Gardens in Indian Art

Jahangir and Prince Khurram with Nur Jahan

By Smithsonian's National Museum of Asian Art

Jahangir and Prince Khurram Entertained by Nur Jahan (1640-1650) by Mughal SchoolSmithsonian's National Museum of Asian Art

The Garden Idyll (1 of 14)

Gardens in West and South Asia are depicted as the ideal setting for a myriad of social, ceremonial, and political activities.

An Interior Life (2 of 14)

Private and secluded, gardens afforded men and women the opportunity to partake in drinking and feasting and mingling without many of the social constraints that normally governed their lives.

Let's explore the garden in this 17th century watercolor from India depciting Jahangir and Prince Khurram with Nur Jahan.

Party at the Ram Bagh (3 of 14)

The powerful empress Nur Jahan, here offering a glass of wine to her husband, was an avid patron of gardens. This garden party takes place in what appears to be the Ram Bagh garden at Agra, which Nur Jahan herself redesigned in 1621.

Jahangir (4 of 14)

In spite of his halo, this painting depicts Jahangir (r. 1605-1627), the fourth Mughal emperor, in a relaxed posture in an intimate setting with his wife, the empress Nur Jahan, and his son, Prince Khurram, the future Shah Jahan.

Garden Walls (5 of 14)

Mughal palace gardens are typically enclosed by walls. Here the enclosure wall is marked by three small niches and, at its lower perimeter, a strip of blue-glazed tiles with floral motifs.

Garden Walls (6 of 14)

In Mughal gardens, interior and exterior interpenetrate. The open terrace of the pavilion fluidly connects to the garden in which it is sited.

Floral Motifs (7 of 14)

Floral motifs on the carpet and column,

Cypresses (8 of 14)

as well as painted cypresses on its walls,

Echoes (9 of 14)

echo the actual plantings in the adjacent garden.

Water Features (10 of 14)

In Mughal gardens, water is channeled through gardens and interiors to cool the air, delight the eye, and create pleasant sounds. The water channels are typically situated in the center of raised stone walkways that divide the garden into geometric planting areas.

The Zenana (11 of 14)

Since elite Mughal women would only appear to men within their families, this picnic is probably situated within the zenana, or women's quarters. Usually the largest area within palaces, the zenana and its gardens were sites of social intercourse and entertainments for women.

Prince Khurram (12 of 14)

Prince Khurram, who took on the name Shah Jahan upon his accession in 1628, sits upon a glorious carpet woven with images of the simurgh.

The Simurgh (13 of 14)

a mythical bird that was a symbol of royalty in both Iran and Mughal India.

Familial Tension (14 of 14)

When this painting was created, relations between the prince and Emperor Jahangir were strained because of Khurram's bid to oust his father from the throne.

Credits: Story

Freer|Sackler Galleries
Smithsonian Institution

Compiled by Marc Bretzfelder
New and Emerging Media Producer
Office of the Chief Information Officer
Smithsonian Institution

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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