Taj Mahal Gardens perfectly align with Sun Solstices: Study

Amelia Carolina Sparavigna, the author of the study, discovered several alignments between the Sun solstices and the waterways, pathways and pavilions of the Taj Mahal gardens.

Feb 4, 2015 12:52 IST
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The Taj Mahal Gardens of India align perfectly with the rising and setting Sun during the summer and winter solstices, according to a study. The study is titled Observations on the Orientation of Some Mughal Gardens was published in the journal Philica on 13 January 2015.

Amelia Carolina Sparavigna, the author of the study, discovered several alignments between the Sun solstices and the waterways, pathways and pavilions of the Taj Mahal gardens.

Sparavigna used high resolution Google Earth satellite imagery, combined with a programme called Sun Calc to make the discoveries.

Findings of the Study

  • A striking alignment occurs on the north-central part of the gardens of the Taj Mahal during the summer solstice which usually occurs on 21 June every year.
  • If a person was able to stand in the waterway where two paths meet, they would see the Sun rise above a pavilion located to the northeast.
  • If they were to stay in that position throughout the day, they would see the Sun set in alignment with a pavilion to the northwest.
  • The Taj Mahal and its minarets are located between these two pavilions and the Sun would appear to frame them.
  • During the winter solstice which occurs on 21 December every year, the Sun rises in alignment with a pavilion to the southeast and sets in alignment with a pavilion to the southwest.
  • The enclosure of the garden is a symbolic horizon, where its axis is representing the axis mundi, the axis about which the world is rotating. On the solstices, from the centre of the rectangular enclosure, one can see the sun rising and setting at its four corners.
  • When an architectonic structure is aligned in this manner, it is aligned to the projection on the horizontal plane of the axis mundi. However, architects could also use some elements aligned in the directions of sunrise or sunset.
  • Although the alignments likely had symbolic meanings, the Sun solstices could also have served a practical medium in helping architects build the Taj Mahal and its gardens precisely.

The Taj Mahal is a white marble mausoleum located in Agra, Uttar Pradesh. It was built in the 1600 by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his third wife Mumtaz Mahal.

The mausoleum is one of the components of a quite large complex of structures, composed of buildings and gardens, including subsidiary tombs, waterworks infrastructure, the small town of Taj Ganji and a Moonlight Garden, north of the River Yamuna.

Amelia Carolina Sparavigna's study on other Mughal gardens

The Mughal gardens are a typical form of landscape architecture developed during the Mughal Dynasty from 1526 - 1707. These gardens had a style heavily influenced by the Persian gardens of charbagh structure, with a use of rectilinear layouts within walled enclosures.

Aam Khas Bagh

Aam khas Bagh is one of the Babur’s gardens/serais which was extended and almost rebuilt by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. It lies between the Mughal military road between Delhi and Lahore. The complex was famous for a perfect air-conditioning system called Sarad Khana and the garden has a rectangular shape with a north-south axis.

Humayun’s Garden Tomb

Humayun’s Garden Tomb is located just south of the Din-Panah citadel built by the second Mughal emperor Humayun. The tomb was finished in 1571 after eight or nine years of work.

Its Timurid appearance must be credited to its Iranian architect Mirak Sayyid Ghiyas and Mirak Mirza Ghiyas

Towards the south-east corner within the Charbagh garden, lies a tomb known as Nai-ka-Gumbad, that is, the Barber's Tomb datable to 1590-91. On the summer solstice, the south gate of the garden and the Barber’s Tomb are aligned to the direction of sunrise.

The Dilkusha Charbagh

Placed at the centre of a walled garden named the Dilkusha Charbagh, the mausoleum was built ten years after the death of Jahangir. The whole mausoleum was surrounded by the garden. Today, only the western part exists.

Rambagh Garden and the Qibla

The Rambagh Garden has the distinction of being the very first garden of the Mughals that was built in India. The Rambagh Garden is in Agra, 3 km away from the Itimad-ud-Daulah's tomb.

Pinjore Garden

The Pinjore Garden is located in Pinjore, Panchkula district in the Indian state of Haryana. It was built under the Patiala Dynasty Ruler, and created in the 17th century by architect Nawab Fidai Khan, during the early reign of his foster brother Aurangzeb from 1658 to 1707.

It has been renamed as Yadavindra Garden in the memory of Maharaja Yadavindra Singh. This garden is interesting because its axis is parallel to the direction of the sunrise on summer solstice.

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