The Garden Guide

Book: C.M Villiers Stuart Gardens of the Great Mughals
Chapter: Chapter 5 Gardens of the Plains - Delhi

English design for Roshanara Garden

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The gardens [of Roshanara Begam] were obviously 'improved' when, many years ago, they became Government or city property-improved after the then prevailing English landscape fashion. Putting the whole question of design-or want of it-aside for the moment, as well as that of climate, this style of gardening, good as it was sometimes for large parks and sheets of water, breaks down at the garden, even when it is a public one. All good garden-designers, whether English, Italian, Indian, or Japanese, have recognised one simple truth-to enjoy a garden one must walk. This was a fact the European landscape gardeners never seemed to grasp. The broad masses of a large English park, the stretches of autumn woodland, the banks of gay flowering shrubs, the cowslip meadows, the soft mist of bluebells under the trees, give pleasure even in a rapid passing glance as we drive or ride or motor by. But who would wish to motor through a garden? A garden is for leisurely delights, delicate scents, delightful harmonies of colour, open spaces for games, and maybe clear reservoirs to swim in; but in India, where the chosen and recurrent theme of every art is the beauty of contemplation, the garden should indeed above all be a place of cool restfulness, a real Arama, for tired eyes and minds. It is the new roads more than anything else which have ruined gardens like the old pleasance of the Princess Roshanara, or the Queens Gardens in Delhi City; the winding drives which give a sense of restlessness and exposure, as they cut up the garden with their broad bare gravel sweeps, and make the flower borders, however large, look mean and unrelated to each other. The beautiful canals of Indian gardens, on the other hand-the cosmic cross on which the old designs are based-have just the opposite effect. The long lines of the great water-ways and paths, hedged in by trees, produce a wonderful sense of stately dignity and peace, while the tranquil breadth of water repeats the flowers, trees, and buildings with a double magic charm, till the whole garden seems full of that mysterious beauty, that comes of the sense of calm continuance, 'That one day should be like another, one life the echo of another life,' which is the result of quietude, part of that rhythm of harmonious change through birth to death and death to birth again, that special Eastern consciousness of universal life.