As I savour the beauty of an Aligarhi garden in early winter with flowers of all colours, I am reminded that a garden is a profound symbol in all religions. Iqbal’s vision of paradise, for instance, has an unmistakable resemblance to the garden of Indra.
Kya bataon tumhen Iram kya hai, Khaatimey aarzue deeda-o-gosh shake-tuba pe naghmzrez ta yur behijana hoor jalwa farosh. (How shall I tell you what heaven is; O desire of vision and hearing! On the tree of heaven, singing birds perch and houris show themselves.)
Paradise in most religions is depicted as possessing the most exquisite of natural scenery. Who has not heard of Indra’s famous garden with twittering birds and dancing apsaras and fruit trees that promise immortality to the receiver?
But there is another noteworthy fact too, that the gardens of heaven are superior in quality to the gardens of earth or in other words, exist on a higher plane.
Thus heavenly gardens are associated with images of ambrosia, madira, grandeur, luxury and eternity. In a somewhat similar manner, the Hadith describe jannat as a place with rivers of milk and honey and even wine , but minus its negative attributes.
The beings in heaven are dressed in the sheerest garments of white, possessing unearthly beauty. The trees readily drop fruit into the lap of the desirous on just a wish. The ambience in heaven is one of love and peace.
It is natural to wonder if the gardens of heaven could have a real existence as the most sublime and refined form of matter. This does not go against scientific principles that rest on the theory of the indestructibility of matter.
The gardens of Heaven when perceived in this sense are not for those who follow rituals blindly but for those who reach a sublime plane by living through acts of kindness and empathy. As a poet summed up this exalted vision:
Tera milna! Tera na milna! Aur jannat hai kya! Jahannum hai kya! (To find You or not find You: what else is heaven or hell?).