Taj Mahal Gardens
The Taj Mahal’s ancient, famous gardens reflect the intricate melding of nature and religion. The sculpted garden begins at the end of the main gateway. The 300 m x 300 meter space ends close to the mausoleum.
Every portion of the gardens has been meticulously planned and implemented. Because the number four is the holiest number in Islam, everything in the area is based on four or multiples of four. The overall size is 300m x 300m. Two ancient marble canals and main walkways next to them divide the expanse into four quarters.
Raised stone paths further divide each quarter into sixteen flowerbeds. Some sources say the original beds were planted with 400 flowers. A raised stone path encircles the outer perimeter of the garden so all paths may interconnect, and an enclosing wall surrounds all. The wall boasts intricate pointed arches.
This precise symmetrical pattern is typical of early Mughal designs.
Where the canals and main walkways intersect appears the chabutra, which is a platform of gleaming white marble. An ornamental pool carved in the chabutra contains five large fountains.
Ancients claimed the water flowing through the canals and fountains was from the river Kausar, which was the river flowing through the celestial Paradise. The faithful were encouraged to quench their thirst with this water when they first arrived at the Taj Mahal.
In the northwest corner of the area is the original burial site of Mumtaz Mahal, before her remains were transferred to the mausoleum.
The early Mughals brought more than the architectural design of the gardens. They also contributed to the idea of Charbagh, which is the idea of a Paradise Garden. This is in keeping with ancient Persian Timurid gardens which filled the gardens with symbolic shapes and plantings. Early Islamic writings depict paradise as an immense garden full of lush plants, trees, and flowers.
The trees within the original garden were either fruit trees to symbolize life or Cyprus to represent death and immortality. Scholars also believe the current gardens are only one tenth of the size of the original garden, and that the abundant fruit trees helped provide for those living within the Taj Mahal compound.
The garden in Paradise is separated by four rivers emanating from a central source. These are the rivers of water, wine, honey, and milk. The center of the garden where all the rivers meet would be the holy site for a tomb, pool, or pavilion.
In the Taj Mahal garden, a reflecting pool halfway between the gate and the tomb perpetually reflects the mausoleum.
Scientists in 2015 published findings showing that the garden’s main walkways were aligned with the summer solstice.
The Taj Mahal garden differs from traditional square charbagh gardens because the tomb is not in the center. However, researchers discovered the Moonlight Garden on the far side of the Yamuna River. This has led to the theory that the Yamuna itself was to be part of the original garden’s design to represent one of the rivers of Paradise. If this is the case, then the tomb would be located in the center of the garden.
Early writings about the garden describe detail lush plants, flowers, and trees, including a variety of fruit trees, roses, and daffodils. In the latter period of the Mughal Empire, the gardens became more neglected.
By the late 1800’s the British controlled most of India, including the Taj Mahal, which had fallen into disrepair. Lord Curzon undertook to restore the Taj Majal. In the process the gardens were altered to look more like the formal gardens preferred in Great Britain. The gardens are they appear today still retain much of the European formal garden design.