Among a number of more or less ruined garden-houses on this bank of the river, there is one, a little beyond the Chînî-ka-Rauza, of especial interest, on account of the tradition which associates it with the Emperor Babar. It is called the Ram Bagh, and is believed to have been one of the “elegant and regularly planned pleasure-grounds” which Babar laid out and planted with fruit trees and flowers, as he has described in his memoirs.
No doubt this was the scene of many imperial picnics; not the drunken revels of Babar’s Kabul days—for just before the great battle with the Rajputs in 1527 he smashed all his gold and silver drinking-cups and took a vow of total abstinence, which he kept faithfully—but the more sane and temperate pleasures which music, poetry, and his intense delight in the beauties of nature could furnish. Here is a charming picture he has given of another garden he laid out in the Istalif district of Kabul:—
“On the outside of the garden are large and beautiful spreading plane-trees, under the shade of which there are agreeable spots, finely sheltered. A perennial stream, large enough to turn a mill, runs through the garden, and on its banks are planted plane and other trees. Formerly this stream flowed in a winding and crooked course, but I ordered its course to be altered according to a plan which added greatly to the beauty of the place. Lower down … on the lower skirts of the hills is a fountain, named Kwâjeh-seh-yârân (Kwâjeh three friends), around which are three species of trees; above the fountain are many beautiful plane trees, which yield a pleasant shade. On the two sides of the fountain, on small eminences at the bottom of the hills, there are a number of oak trees. Except on these two spots, where there are groves of oak, there is not an oak to be met with on the hills of the west of Kabul. In front of this fountain, towards the plain, there are many spots covered with the flowering arghwân tree, and, besides these arghwân plots, there are none else in the whole country. It is said that these three kinds of trees were bestowed on it by the power of these three holy men, beloved of God; and that is the origin of the name Sej-Yârân. I directed this fountain to be built round with stone, and formed a cistern of lime and mortar ten yez by ten. On the four sides of the fountain a fine level platform for resting was constructed on a very neat plan. At the time when the arghwân flowers begin to blow, I do not know of any place in the world to be compared with it. The yellow arghwân is here very abundant, and the yellow arghwân blossom mingles with the red.”
The Ram Bagh was the temporary resting-place of the body of Babar before it was taken to Kabul for interment in another of the gardens he loved so much. The old Mogul style of gardening is a lost art, and one misses in the Ram Bagh the stately rows of cypress, interspersed with flowering trees, the formal flower-beds glowing with colour like a living carpet, which were planted by Babar; but the terraces, the fountain, the water-channels, and the little stone water-shoots—cunningly carved so that the water breaks over them with a pleasant gurgling sound—which may have recalled to him the murmurings of his native mountain-streams—the old well from which the water of the Jumna is lifted into the channels, can still be seen, as well as the pavilions on the river-bank, now modernized with modern bad taste.
In later times the Ram Bagh was the garden-house of the Empress Nur Mahal. It was kept up by all succeeding Governments, and it is said to have obtained its name of Ram Bagh from the Mahrattas in the eighteenth century.
THE ZUHARA BAGH.—Between the Chînî-ka-Rauza and the Ram Bagh there is another great walled enclosure, which contained the garden-house of Zuhara, one of Babar’s daughters, and is named after her the Zuhara, or Zohra Bagh. This formerly contained the largest garden-palace at Agra, and is said to have possessed no less than sixty wells. A great well, just outside the enclosure, 220 feet in circumference, and of enormous depth, was filled up some years ago.