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The Current State of Mughal Garden Research

The study of Mughal gardens, a tradition that originated in Central Asia and extended into South Asia in the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries, now faces significant challenges. There has been more research on these gardens in the past decade than in any other period of history. Numerous articles have appeared in journals of landscape architecture, geography, and art history, as well as South Asian and Islamic studies (see Bibliography and Bibliography Update below). In 1996, the Smithsonian Mughal Gardens Project yielded two volumes published by Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C. and Ferozsons Publishers in Pakistan, and now this Web site increases accessibility to a variety of research tools on the subject. For example, the site makes widely available, for the first time, the most complete chronology on Mughal Lahore, and the most comprehensive bibliography on the same subject.

What more can be said about the development of research on this topic? Of course, compared with European garden research, there are enormous possibilities for additional investigations of every sort. However, as recent work on Mughal gardens was being completed, the situation changed in ways that warrant a reappraisal of the field.

Importantly, comparative perspectives on garden cultures also raise questions about the relationship between academic research and the practical concerns of communities who use, visit, and work in Mughal gardens. In recent decades, practical and comparative interests in Mughal garden research seem repressed, unvoiced, or under-examined. Probing conservation projects, linked with further historiographic research on Mughal gardens, might illuminate some of the possibilities, and pitfalls, for comparative research, and thereby contribute to a constructive reweaving of scholarly and practical interest in the gardens of the world.

Update 2007. In the five years since this Web site made its debut, Mughal gardens research has developed in at least two major ways. First, there has been increased emphasis on scientific research on the gardens. Scientific inquiry was not lacking previously, but the questions and methods have now advanced. For example, research in the 1980s focused on surface surveys and documentation, which enabled mathematical analysis and interpretation. The past five years, by comparison, have witnessed the first detailed excavations of garden sites. The Moonlight Garden project in Agra included archaeobotanical as well as architectural excavation (Moynihan, 2000), as did excavations carried out at Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi. The most detailed excavations to date have occurred at Babur’s tomb-garden in Kabul, under the auspices of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and carried out by the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut (Franke-Vogt et al., 2005). These studies have helped reconstruct the design of buried water systems and pathways. Excavations at the Nagaur palace-garden complex in Rajasthan in 2007 also identified soil profiles and planting techniques.

These scientific studies have contributed to increasingly sophisticated garden conservation projects, which is the second major development in Mughal garden research. Humayun’s tomb-garden in Delhi and Babur’s tomb-garden in Kabul stand out as completed examples. The Global Heritage Fund supported conservation at Asaf Khan’s tomb-garden in the Shahdara area of Lahore, while other conservation projects have focused on Shalamar Garden and Lahore Fort. There is still a long way to go in garden heritage conservation (e.g. as compared with architectural preservation), but the current trend represents important steps in that direction.

Adapted from James L. Wescoat, Jr., "The Re-Emergence of Comparative Possibilities and the Wavering of Practical Concern," Perspectives on Garden Histories. Washington, D.C., 1999.

Chronology:
Garden, City and Empire: The Historical Geography of Mughal Lahore
By Michael Brand

Click to download the Chronology
lahore_chronology.pdf [81Kb]

Bibliography:
Up to 2001:
Michael Brand and James L. Wescoat, Jr., 2001
Edited by Laura T. Schneider

Click to download the Bibliography
lahore_bibliography.pdf [198Kb]

Bibliographic Update: 2001-2007:
James L. Wescoat, Jr. and Abdul Rehman, 2007
Edited by Laura T. Schneider

Click to download the Bibliographic Update
lahore_bibliography_2001-2007.pdf [183
Kb]

Glossary:
To see a selected glossary of terms used throughout the site (seen in italics), click here.

Music:
The following pages provide general information on the music of the Web site and on aspects of the musical style known as Dhrupad, which was the predominant genre of classical music during the Mughal era.

  1. Introduction to the Classical Music of South Asia
  2. Introduction to Dhrupad
  3. The Musical Scale
  4. Raga (Melodic Structure)
  5. Tala (Rhythmic Structure)
  6. The Structure of Dhrupad Performance
  7. The Instruments of Dhrupad
  8. The Performers on the Web Site
  9. The Nature of Poetic Lyrics in Dhrupad Compositions
  10. Miyan Tansen
  11. Dhrupad Bibliography
  12. Dhrupad Discography
  13. Dhrupad Web Links