Art Spots, Connected Histories

Babur on the Construction of the Bagh-i Wafa

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Babur’s description of this garden near Kabul reveals his keen interest in plants and water. For more than fifteen years after making the garden, he continued to find new plants for it. Babur refers to its central area as a charchaman, “a plot of lawn or garden, usually with a pool in the middle, divided into four sections by crosswalks.” (Thackston, p. 174). Manuscript copies of the Baburnama, made seventy-five years later, depict the scene of the emperor laying out the garden: it is divided into four beds by running channels and has a pool off to one side. An architect stands to one side, his back to the viewer, holding a board that is clearly divided into a grid. While the four-part organization reflects Babur’s own description, the detail of the grid plan may have been drawn from contemporary practice observed by the manuscript’s painters in gardens made for patrons in the era of Akbar (r. 1556-1605).

Annotation by D. Fairchild Ruggles.

The miniature painting is from the Baburnama, and is titled Babur Supervising the Laying Out of the Garden of Fidelity. It is in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England.


Watch a video essay about Islamic Gardens Here.


In 914 (1508-09), I had constructed a charbagh garden called the Bagh i-Wafa on a rise to the south of the Adinapur fortress. [A charbagh garden is a rectangular garden divided into four parts by paths or waterways.] It overlooks the river, which flows between the fortress and the garden. It yields many oranges, citrons, and pomegranates. (In 1524), the year I defeated Pahar Khan and conquered Lahore and Dipalpur, I had a banana tree brought and planted. It thrived. The year before that, sugarcane had been planted, some of which was being sent to Badakhshan and Bukhara. The ground is high, with constant running water, and the weather is mild in winter. In the middle of the garden is a small hill (132b) from which a one-mill stream always flows through the garden. The charchaman in the middle of the garden is situated atop the hill. In the southwest portion of the garden is a ten-by-ten pool surrounded by orange trees and some pomegranate trees. All around the pool is a clover meadow. The best place in the garden is there. When the oranges turn yellow it is a beautiful sightreally handsomely laid out. (Trans. Thackston, pp. 173-4)


Babur (Thackston Wheeler, ed.). The Baburnama: Memoirs of Babur, Prince and Emperor. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, 1993.

Thackston, Wheeler, trans. The Baburnama: Memoirs of Babur, Prince and Emperor. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1996.


Ruggles, D. Fairchild, ed. Islamic Art and Visual Culture: An Anthology of Sources. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011, pp. 153-154. Image credit: Babur Supervising the Laying Out of the Garden of Fidelity, opaque watercolor, India or Pakistan, ca. 1590, Bishndas (painter), IM.276-1913, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England, at

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"Muslim Journeys | Item #211: Babur on the Construction of the Bagh-i Wafa", July 20, 2024


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