The Moonlight Garden
New Discoveries at the Taj Mahal
AUTHOR: Moynihan, Elizabeth B.
PUBLISHER: University of Washington Press
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For 350 years, the Taj Mahal in Agra has reigned luminous and splendid as perhaps the most admired monument in the world. Visitors who gazed across the Yamuna River from the Taj pavilions have viewed what appears to be little more than farmers' fields and barren ground. But historical references as well as paintings from the time of Shahjahan (r. 1628-58) reveal that it was once densely covered by rectangular walled enclosures and lush vegetation. The Mughal emperor Babur built gardens here as a way of evoking the characteristic delights of the homeland he had abandoned when he moved from Central Asia into India in 1526. Eventually, as the Mughal Empire grew more powerful, the riverbank became lined with gardens belonging not only to the imperial family but also to important nobles. This definitive volume describes the discoveries of an international project documenting the surface remains of a long-abandoned Mughal garden, spectacularly located directly across the river from the Taj Mahal. The book is illustrated with new photographs of the Taj Mahal and the garden--now identified as the Mahtab Bagh, or Moonlight Garden--as well as with paintings from Shahjahan's era. Modeled after the Persian concept of earthly paradise, the pleasure gardens of 17th-century Mughal emperors exhibited elaborate renditions of cut-stone architecture, water chutes, standing pools, flowing fountains, and plantings intended to stimulate the senses. Well-ordered oases in an otherwise hot, dusty, and chaotic environment, these gardens were places of respite and enjoyment. The authors show that in plan, proportion, and directional alignment, the Moonlight Garden is indeed an integral part of the design of the gardens at the Taj Majal, presenting an expansive new interpretation of one of the most famous buildings in the world.
PUBLICATION DATE: 3/1/2001
CATEGORY: Gardening, Social Science, Travel