The Mahtab-Bagh

The Mahtab-Bagh (The Moon Garden) to Enjoy a Taj Sunset
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The twenty minute ride from our digs to the Moon Garden was filled with commuter traffic, heavily laden bikes, a waiting camel and finally Mob (our driver) buying our entrance tickets. He went back to the car to wait and we bimbled on.
The sign on the gate.
A very busy stone carved information tablet reads:
Babur (reign 1526 – 30 AD) came to Agra soon after the Battle of Panipat (20th April 1526), here he was much tortured by heat, hot winds and dust. He was also complained, in his memoirs, of the lack if running water (through canals and cascades) and gardens with which he was accustomed and had seen a large number of them at Samarqand, such as Bagh-I-Dilkusha, Bagh-I-Chenar and Hagh-I-Bihisht, he had founded several gardens at Kabul: Bagh-I-Vafa, Bagh-I-Kalan, Bagh-I-Banafsha, Bagh-I-Padshahi and Bagh-I-Chenar. It was in this tradition that he founded gardens on the left (eastern) bank of the River Jamuna (Yamuna) at Agra, e.g. Bagh-I-Gul Afshan (The Flower-Scattering Garden) (present Ram-Bagh); Bagh-I-Zar-Afshan (The Gold Scattering Garden) (present Chauburj); and Bagh-I-Hasht (The Garden of Eight Paradises), as he has recorded in his memoirs. He noted that his nobles also founded garden here, so much so that “the people of Hind who had never seen grounds planned so symmetrically and thus laid out, called the side of the Jun (River Jamuna) where (our) residences were, Kabul.” His record shows that his Bagh-I-Hasht Bihist was situated just in front of the Agra Fort, most probably, at or near this place, enabling him to cross the river and reach here swiftly and frequently. The Mughals were certainly occupying this area and, to cater to their religious needs, Humayun (reign 1530-40, 1555) built a large mosque in this locality. This mosque survived and bears the inscription dated in A.H. 937 / 1530 A.D.. His astronomical observatory, now in ruins and known as ‘Gyarah-Siddi’, is also situated in its vicinity. The area has large scale ruins of Mughal gardens. Later, Akbar (1556 – 1605) seems to have granted this place on both sides of the river, in Jagir, to Rajaman Singh Kachhwaha of Amer. whereby the village came to be known as ‘Kachhpura’.

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A plan of the garden with the Taj Mahal at the top (across the river) and an 18th century plan (with the garden at the top).

Shah Jehan (1628 – 1658 A.D.), Akbar’s grandson, procured this site (on both banks of the river) building a magnificent tomb in the memory of his deceased Queen Mumtaz Mahal, from Man Singh’s grandson Mirza Raja Jai Singh, in lieu of four ‘Havelis’, as is on record, the grand mausoleum, viz, the Taj Mahal, with subsidiary buildings, chowk (court), dalans, gateway and spacious garden was laid out, on three receding levels, on the right bank, the stupendous main tomb of white marble standing imposingly on the edge of the river. He also built this spacious garden, viz, the Mahtab-Bagh on the tradition of garden-craft founded Babur, on this side of the river, facing the Taj Mahal, just to provide a beautiful backdrop to the main tomb. It was ingeniously planned on one plan level. First, a large octagonal tank of brick masonry, each internal side of which measured 36.70 metres (appro. 80 feet), was built. Each side had 16 scalloped arches, to make up a beautiful border of the tank. On its south, west, north and east sides were spacious bunglas (pavilions with curved chhajjas and roofs) which were interconnected by wide dalans (cusped) arches. corridors, on other sides. All these were built of red sandstone, and engrailed (cusped) arches, pillars, carved panels and other architectural parts of this vast structure, in typical Shahjehanian style have survived in the ruins. There were 25 fountains in the tank. These were inlets of water which was supplied by overhead tanks through water-tight terracotta pipes, which have all disappeared. On its northern side is an oblong red stone tank, with scalloped corners. Water from the main octagonal tank flowed, through a slit under the northern bungla,and fell into this oblong tank in the form of a water-fall (abshar), behind which a chini-khanah (series of niches for candles in the night, and flower guldastas in the day) is provided. A large char-bagh (four-quartered garden) was laid out on its northern side. It was divided into four quarters with a square lotus-tank in the centre. It also has scalloped corners. Shallow stone canals, with stone-paved pathways on both sides, now extinct, were built from this central tank to the middle of the four sides. Water flowed from the main tank to the oblong tank and thence to the canals of this garden. There were barahdaris (ope, arched pavilions) on the western, northern and eastern sides of the char-bagh. These too have been destroyed, The enclosing wall has also disappeared and only its river-side, south-eastern tower has remained. Aurangzeb, in his letter dated 8 Muharram 1063 Hijri (= 9 December 1652 A.D.), mentioned Mahtab-Bagh and noted that it was recently submerged under flood water. But the octagonal tank and bunglas had remained unaffected. In the later ages, the buildings collapsed and the garden was covered by sand deposited by river floods, and it was forgotten. The Archaeological Survey of India, has excavated it and it is now being restored and conserved. Nearly 8000 trees and plants from the Mughal repertoire have been planted by the A.S.I.
The Mahtab-Bagh laid out in perfect symmetry and alignment with the Taj Mahal, and there is absolutely no doubt that it was planned and built as an integral part of the original design of the Taj Mahal, during the period from 1631 to 1635 A.D. it seems to have been named the ‘Mahtab-Bagh’ (the Moon Garden) because it is an ideal place for viewing the Taj Mahal in moonlight.
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We bimbled along the path – trees in neat lines to the right and to the left.
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Newly watered, puddles made for good baths for the birds. Oooo there was the Taj Mahal.
At the end of the track we saw the ruins of the various garden buildings.........
...........we settled in front of the scalloped water feature.
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A photo shoot to our left. Bear and I pose with the Taj.
Taking in the neat lines of trees.
Mcginnly Taj Site plan
This plan was drawn by McGinnly. It shows the lines of this garden (far left) were in perfect line with the Taj gardens.
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I passed a little cutie as I checked out the wall by the river. As sunset approached birds went home to roost.
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Just before sunset and ten minutes after.
We did get our post sunset pink glow – just.
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A nice security guard asked if we would like our pictures taken, we enthusiastically nodded. He took a few and then asked for “money as a tip for pictures”. Oh, I don’t carry and Bear had left the purse in the car.....Ooops......
Our final views (ever) of the Taj Mahal as we left the garden. Roosting birds making a real song about it.
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