The Garden Guide

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

Mughal garden design principles

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Bold repetition and breadth of treatment lend, as we have seen, a wonderful fascination, a grand, serene, and peaceful dignity to Indian garden-craft. But these vast gardens of the plains when bereft, as so many of them are, of their flowers, trees, and water, the edges of their raised stone walks and platforms left sharp and hard-casting long unbroken shadows in the blazing sunshine- easily degenerate into a tiresome, soulless formality, a tedious reiteration of bare lines. The very lines which, as Ruskin points out, when partly clothed, by their contrast form the best foil to the grace of natural curves in plant and foliage and heighten the enjoyment of the wild luxuriant vegetation-the rapid growth which shoots up after the first summer rains, the dancing sway of flowering twigs and the coloured foam of the creepers as they fall in cascades down the trees. That monotony was the special danger of the Mughal as of other classic styles, was clearly recognised by its designers, and in great char-baghs-literally, four gardens-like Shah-Dara the four main divisions of the grounds were usually laid out in different ways. Among other forgotten charms of Indian garden-craft is the custom of consecrating separate squares, or even whole gardens, to the worship of some special flower. Such were the Lala-zar (Tulip-fields), which made such a regal blaze of colour round Samarkand in spring; Babars Violet Garden, near Cabul; or the Gulabi Bagh (Rose Garden) at Lahore, with the motto heading this chapter on its entrance gate. Poor Rose Garden, its beds and pergolas, its very walls are gone; only its high, tiled gateway stands, reminding all who pass of the loveliness which once caused the Tulip Gardens jealousy. Seen from the raised chabutras, these broad colour masses backed by the dark trees would be particularly effective. Poppies, lilies, and anemones were other flowers that were frequently planted in plots, and among smaller flowers, like the violets, were the red cyclamen, which still hang their dainty little heads in a row, portrayed in coloured marbles round Jahangirs tomb. The Mughals with their Tartar traditions were great tomb-builders as well as gardeners. To explore the evidences of their zeal in this respect around Lahore is an enthralling occupation-chiefly on account of the different specimens one comes upon of Nakkashi work, that is, of the inlaid tiles so largely used in their decoration.