Gardens have been a place to respite for people. Amid the concrete jungles and honking traffic in Northern Delhi, there is a paradise lying almost undiscovered. Here I bring to you the Roshanara Bagh, a Mughal garden and going forward, a tomb made by Princess Roshanara, daughter of Shah Jahan, in 1650. Initially, designed as a private pleasure garden of the Princess, the garden eventually became the place where she was buried after her death in 1671. Today, the historical Tomb and its pavilions are decayed, but the garden still acts as the lungs of Delhi and a relief for the people in the vicinity. Apart from its exotic trees, it is a favorite spot for bird watchers, and its long lawns are a fit for young cricket players.
Walking through the past
The Mughals were great patrons of art and architecture. And Garden tombs are yet another of their most celebrated works. The charbagh, as they are called, are quadrilateral and are further divided into multiples of four. They are widely found in Central and South Asia, wherein the best versions are in Iran and India. These gardens pretty much serve metaphors for paradise. As Islam believed in after-life, the Mughal emperors designed their graves on a tomb, surrounded by a garden that resembled the paradise. So, the elements of the garden were inspired by the verses of the Quran. They planned the Tomb at the center of the garden with four water channels, representing the four rivers of milk, honey, wine, and water of paradise. They planted Cyprus trees and citrus fruits like pomegranates, lime, and flowers of Champa, all described in the Quran. The garden followed a strict geometry, resembling the Persian carpets. These gardens represented dream-like beauty and seduction. Water was an essential element of the garden that gave a cooling effect, given the arid environment of Central Asia, and provided subtle sounds that are pleasant to ones ears when the water cascaded through terraces.
Taking a stroll in the garden of today
Today, the garden is not exactly how it used to be. Apart from getting damaged with time and mutiny of 1857, the garden saw significant changes during the British time. In the 19th century, though the British appreciated the Mughal style of Gardens, they made severe changes. A large part of the garden was made a venue for cricket in 1919, and it called the Roshanara Club. And the garden was called the Queen Victoria Gardens.
Today only the entrance gate and central pavilion containing the Tomb survives, and no water flows in the channels or moat. The side pavilions, original plantation, and several fountains hardly exist now. The murals of flowers, trees, branches, and cypress motifs present on the ceilings of the Baradari have lost their color. They are in a dilapidated condition and require restoration.
Reflections from the Garden
Historic gardens are a medium that connects the present to the past and will continue to connect in the future as well. They not only show the power of the individuals who created it, but the socio-cultural conditions of that time. They reflect architectural, artistic, technological, and sometimes spiritual values, which are significant in today’s context. They maintain the continuity and the sense of association with nature, thus safeguarding our heritage. But more importantly, gardens are meant for ‘araam’ (to rest) after a busy day and are perfect for a short nap on the lawns.
If you have time and want to relax in Delhi, head to the Roshanara Gardens for ultimate sync that combines history and nature!