At the Margins of Architectural and Landscape History: The Rajputs of South Asia

In: Muqarnas Online

The Rajput princes of South Asia in the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries built beautiful palaces with gardens and commissioned manuscript paintings that rivaled those of their Mughal contemporaries.  Although the Hindu Rajputs and Muslim Mughals were variously allies and foes, neither political relations nor religious faith prevented artistic exchanges from occurring between them. Just as the Mughals embraced and internalized Indic forms such as the chhatri, the Rajputs likewise appropriated forms such as the four-part garden known as the chahar bagh, not as a direct transfer but a reworking and renegotiation of form and expression. While the Rajput chahar baghs are the only ones to have attracted the attention of historians, most likely because they fit neatly into a recognized architectural type, Rajput patrons also built other kinds of gardens with rectilinear and curving parterres, deep pools with “floating” pavilions, lotus gardens, and orchards resembling sacred groves. Some of these appear in Mughal sites too, typically inserted into a chahar bagh. The essay looks at how typological forms were shared and adapted by the Mughals and Rajputs, and asks what such forms may have meant to their respective patrons. It concludes by proposing that the definition of art historical fields—divided along religious lines between Islam and Hinduism—often impedes such inquiries.

  • 3

    Ebba Koch, “The Mughal Waterfront Garden,” in Gardens in the Time of the Great Muslim Empires: Theory and Design, ed. Attilio Petruccioli (Leiden, 1997), 140–60; Ebba Koch, The Complete Taj Mahal and the Riverfront Gardens of Agra (New York and London, 2006).

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  • 8

    Ruggles, Islamic Gardens, 135–36, 220–21.

  • 15

    Allison Busch, “Literary Responses to the Mughal Imperium: The Historical Poems of Keśavdās,” South Asia Research 25, 1 (2005): 31–54. On Rajput histories in general, see Allison Busch, Poetry of Kings: The Classical Hindi Literature of Mughal India (Oxford, 2011). On Bundi, in addition to Busch, “Literary Responses,” see the multivolume (and unpublished) epic Vamsha Bhaskar, by Suraj Mal Mishran (1841), discussed in The Historians and Sources of History of Rajasthan, ed. V. S. Bhatnagar and G. N. Sharma (Jaipur, 1992). The Ishvaravilasa Mahalavya, by the court poet Krishna Bhatta (ca. 1749), describes Jaipur in the second quarter of the eighteenth century: Krishna Bhatta and Mathuranatha Shastri, Ishvaravilasamahakavyam (Jayapura, 1958), cited in Ashim K. Roy, History of the Jaipur City (New Delhi, 1978). On Mewar, see Richard D. Saran and Norman P. Ziegler, The Meṛtīyo Rāṭhoṛs of Meṛto, Rājasthān: Select Translations Bearing on the History of a Rajpūt Family, 1462–1660, 2 vols. (Ann Arbor, Mich., 2001).

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  • 18

    Busch, “Literary Responses,” 31–33.

  • 24

    Finbarr Flood, “Lost in Translation: Architecture, Taxonomy, and the Eastern ‘Turks’,” Muqarnas 24 (2007): 79–115.

  • 33

    C. Asher, “Excavating Communalism,” 224.

  • 35

    Personal communication, June 2006.

  • 36

    Aitken, Intelligence of Tradition, 17–22.

  • 37

    Catherine Glynn, “A Rājasthānī Princely Album: Rājput Patronage of Mughal-Style Painting,” Artibus Asiae 60, 2 (2000): 222–64.

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  • 38

    Aitken, Intelligence of Tradition, 41.

  • 41

    Glenn D. Lowry, “Humayun’s Tomb: Form, Function, and Meaning in Early Mughal Architecture,” Muqarnas 4 (1987): 133–48; Ebba Koch, Mughal Architecture: An Outline of Its History and Development (1526–1858) (Munich, 1991); Catherine Asher, Architecture of Mughal India (Cambridge, 1992); Flood, “Lost in Translation.”

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  • 43

    Phillip Wagoner, “ ‘Sultan among Hindu Kings’: Dress, Titles, and the Islamicization of Hindu Culture at Vijayanagara,” Journal of Asian Studies 55, 4 (1996): 851–80. With regard to differing cultural uses of space, see Amita Sinha and D. Fairchild Ruggles, “The Yamuna Riverfront, India: A Comparative Study of Islamic and Hindu Traditions in Cultural Landscapes,” Landscape Journal 23, 2 (2004): 141–52.

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  • 50

    Joffee and Ruggles, “Rajput Gardens and Architecture,” 269–85.

  • 52

    Ali, “Gardens in Early Indian Court Life,” 248–49.

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