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Amita Sinha and D. F Ruggles (2004)

The Yamuna Riverfront, India: A Comparative Study of Islamic and Hindu Traditions in Cultural Landscapes

Landscape Journal, 23(2):141–152.

Cultural traditions encompass specific modes of visuality. Islamic and Hindu ways of seeing are described in terms of their inscription upon the cultural landscape of India. The historic Yamuna riverfront at Agra, one-time capital of the Mughal empire, is compared with the riverfront at Braj, sacred to the Hindus for its association with the god Krishna. The land-water interface at Braj is marked by steps that allow access to the river for bathing, shrines and temples for worship, and a porous architecture that facili- tates vision and movement in the public realm. In contrast, at historic Agra, the inter- face was marked by walls enclosing royal gardens, palaces, and tombs, creating private enclaves and permitting the common residents only interstitial access to the river, if any at all. Pavilions on riverfront terraces with gardens below framed views of the landscape, implying a separation between the viewer and the designated object. Although the river was the prime object of vision in both traditions, the Islamic mode of visuality was phe- nomenal presentation while the Hindu mode is iconic representation.