Chahar bagh - Gardens of Paradise
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The word Paradise is derived from an ancient Persian word meaning 'walled garden'. Throughout the arid lands of Persia, gardens had been built as earthly representations of the lush and splendid gardens of Paradise described in the Qur'an.
Gardens, as at the Taj, often formed an important accompaniment to architecture. Without these gardens, the splendors, visual impact and symbolism at the Taj Mahal would be greatly reduced.
The rectangular gardens, surrounded by a high red sandstone wall, follow the Persian chahar bagh or 'four gardens' layout. Brought to India by the first Mughal Emperor Babar, himself a keen botanist, this layout frequently formed the plan of tomb layouts during the Imperial era, including Akbar's tomb at Sikandra as shown here.
The number four, sacred in Islam, and the number of wives allowed to be taken in the Islam faith, dominates the layout of the gardens. The four main sections are separated by two water channels which bisect at right angles. Each of these sections, are in turn, divided into quarters by sandstone paths. The addition of water courses is endemic to the chahar-bagh design, and their presence is often read as a reference to the four rivers of Paradise.
The central water tank is a representation of the 'celestial pool of abundance' and the place where man met God. The corners of the marble pool are finely decorated with a cusped motif as shown here.