Beginning in the sixteenth century, a new garden typology appeared across much of northern and central India. Often referred to as Mughal or Islamic, the style, while partially rooted in Persian models, in fact transcended such narrow dynastic or sectarian affiliations. Nor was it defined solely by the architectural features – symmetry, waterworks, pavilions – that scholarship has mostly focused on. This talk will look instead at the plants and horticultural practices that characterised these gardens from their first emergence through the end of the eighteenth century, as well as their prominent role in the literature and arts of the period. In particular, we will delve into the rise of the formal flower bed. Now a sine qua non of most gardens, this humble feature once represented a momentous innovation, illuminating just how changeable and historically contingent the idea of the garden can be.
Nicolas Roth received his PhD in South Asian Studies from Harvard University. His research explores the history of gardens and horticulture in early modern India, as well as the material and intellectual culture of the region more broadly. He works with materials in Sanskrit, Persian, and various forms of Hindi and Urdu across a broad array of textual genres, as well as with visual sources found in painting and other art forms.