Saturday, April 4, 2009

Great Gardens of Kashmir based on writing of C. M. Villiers-Stuart

It is pleasant to find what a pride and delight both Indians and Kashmiris take in the old Imperial gardens. Only the Europeanised Indians have lost touch with these simple pleasures: young Rajas, 'doing' Kashmir or the gardens at Lahore, accompanied by some bored English tutor, and followed by a noisy horde of retainers, walk hurriedly up one side of the stream and down the other; but even they sometimes cast wistful glances back at the flowers and the fountains, ere they whirl off again in their motor cars. Bustling sightseers, however, are a rare occurrence here, and the famous baghs are always full of real garden lovers. All great festivals and holidays are celebrated, if possible, in a garden. Students bring their books, and work under the trees. A day in one of these great walled gardens is an event which appeals as much to purdah ladies as to the very poorest class. The great Emperors who planned them and lived in them-Babar, Akbar, Jahangir and his Nur-Jahan-are far more vivid personalities in India than Elizabeth or the Stuart sovereigns are in England. And every Indian speaks with a lingering regret of the days of the older Bad-shahi, 'when the gardens were in their splendid prime.'  
- C.M. Villiers Stuart (1877-1966) in her pioneering book 'Gardens of the Great Mughals' - first of its kind work that lead to the historical study of Mughal Gardens and Indian gardening. 

On 26th of February 1908, Constance Mary Fielden, a water-color painter and a budding writer, become Constance Mary Villiers Stuart after marrying Englishman Major Patrick Villiers Stuart, son of Henry Windsor Villiers-Stuart.The same year she moved to India with her husband and before the end of 1913, her great book 'Gardens of the Great Mughals' was already published.

Her book opens with following lines, a dedication:

TO
MY MOTHER
AND TO ALL EAST AND WEST
WHO LOVE THEIR OWN GARDENS

While she was working on this book, plans for creation "New Delhi" were in process. Towards the end of the book, in its final chapter titled 'Some Garden Contrasts and a Dream', Mary Villiers made an impassioned appeal for a thoughful, planned inclusion of Indian design sensibilities into the creation of the New Imperial Capital of India. But, these appeals had little effect. 
It is easy enough to picture the change : the exposed private garden, a contradiction in its very terms ; the public parks with their bare acres of unhappy-looking grass, their ugly bandstands, hideous iron railings, and forlorn European statues ; their wide, objectless roads, scattered flower-beds, and solitary trees, and, worst of all in a hot country, their lack of fountains and running water. It is pleasanter to turn to some modern Indian garden, an attempt, perhaps, to reconcile these two opposing styles.
Mary Villiers was describing a Anglo-Indian landscape in these line, but she could well have been describing a randomly picked spot from the future urban landscape of India.

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C.M. Villiers Stuart's 'Gardens of the Great Mughals' has two chapter on the subject of Mughal Gardens in Kashmir. The chapter are titled Gardens of the Dal Lake and Summer gardens of Kashmir

I have serialized these 'Kashmir Chapter' based on the Gardens and the narrative.You can read these chapters here:





Chapter 7: Gardens of the Dal Lake

Chapter 8: Summer Gardens of Kashmir

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You can read and download the entire book here at Archive.org

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Images:
1. The Queen's Pavilion (Shalimar Bagh)
    Painting in water colour by C. M. Villiers-Stuart
    The Frontpiece of the book 'Gardens of the Great Mughals' published in 1913.
2. The Queen's Pavilion (Shalimar Bagh). Shot by me in June 2008.

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Previous Related post:
Garden, Paradise and Kashmir

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