Gardening in India
continues our popular series with a visit to some of
the most historic and beautiful gardens in the world
The first great Indian
Mogul emperor Babur (1483-1530) was descended from two
noted Mongol warriors, Ghengis Kahn and Tamburlaine.
He captured Samarkand at the age of 12, but was soon
chased out by other warring tribes. Searching for a
kingdom, Babur captured Agra and became ruler of an
area that included Delhi and Jaipur. But Babur was not
simply a warrior. He was also a poet and a keen gardener.
He wrote in his memoirs: 'Hindustan is a country of
few charms..there are no.. grapes, musk-melons or first-rate
fruits, no ice or cold water.. There are no running
waters in their gardens or residences.'
He therefore immediately
set about creating a garden on the banks of the Jumna
at Agra. This was the Ram Bagh, a remnant of which still
exists (it is supposedly being restored). He called
it Bagh-I-Gul afshan or 'Flower-Scattered Garden'. It
was the first of many gardens created by Babur and his
descendants within their palaces, forts and tombs.
The Ram Bagh was
based on Babur's memories of the fourfold paradise gardens
in Persia and Samarkand which were divided into quarters,
representing the symbols of life. These were divided
by water (the source of life) flowing in shallow channels
with large tanks of water where the channels met, all
flanked by flowering shrubs and clipped evergreens.
There were patterned cascades to allow the water to
sparkle in the sun. Persian waterwheels were used to
raise the water to large tanks from which it was distributed
to the channels by gravity. All Babur's descendants
created gardens that followed this basic plan.
There are several
Mogul gardens worth visiting in the triangle of Delhi,
Agra and Jaipur, though sadly, few still have running
· Amber Fort, established
in 1592 by the Rajput Raja Man Singh I with magnificent
buildings added by Jai Singh I in the 17th century.
Elephants carry the visitor up to the four square garden
that was once a parade ground. Within the fort are three
private palaces each built around a Mogul style garden.
· Akbar's Mausoleum, Sikandra, 8km NW of Agra: Akbar
was Babur's grandson, the greatest and most successful
builder of the Mogul empire. The tomb was designed and
building started while Akbar was still alive, then modified
and completed by his son and successor Jehangir. Surrounding
the red brick and marble structure is a large park with
deer, monkeys, peacocks and parrots. Wide stone causeways
divide the area into four, each quadrant with its fountain,
sunken pond, fruit trees and shrubs. Tel: 37 1230; 7am-5.15pm.
· Taj Mahal, Agra: built by Shah Jahan, the fifth Mogul
emperor for his wife Mumtaz Mahal. The garden has wide
cross axes with broad canals, fountains and to one side
generous avenues of tall trees. It is worth taking a
walk here, away from the crowds. Tel: 0562 33 0496;
· Fatehpur Sikri, 37km west of Agra. Built by Akbar
in 1571, it is a good example of a Mogul walled city
with defined private and public areas in a blend of
Hindu and Islamic styles. One garden remains, with its
narrow water channels but the large bathing pool is
empty. Open 7am-7pm.
with premission from Greenfingers.com