Views of the Taj-figure in the landscape

Amita Sinha, Terence Harkness

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Since the Taj complex was built in the mid-17th century, the mausoleum has been an object of wonder and delight, yet viewed differently by each era. The Mughal emperors saw it from across the river Yamuna, reflected in the river's waters and in the fountains of Mahtab Bagh, and framed by the balconies of the Red Fort. The Europeans painted, photographed, and made it an object of romantic gaze in a picturesque setting that fitted their notions of the exotic and mysterious East. The post-colonial period has seen proliferations of its image for virtual consumption and commodification, making the Taj the most visited tourist destination in India. Today, the Taj complex is a tourist enclave that is cut off from its surroundings, and limited movement patterns restrict visitor views and experiences of the monument. This article proposes that ways of seeing the building should include perceiving it as a "figure in the landscape". Landscape is understood to be not just the neo-colonial version of the Mughal garden that dominates the foreground of the Taj's ubiquitous imagery, but also the larger cultural landscape of the river Yamuna and its flood plain, rural hamlets and farmfields, and the streets and open spaces of urban Agra. By knitting together the public gardens, parks, and other landscapes in a continuous system of open spaces, a green belt can be created around the Taj to protect it from environmental pollution and provide recreational spaces. View corridors proposed in this landscape will function as conservation easements and will engage the visitor in an extended visual experience of the Taj.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)198-217
Number of pages20
JournalLandscape Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Cultural landscape
  • Mughal gardens
  • Picturesque
  • South asia
  • Tourist enclave
  • Visual culture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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