Friday, December 23, 2011

Hanging out in Babylon!


When we speak of design and architecture there’s no denying that there are several jewels of the ancient world that leave us mesmerized. If in an era that saw next to no mechanization such marvels could be created it’s almost anybody’s guess what – given the right resources – could be achieved today.

From the Pyramids of Egypt to the Coliseum in Rome to the temples of India, one cannot help but wonder how any of those engineering feats were ever achieved! What must it have taken to hoist and put in place those enormous rocks and in some cases to carve beautifully detailed structures out of it! And today, nothing tells the stories of the world gone past like these structures can.

There are, however, some of these engineering revelations that have been lost to the world forever. Destroyed due to natural calamities, not all of these structures unfortunately were blessed with a fate like Pompeii which after being literally buried for 1700 years in obscurity was rediscovered by chance. Some like the hanging gardens of Babylon have now disappeared so completely that they’re nothing more than legends of whose grandiosity only random travellers’ accounts remain.

Of course, historians say that the name “Hanging” gardens is probably misleading since the gardens didn’t so much hang as they did overhanging. Legend has it that much like a predecessor of the Taj Mahal by several centuries the Hanging Gardens were a gift by a King to his Queen. And also like the Taj, the construction of the Hanging Gardens was nothing short of a miracle in dry and arid Babylon (modern Iraq).

Commissioned by their King to this impossible task of creating a man-made green mountain in a place where there was not only no stone but also no water the engineers exercised all the ingenuity at their disposal to fulfill their orders. The result was a green mountain indeed; one built out of mud and lead and then rare stone graced by huge trees and other plants continuously fed with water by what is supposed was a chain mechanism of barrels and tubs that in a continuous motion carried water up the mountain and fed the trees; a mountain which, hopefully, gladdened the heart of a homesick queen.
Unfortunately, it is said the Hanging Garden were destroyed in an earthquake in the 2nd Century BC. But for the time that they stood as architectural marvels they awed all those that saw them and earned a permanent place in history as one of the original Seven Wonders of the World. And perhaps were the earliest known forerunners of the modern roof top gardens!
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