It is a great pleasure for me to introduce you to the first interactive Web site on the Gardens of the Mughals, an Islamic dynasty that ruled between 1526 and 1858 in territories now divided among Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kashmir, and northern India. The Web site is one result of a multi-year project that has provided substantial new documentary information for important Mughal garden sites in and near Lahore, Pakistan. Under the direction of Professor James L. Wescoat of the University of Colorado at Boulder, the project was initiated in Pakistan by the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and became a fully collaborative joint venture with the Department of Archaeology of the Government of Pakistan and the School of Architecture at the University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore. A symposium held in Washington, DC in 1992 and an international symposium held in Lahore the following year brought this project to a formal conclusion.

Now Professor Wescoat along with Dr. Abdul Rehman from the School of Architecture in Lahore have teamed with Smithsonian Productions to create an interactive, on-line exhibition that recreates and studies the gardens of Lahore and other garden sites on the Indian subcontinent in their cultural contexts. The first chapters of the site will deal with a proposed processional tour that the Mughal rulers themselves might have made in and around Lahore. It is based on a publication for the 1993 Lahore symposium by James L. Wescoat, Jr.; Michael Brand; Mahmood Hussain; Abdul Rehman; and Naeem Mir entitled "The Mughal Gardens of Lahore: A Processional Guide." Later additions to the Web site will include other Mughal cities, shrines, and gardens throughout modern Pakistan, along with select monuments of Mughal fame from north India, such as the Taj Mahal.

Over the last decade, knowledge about the Mughals has expanded impressively. Mughal art and architecture is now probably the best documented of the myriad artistic traditions of the Indian subcontinent. And through these studies, which have been led by art historians, geographers, archaeologists, and architects, we can now understand far more fully the gardens, architecture, and works of art that so visibly embody Mughal cultural attitudes.

The Mughals were descendants of Timur, or Tamerlane; the Timurids, as they were known, ruled the Persian and Turkic worlds around the fifteenth century. The only ruling descendant of Timur was Babur, who occupied the throne of Ferghana, northeast of Samarkand. After the loss of Ferghana and then Samarkand, Babur took Kabul in 1504. Well-known as a poet and musician, Babur was also a talented designer who built numerous gardens, inspired by his love for the lush and beautiful cities of Samarkand and Herat.

Babur's last and most important conquest was Hindustan, and one of his first acts, when he arrived on the subcontinent to stay in 1526, was to construct gardens; he sought thereby to make "that charmless and disorderly Hind [India]" (as he himself described it) more like home. Eventually the image of the garden became all-pervasive in the Mughal world.

An understanding of gardens is therefore central to an understanding of Mughal life and of the art and architecture which provided appropriate settings for and often gave meaning to events of major historic importance. It is hoped that among the results of the 1992 symposium, the project in Pakistan, and this Web site will be greater attention given to Mughal garden sites by scholars of varied disciplines. The Web site, in particular, should provide a broader level of understanding of this fascinating topic to the general public and to students of all ages. If greater public awareness and support of the need for historically appropriate conservation and maintenance of existing gardens also develops, then the symposia, the Web site, and the recent intensive international study of Mughal gardens will have had an unusually intensive impact. Fortunately, technology has now made it possible for this body of knowledge to be ever-expanding, changing, and accessible to all through the medium of the World Wide Web.

Dr. Milo C. Beach
Former Director
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery/Freer Gallery of Art
Smithsonian Institution

Note: An earlier version of this Introduction was published as the Foreword to Mughal Gardens: Sources, Places, Representations, and Prospects," eds. J.L. Wescoat, Jr. and J. Wolschke-Bulmahn (Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks, 1996, pp. 1-3).