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- Published 27.09.13
From Homer’s Elysium to Kubla Khan’s pleasure dome in Xanadu, from Thomas More’s Utopia to Vita Sackville West’s gardens at Sissinghurst, from the Ramayan’s Jambudvipa to the landscape around Humayun’s Tomb — if there is an idea linking all these, it is that of an enclosed space where opposites exist in harmony. In this particular feature, these places are unlike those found in real life, and so are paradisal. The myth of paradise, being the product of our unaltered need for an other life, an after-life perhaps, not as obdurate as it is in reality, has survived with minor changes down the ages. Saba Risaluddin explores it in THE QUEST FOR PARADISE: GARDENS, PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE (Niyogi, Rs 1,250). Left is the sacred lotus on a scroll by a 13th-century Chinese artist. The lotus, a symbol of the soul escaping unsullied from the slime of existence, is a common ingredient of the paradise myth. Top right shows Sita in Ravana’s grove, Ashokavana. In J.W. Waterhouse’s painting (bottom right) inspired by the Decameron, the poet begins his tale of enchantment in a summer garden.