Bagh-e Babur Garden (built 1528 onward)
The Bagh-e Babur garden is the final resting place of the first Mughal Emperor, Babur. Although present-day Afghanistan was not Babur’s original homeland (he was born in Ferghana in present-day Uzbekistan), he felt sufficiently enamoured of Kabul that he desired to be buried here. When Babur died in 1530 he was initially buried in Agra against his wishes. Between 1539 and 1544 Sher Shah Suri, a rival of Babur’s son Humayun, fulfilled his wishes and interred him at Babur’s Garden. The headstone placed on his grave read “If there is a paradise on earth, it is this, it is this, it is this.”
The garden was laid out as a series of 15 stepped terraces on a hillside in southwest Kabul. Its axis points toward Mecca. Babur’s grave is located on the fourteenth terrace and was originally surrounded by a screen of white marble. Although the screen was destroyed by warfare and vandalism in the 20th century, it was rebuilt between 2002-06 by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture follownig a drawing by Charles Masson in the 19th century. Southwest of the grave, on the next lower terrace, Shah Jahan built a small mosque in 1645-46. He also rebuilt the water channels that flow through the central axis of the garden, and added a caravanserai marketplace at the base of the garden. On the fifteenth level he buried Babur’s grand-daughter, Ruqaiya Sultan Begum (d. 1626), in a tomb with a marble jali screen.
The 19th century saw major alterations to the garden. Beginning in 1842, an earthquake damaged the garden walls and Shah Jehan’s mosque. In the 1880s, the local ruler Amir Abdurahman Khan refurbished the gardens in a style that influenced more by European tastes than Mughal precident. He added a central pavilion and a large residence, know called the Queen’s Palace, for his wife Bibi Halima. The garden was converted into a public park during the rule of Nadir Shah in the 1930s with the construction of pools, reservoirs, and flower gardens down the central axis of the landscape. Finally, a modern swimming pool and greenhouse were constructed in the 1980s.
Warfare between competing factions in Kabul posed a serious threat beginning in 1992. Fighting in the area caused a fire that destroyed the Queen’s Palace, and the mosque was seriously damaged. Irrigation pumps were stolen and the remaining trees were chopped down for firewood. Worse still, mines and unexploded munitions turned the garden into a dangerous no-man’s land.
At present, in 2011, the garden has been completely restored due to the efforts of the UNCHS Habitat and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture. After clearing mines and performing a comprehenisive archaeological survey, the AKDN replanted the garden and restored most of the original buildings. It now serves both as a tourist attraction in this war-scarred city and as a place of recreation for the city’s residents.
Image drawn by Timothy M Ciccone following site brochure and plans shown in the publication “Babur’s Garden Rehabilitation Framework” by the Aga Khan Develompent Network.
Facebook Comments Box