garden tales from a Brit at home and abroad
This is Kesar Kyari Bagh on Maota Lake, part of the Amber Fort complex near Jaipur. It was created around 1600 for the women of the harem to admire from above. According to Tom Turner, there was also an ingenious pulley system that allowed the women to reach the garden directly from their rooms, thus avoiding the risk of inappropriate male contact en route. The name translates as the saffron-growing garden, as originally it was this plant that grew in each star shape. The changing climate apparently means that saffron will no longer grow.
Some scholars call it the Maunbari garden and argue that it was designed to be viewed at night, the pale marble partitions standing out in the moonlight like a pattern of lace against the dark plants.
What I love about about this garden is its triumphant artificiality. Nestled below rugged hills, it is striking because the whole thing is so obviously, gloriously man-made, from the dammed lake, square platform base, and stepped terraces to the intricate stone work and patterned planting. To anyone who argues that naturalistic designs are always to be preferred to “the Checks and Restraints of Art” – I’d simply show them Kesar Kyari Bagh.
I am glad to see the garden has been replanted, and that the lake actually has some water. When I visited a few years back the parterres were entirely barren, and the courtyard garden up in the fort was just in the process of being restored.
Yes, I have seen photos of it looking shabby and rather abandoned, but it has recently been restored and when we visited last month it was stunning – although I am not sure about that one volunteer tree left on the far side.
Looking at these photos again, I am reminded of Chenonceau in the Loire Valley, which has a similar geometric garden built on a square platform in water. It was created about 50 years earlier than this garden. Some academic research has recently led me to explore links between 16th century European and Indian gardens; as part of that, Chenonceau and Kesar Kyari Bagh would have been a fascinating pair to investigate…
I would have never though to see such a garden from India!? Thanks for the images – I hope they’ll keep it in good shape.It looks amazing.
That is a one of a kind garden….I really like it and would love to see it in person.
Very interesting garden and garden design. Thank you for sharing.
What an extraordinary garden and such interesting thoughts about artificiality amid the natural landscape and also the similarities to Chenonceau. But how sad to hear that they can no longer grow saffron. The 2 lower gardens look to have much more informal planting – or is it still establishing? And I agree, I’d have to get rid of that rogue tree!
I’m not sure if the plants in the lower gardens are growing in or dying out… But I’ve read that the place was restored with commercial funding and, in return, the company involved is allowed to hold occasional private functions on the terraces, which should ensure that it is well-maintained in the future.
Beautiful garden in its artificiality. Which makes me reflect in: isn’t a garden an artificial construction-restrction of a landscape? This is a recurrent thinking in my research about the construction of landscape through photography. this place with safron growing had to be really a magical vision.
I like the energy and generosity of the blog. Lovely !!!!
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