The Garden Guide

Book: C.M Villiers Stuart Gardens of the Great Mughals
Chapter: Chapter 6 Gardens of the Plains Lahore

Irrigation in Mughal gardens

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In Mughal garden - designs the fact of the irrigation was never lost sight of, for it governs every detail in the garden. The paths are always raised, and the flower-beds sunk, even when they are continuous parterres let into the paths themselves. The garden squares are generally two or three feet lower still, and their flowerbeds were planted in a correspondingly bolder way, with rose bushes, fruit trees, and tall-growing flowers and herbs. The large fountain basins and tanks were designed in the same fashion, their corners and sides being ornamented with scrolls of sculptured stone or marble. Broadly speaking, a Mughal garden is always a sunk garden, no matter how high or how numerous its terraces may be. The canals in the upper and lower terrace of the Lahore Shalimar Bagh are wide, about twenty feet across, and they each have their line of little fountains. There are broad pathways on either hand paved with narrow bricks arranged in herring-bone and various other patterns. In the Punjab, where the land is formed from the silt of the five great river-beds, stone is not easily procurable, so brick-work and tiles are largely used to replace the stone and marble of Delhi and Agra. These brick walks are a great feature at the Lahore Shalimar, and are particularly interesting as so many other Mughal gardens have lost all trace of the stones which paved their paths and causeways. The pavilions overlooking the water are inferior modern restorations, in brick and plaster; the Sikhs in the eighteenth century having despoiled the gardens of most of the splendid marble and agate work to ornament the Ram Bagh at Amritsar. One water pavilion alone, called, like those in the Delhi fort, Sawan Bhadon, gives some idea of Ali Mardan Khans original work. Through this pavilion the water of the large tank empties itself, filling the canals of the lower garden. Moorcroft, who visited Lahore in 1820, gives the following description of this baradari: 'There are some open apartments of white marble of one story on a level with the basin, which present in front a square marble chamber, with recesses on its sides for lamps, before which water may be made to fall in sheets from a ledge surrounding the room at the top whilst streams of water spout up through holes in the floor.' At Alwar, in an old garden pavilion belonging to the Maharaja, a similar device exists for cooling the rooms-a row of small jets is placed under the cornice outside the pavilion, so that the whole building can be veiled in a fine spray of water.