It is a great
pleasure for me to introduce you to the first interactive Web
site on the Gardens of the Mughals, an Islamic dynasty that ruled
between 1526 and 1858 in territories now divided among Pakistan,
Afghanistan, Kashmir, and northern India. The Web site is one
result of a multi-year project that has provided substantial new
documentary information for important Mughal garden sites in and
near Lahore, Pakistan. Under the direction of Professor James
L. Wescoat of the University of Colorado at Boulder, the project
was initiated in Pakistan by the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and
became a fully collaborative joint venture with the Department
of Archaeology of the Government of Pakistan and the School of
Architecture at the University of Engineering and Technology,
Lahore. A symposium held in Washington, DC in 1992 and an international
symposium held in Lahore the following year brought this project
to a formal conclusion.
Wescoat along with Dr. Abdul Rehman from the School of Architecture
in Lahore have teamed with Smithsonian Productions to create an
interactive, on-line exhibition that recreates and studies the
gardens of Lahore and other garden sites on the Indian subcontinent
in their cultural contexts. The first chapters of the site will
deal with a proposed processional tour that the Mughal rulers
themselves might have made in and around Lahore. It is based on
a publication for the 1993 Lahore symposium by James L. Wescoat,
Jr.; Michael Brand; Mahmood Hussain; Abdul Rehman; and Naeem Mir
entitled "The Mughal Gardens of Lahore: A Processional
Guide." Later additions to the Web site will include
other Mughal cities, shrines, and gardens throughout modern Pakistan,
along with select monuments of Mughal fame from north India, such
as the Taj Mahal.
Over the last
decade, knowledge about the Mughals has expanded impressively.
Mughal art and architecture is now probably the best documented
of the myriad artistic traditions of the Indian subcontinent.
And through these studies, which have been led by art historians,
geographers, archaeologists, and architects, we can now understand
far more fully the gardens, architecture, and works of art that
so visibly embody Mughal cultural attitudes.
were descendants of Timur, or Tamerlane; the Timurids, as they
were known, ruled the Persian and Turkic worlds around the fifteenth
century. The only ruling descendant of Timur was Babur, who occupied
the throne of Ferghana, northeast of Samarkand. After the loss
of Ferghana and then Samarkand, Babur took Kabul in 1504. Well-known
as a poet and musician, Babur was also a talented designer who
built numerous gardens, inspired by his love for the lush and
beautiful cities of Samarkand and Herat.
and most important conquest was Hindustan, and one of his first
acts, when he arrived on the subcontinent to stay in 1526, was
to construct gardens; he sought thereby to make "that charmless
and disorderly Hind [India]" (as he himself described it)
more like home. Eventually the image of the garden became all-pervasive
in the Mughal world.
of gardens is therefore central to an understanding of Mughal
life and of the art and architecture which provided appropriate
settings for and often gave meaning to events of major historic
importance. It is hoped that among the results of the 1992 symposium,
the project in Pakistan, and this Web site will be greater attention
given to Mughal garden sites by scholars of varied disciplines.
The Web site, in particular, should provide a broader level of
understanding of this fascinating topic to the general public
and to students of all ages. If greater public awareness and support
of the need for historically appropriate conservation and maintenance
of existing gardens also develops, then the symposia, the Web
site, and the recent intensive international study of Mughal gardens
will have had an unusually intensive impact. Fortunately, technology
has now made it possible for this body of knowledge to be ever-expanding,
changing, and accessible to all through the medium of the World
Dr. Milo C.
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery/Freer Gallery of Art
Note: An earlier
version of this Introduction was published as the Foreword to
Mughal Gardens: Sources, Places, Representations, and Prospects,"
eds. J.L. Wescoat, Jr. and J. Wolschke-Bulmahn (Washington, DC:
Dumbarton Oaks, 1996, pp. 1-3).