river where the palms of a long deserted garden lean over the silver-grey sand-banks, in and out of which, sweeping in great curves, the river finds its way and swings across to where it flows under the old fortress walls. The towers, and high white buildings of the city, lie almost lost beneath the gathering films of mist and smoke, save for one slender spire, which tells of wise, tolerant days when the great Akbar granted leave and land for every teacher, and India all but turned to meet the Christian claim. Nearer, the fort stands up, a dark mass of solid masonry, against which the Jasmine Tower glimmers faintly, showing the arches through which Shah Jahan last saw the vision of his love; and crowning the citadel, floating like bubbles in the evening air, shine the three pearly domes of the royal mosque.