Tuesday 6 March 2012

Jahanara - another lost Mughal garden

In 1648 the fifth Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (famous for building the Taj Mahal - which is now in danger of collapse) moved into his new capital, Shahjahanabad.  Now known as Delhi, it had taken 11 years to build and now replaced Agra as the capitall of the Mughal empire.

According to an excellent article in the Deccan Herald, Jahan's two daughters  'Jahanara and Roshanara, the two princesses, laid out gardens, market squares and serais (rest houses) which were among the most beautiful creations within the new walled city. It was Jahanara, Shah Jahan’s favourite daughter on whom he had conferred the title of Begum Sahib, who had laid out Chandni Chowk, the main market square, and the garden known as Begum ka Bagh.'

The latter, was well recorded by historians and accounts describe the enclosed garden, into which only women and children were allowed, as having 'pools and channels for running water. There were fountains and canopies supported on 12 pillars of red stone (called bara dari). These provided cool resting places for the people who came to the garden. The water in the channels came from a special canal system and helped irrigate the trees and grass and plants within. There were plenty of flowering trees and fruit trees'

Not much peace and tranquility today (image Deccan Herald)
Begum ka Bagh remained a garden for  royal ladies until the reign of Shah Alam II before becoming Company Bagh early during India's rule by the British East India Company. In 1876 it was renamed again to the Queen's Garden following Queen Victoria's elevation to Empress of India.  Sadly, the Begum Samro's Palace which was built in the garden during the reign of Shah Alam II is now one of the main markets for electrical goods in Delhi and of the gardens, the only surviving part is now the Mahatma Gandhi Park.

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