The Afterlife of the Taj Gardens: Changes in the Landscape

The Afterlife of the Taj Gardens: Changes in the Landscape

The Afterlife of the Taj Gardens: Changes in the Landscape

collection stories


The Afterlife of the Taj Gardens: Changes in the Landscape

Here are two images of the iconic Taj Mahal. One from the 1800’s and the other from the 1900’s. Do you spot the difference in the landscape? Do you notice any difference in the gardens?

Often described as ‘Poetry in Stone’, the Taj Mahal was laid out between 1631-43 by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a mausoleum for his wife Mumtaz Mahal. It is the architectural elements of the Taj complex that grab the most attention, but in fact the garden is the heart of the complex . The visitors today are so transfixed by the Taj itself that they remember very little of the garden. DAG Archive attempts to illustrate the  life and ‘afterlife’ of the Taj gardens, once its control was taken over by the British. This archive deep dive showcases the objects from A. E. P. Griessen’s (1875–1935) collection. 

Unknown photographer

Taj and its Gardens

c. 20th century

Silver albumen print on paper

Meet A. E. P. Griessen, Superintendent of Taj Gardens

'Mr Griessen must be gratified to know that his work in Agra will live and bring pleasures to untold numbers.'

- E. J. Mordan, District officer, Agra, 5 April 1913

The Mughal Gardens 

‘(Garden) is to the buildings what the soul is to the body, and the lamp to an assembly' 
- Main inscription on the Red Fort, Delhi 

Reimagining the Taj Gardens 

'What were then dusty wastes are now green parks and gardens'

-  Lord Curzon on restorations at Agra, letter dated 11 December 1903

Let’s take a look at the plan of Taj Garden from 1908 to understand the changes in plantation policies.


Do you notice the visual impact that Curzon and his team wanted to create by removing the trees?

Mahtab Bagh: A Mughal garden that remains

'Surely the godfearing shall dwell amid the gardens and a river in a sure abode, in the presence of the King Omnipotent.'

- Quran, Sura 54 ‘The Moon’

further reading

Ebba Koch, 'The Complete Taj Mahal' (London: Thames & Hudson, 2006).

Eugenia W. Herbert, 'The Taj and the Raj: Garden Imperialism in India', Studies in the History of Gardens & Designed Landscapes, xvi 4, 2005, p.250.

'The Moonlight Garden: New Discoveries at the Taj Mahal' (University of Washington Press, 2001).


Written by P. Sindhuri Aparna
Archival material curated by Sanjana S.