The Garden Guide

Book: C.M Villiers Stuart Gardens of the Great Mughals
Chapter: Chapter 9 Pinjor - An Indian country house and its garden

Rang Mahal Painted Palace

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When Fadai Khan built his towering Rang Mahal (the Painted Palace) he must at least, so one would judge from its size, have meant to spend some time there, possibly all the summer months. This building is the largest in the garden, and is beautifully placed on the wall dividing the upper garden, with its two enclosures, from the larger garden below. Like most Indian palaces, the actual closed-in space is small, for the wide, terraced roof-top was always rightly held to be the best room of the house. Below, there is a great open hall, under which runs the main stream, so that the floor space is not divided, as it is in many earlier garden houses. Large rooms close in the hall at each end, and on either side a narrow stair winds upwards to the roof terrace and the ladies quarters. Here, on arriving, I found that rooms had been prepared for me. It was an enchanting place. Small wonder that Indian ladies feel little wish to wander in the outer world when from their purdah windows they have views like these. The rooms I used opened directly on to the platform of the main roof, the smallest of them, to my joy, still retaining the original decoration. In the lower apartments, time and a growing want of taste had quite destroyed all trace of the painting from which the palace takes its name. But this charming little room had escaped. The walls were white, plastered with the old highly-polished chanam; and the delicate designs, half painted and half moulded, brought back to mind the marble inlaid work of Agra and Delhi. The Kashmir lacquer of the ceiling shone fresh as ever in spite of the three centuries that had passed since Fadai Khans ladies fled in terror from their newly built palace. The little room was perfect; even the old doors were there, the woodwork painted with bouquets of flowers in vases-always a favourite Mughal design-against a dull green background. The soft west wind blew through the many windows all day long, and being nearly a hundred feet above the great lower garden, these rooms were free from mosquitoes and the deadly malaria which their bite so often brings.