Mughal Gardens in India

Ali Haidar Shah, Dr Priyanka Thakur
The Mughal gardens relate to a particular gardening style introduced by the Mughals in accordance with Persian architecture. Persian gardens, particularly charbagh (four square) structures and rectilinear patterns within walled constructions, had a strong effect on the style. Long pools, canals, and fountains, in combination with other garden features, are distinguishing features. From the commencement of the Mughal Empire, the creation of these gardens was a popular activity.
Babur, India’s first Mughal emperor, is credited with the creation of numerous renowned gardens. His son, Humayun, did not build a good garden but was fond of them. In Delhi and Agra, Akbar created numerous gardens. His ancestors created a fortress garden in Agra, but he developed a river front garden in Agra. Jahangir did not construct much, but he encouraged and enjoyed the development of gardens and flowering plants. Shahjahan was known for his flower creations and Mughal garden architecture.
Style, Characteristics and Special Features
Mughal gardens are a group of gardens built by Mughal Emperors in Islamic style of architecture which was influenced by Persian gardens and Timuris gardens. Significantly rectilinear designs were followed within the walled structure. The salient features are – pools, fountains, canals, change of elevation of structures and features combined with many other artifacts to make the gardens a paradise feeling. Mughal Gardens are generally divided into following four sections
* Rectangular Pearl garden
* Long Butterfly garden
* Circular garden
* Terraced garden
Some Salient Characteristics –
* A high surrounding wall
* Straight tile-lined channels of water
* Bubbling fountains
* Trees for shade and fruit
* A pavilion or gazebo
* Strong emphasis on flowers in beds and pots
Top-ten Mughal Gardens:
The top rated Mughal gardens considering structure and garden features located in different parts of India are given below.
* Taj Mahal Garden, Agra – It has a complex of 300 sq.m. The garden adds glories to the Taj Mahal. The elevated pathways that split the each of the four quarter gardens into 16 sunken flower beds looks magnificent. The garden is made in Persian Timurid style.
* Garden of Paradise, Agra – This garden was built by empress ‘Bega Begum’ designed by a Persian architect. It is the first tomb garden in the Indian sub-continent and has a quadrilateral layout covering an area of 30 acres.
* Roshanara Garden, New Delhi – It is also known as Baradari and is located in Shakti Nagar in Delhi. Shah Jahan’s second daughter, Roshanara Begum made this garden. In one corner of the garden, the ruins of her palace and tomb can also be found. On the other side, trees and other ornamental plants adorn the garden.
* Yadvindra Garden, Haryana – The garden is situated in Panchkula, Haryana. This garden was made in 17th Century by Nawab Fidai Khan. This beautiful garden has a center way which is full of water and both the sides are planted with grass and beautiful flowers. It is built in the memory of Maharaja Yadvindara Singh.
* Nishat Garden, Jammu & Kashmir – Another remarkable garden situated in Srinagar and was built in 1633. It has an amazing background of Zabarwan Mountains. Nishat Bagh (Garden of Joy) has 12 terraces which relate to 12 zodiac signs. It also has a long water canal.
* Chashme Shahi Garden, Jammu & Kashmir – This garden is located near to Raj Bhawan (Governor’s House) in Srinagar. This was constructed by Ali Mardan Khan who was the Mughal governor at that time.
* Shalimar Bagh, Jammu & Kashmir -This is one of the biggest Mughal gardens in Srinagar. This garden was built by Jahangeer for his wife Noor Jahan. From this garden’s terrace, one can clearly watch the beautiful water canal and ‘Dal Lake’ which actually looks mesmerizing. This garden is visited by a great number of tourists every year.
* Khusro Bagh – The garden is a situated in Khuldabad, near to Allahabad in state Uttar Pradesh and covers an area of 40 acres. It is a short walk from Akbar Fort. This garden is a perfect example of Mughal architecture. It includes the tomb of Shah Begum and Nithar Begum.
* Brindavan Garden, Karnataka – The most beautiful Mughal Garden, located next to the Krishnarajasagara dam which is built across the Kaveri river. It is quite near to Mysore. This Mughal style garden gets a lot of attraction and every year around two million tourists visit this place.
*The Presidential Garden, New Delhi – This garden is located at the backside of the Rashtrapati Bhavan and also known as Rashtrapati Bhavan garden. This is one of the most beautiful Mughal gardens and consist of a great variety of flowers. The garden is open for public only in the month of February every year.
Plants and Other Structures of the Mughal Gardens:
Mughals were great plant lover of all kinds. From fruit trees to ornamentals besides shrubby perennials were grown in large scale. Paradise gardens to avenues, inner courtyard to peripheral areas, all areas were planted with selected plants species of choice. Their fascination for flowering plants and fruit trees were well depicted in the form of paintings, carving and murals on the building walls. These provide an in depth accounts of availability of various kinds of plants during that era. Mughals were very fond of fragrant flowers and used to grow in the gardens.
Besides plants, Mughal gardens had many ornamented structures viz. decorated partition walls, perforated cement wall, carvings on the walls, decorated pillars, enclosures of various types depicting masonry art work. These structures magnified garden beauty in manifold in combination with other garden features
Latest Status:
Mughal gardens, which are part of numerous graves and memorials, can be found in many parts of India and other nations. The gardens were created largely to enhance the beauty of tombs, memorials, and constructions, and they were given significant consideration as essential parts of the monuments. The majority of the gardens are over a century old and have been refurbished while maintaining the core elements and features. UNSECO has designated some of them as Heritage Gardens, and they attract people from all over the world. As a result, the Mughal Gardens’ heritage is still popular and draws crowds.
A handful of them, particularly the structural parts, have been taken over by governments and converted into museums, houses, and other uses, but the gardens have remained. Some of the prominent Mughal gardens like Taj Mahal Garden, Agra; Rashtrapati Bhawan, New Delhi; Tomb Garden of Safdar Jung, New Delhi; Shalimar Bagh, Srinagar; Nishat Bagh, Srinagar are in good shape and popular destination for the travelers. Some of remaining ones usually are in oblivion and occasionally visited. The structures as well as the Mughal gardens need through renovation and proper maintenance in order to keep these live attractions for future also.
Mughal gardens and its style are historic and legendary. The gardens created in Mughal style are iconic and landmarks of that era. The style, components, placement and presentation of the features and their usefulness are unique and entirely different from other gardening style. Thus the Mughal gardens are always a point of attraction to all class of people and remained popular through ages irrespective of any other influences.
(Inputs by Dr Ajay Thakur)