The Garden Guide

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

Taj Mahal palace visit

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For a month, every sunrise and sunset found me in these gardens; and among all the sunny days one grey day stands out alone. It had been raining, a sudden sharp burst of the early winter rains. The water stood in great pools along the worn stone pathways, extending the reflections of the wide canal and brimming over the edges of the fountain parterre round the central tank. A soft grey bloom of raindrops veiled the grass and clung to the tapering cypress spires, while beyond them, against a background of purple cloud, the Taj, more exquisite than ever, seemed sharply carved in mellow ivory; smooth, solid ivory of every tone from palest cream to a soft, deep ochre, where the rain had stained the marble. A long-forgotten first sight of Pisa in winter flashed back on my mind as I gazed entranced at this strange new Taj, with its quiet harmonies of grey-green, and cream, and purple. Up on the high platform of the mausoleum, the moisture glistened on the waving black and white lines of the inlaid pavement, whose symbolic ripples carry out an old Indian tradition, so that the Taj, like many an ancient Hindu shrine, stands in the centre of a tank. Here, on most days, the glare of sunshine radiating up from this dazzling pavement is quite blinding, and all but obscures the lovely details of the dado round the building; but in the more subdued light the inlaid borders and delicate carving of the floral panels showed clearly. This dado is one of the most charming examples of Mughal decorative work, and like the parterres which it naively represents-for the design is taken directly from the oblong flower-beds, such as were seen beside the canals of every palace garden-it only reveals its full delicacy of form and colour on a dull day. How delicious they are, these formal flower-beds, with their bluebells, daffodils, tulips, crown-imperials, lilies, and irises, which stand up swaying on their slender stems by the black and white marble ripples, forming a fairy circle round the tomb. Spring flowers all of them, for the Rose of Persia and the Lotus of the Good Law hold a truce, and are missing from this gathering of the flowers. Maybe the famous Kashmir gardens of the Empress Nur Jahan were the artist's inspiration here. In the record, which is still preserved, of the craftsmen employed on the Taj, the name appears of one Ram Lai Kashmiri, proving that at least one Kashmir artist was employed by Shah Jahan.