Mehtab Bagh in AgraAgra is famous for its mughal architecture. The Mughal sense of beauty and buildings are evident all round the city. The Taj Mahal gardens that were built by Mughals are also the splendid example of taste and sense of architecture at that time. Mehtab Bagh is one of such structures.
The Mughals built eleven gardens on the side of Yamuna River. Ram Bagh was the first and the Mehtab Bagh garden was the last of these. The emperor noted this crescent-shaped flood plain covered with grass around the Yamuna River and found it a great location to view the Taj Mahal from some distance. He then conceptualized it as a pleasure garden filled with moonlight and name it Mehtab Bagh. Fruit trees and flowers were planted while constructing walkways made of white plaster, fountains and pools, airy pavilions as an integral part of this garden. The design of the garden presents it as an inseparable portion of Taj Mahal and its surrounding complex in the pattern of riverfront terrace. Few of its proportions, such as its width was similar to that of the Taj Mahal. Mehtab Bagh came later in the possession of King of Amber, Raja Man Singh Kacchawa. He was also the owner of the land circumscribing Taj Mahal.
Mehtab Bagh Plan and ArchitectureThere are several inscriptions on the site of Mehtab Bagh that details the basic plan and architecture of the garden. According to these, the Bagh adjoined other gardens towards the west which were called Padshahi Chahar Bagh and the other one Padshahi Chahar Bagh Second respectively. There was a wall around the compound made of lime plaster, brick, and red sand-stone that surrounded the garden. The river wall measuring approx. 289 meters or 948 ft long is somewhat intact. There were towers having domes at the top which were built with red sand-stone and in octagonal shape using platforms as base. These towers were said to be situated in the corners.
There is a 2 to 2.5 meters or 6 feet 7 inches to 8 feet 2 inches wide brick pathway surrounded the west side boundary around the grounds which covers the remaining boundary wall towards the west. Very close to the entrance of the garden is a small shrine of a Dalit on the side that faces river. There was a large pond in octagonal shape on the southern boundary that reflected the image and shadow of the Taj Mahal. On the eastern side there is a small central pond. Whole landscape was enriched with water channels and there were baradaris on eastern and western sides. There is an entry gate towards the northern side of the wall. The foundation parts of the basic structures remained just close to the northern and southern directions of the huge pond which most probably were constructed as the garden pavilions. There may have one stepped waterfall arising from northern structure that was used to feed the main pool. The garden towards the north had the typical classic cross-axial, square plan having a square shaped pool in the centre. Towards the west, there was an aqueduct that supplied water to the garden. Presently, however, of the four sandstone towers that marked the four corners of the garden, only the tower on the south-east side remains.
The garden was ruined by frequent floods. Most of the damaged part was taken by villagers to use as building materials. The structures that remained within the garden were in very bad state. By 1990 and later, the garden became a massive mound of mud, covered with alluvial sill and wild vegetation and its existence remain forgotten.
The Bagh was restored after the survey by ASI that set path-breaking standards in the field of research of Mughal Gardens. This included the study of historical documentation, a survey of various surfaces, archaeological excavation techniques, paleo-botanical evaluations and coordination of requirements with various ministries related to tourism, culture and planning. Restoration started in the 1990s, with the help of Americans and during this fencing of barbed wire was added surrounding the Mehtab Bagh. ASI insisted on planting those plants and trees that were planted by Mughals in their gardens so as to restore the garden's original ambience. The landscape artists studied other gardens and inscriptions and planned the types of plants, trees and herbage that match the famous age old Mughal gardens, trying to replicate the gardens built at riverside that were brought through Central Asia to India in the Shalimar Bagh of Kashmir.
Around 81 plants that were planted by Mughals in the horticulture of their gardens were adopted which included Kaner, Hibiscus, Guava, Maulshri, Citrus fruits, Bauhinia, Asoka, Jamun and Neem. The herbs were placed in such manner that the short trees were followed by tall trees, shrubs and then in the last flowering plants were planted. Some plants produce a bright and colorful flower that shines in the moonlit garden. The park was reinstated to its original aura and grandeur and now it is a popular site to admire the Taj.
Mehtab Bagh Timings: The Bagh is open from morning to sunset time in evening. The entry fee for Citizens of India and visitors of SAARC and BIMSTEC countries is Rs 5 per head while for others; it is US$ 2 or Rs 100 per head. Entry is free for children under 15 years.