Archaeologists uncover summer palace in Moonlight Garden opposite Taj Mahal
Excavations carried out by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) have uncovered the remains of a summer palace in the Mehtab Bagh (Moonlight Garden) opposite the Taj Mahal, according to a report in Times of India. It is believed the pavilion was commissioned by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, who is known to have frequently visited the Moonlight Garden to gaze upon the Taj Mahal at night.
The newly discovered site displays the remains of a baradari-like structure. A baradari is a building or pavilion with twelve doors designed to allow the free flow of air. The structure has three doorways on every side of the square shaped structure. They are known for their outstanding acoustic features and for hosting performances by dancers, the noble courtesans of India and other artistes. They were also used for their fresh air during hot summers.
A traditional baradari in India. Photo source: Wikipedia
The remains of the pavilion uncovered in Mehtab Bagh. Credit: PTI
The Mehtab Bagh (Moonlight Garden), within which the finding was made, is a Mughal-era garden of Persian style. The garden complex, square in shape, measures about 300 by 300 metres and is perfectly aligned with the Taj Mahal on the opposite bank. It is noted that Emperor Shah Jahan had identified a site from the crescent-shaped, grass covered floodplain across the Yamuna River as an ideal location for viewing the Taj. It was then created as "a moonlit pleasure garden" with white plaster walkways, airy pavilions, pools, fountains and fruit trees. The garden was designed as an integral part of the Taj complex in the riverfront terrace pattern.
Portrait of Emperor Shah Jahan. Image source: Wikipedia
The Taj Mahal, which was built between 1632 and 1653, is regarded by many as the finest example of Mughal architecture and one of the most universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage. It was built by Shah Jahan for his third and favourite wife Mumtaz Mahal, who died during childbirth. In their nineteen years of marriage, they had fourteen children together, seven of whom died at a young age. Historical chronicles report that Shah Jahan was inconsolable in the immediate aftermath of Mumtaz’s death. He went into secluded mourning for a year, and when he appeared again, his hair had turned white and his face worn. Mumtaz was temporarily buried in a walled pleasure garden known as Zainabad on the Tapti River, before being moved into the Taj Mahal.
Featured image: The Taj Mahal, India. Photo source: Wikipedia