Elizabeth Moynihan Obituary – Death: impassioned scholar of Mughal gardens Cause Of Death
Elizabeth B. Moynihan, the esteemed partner of former U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, passed away at the age of 94. Renowned for her pivotal role as a skilled campaign manager in her husband’s political journey, she played a crucial part in his successful senatorial bid in 1976 and remained an influential figure throughout his 24-year tenure in office. However, her connection to India and her profound love for Mughal gardens formed a significant cornerstone of her life’s work.
Mrs. Moynihan fostered a profound affinity for India, a country to which her husband was posted as the U.S. ambassador from 1973 to 1975. Initially, she found the strictures of diplomatic life constricting, prompting her to explore the country beyond the confines of the ambassador’s residence. Her fascination with India’s rich history led her on a path to becoming a renowned authority on Mughal gardens.
Her fascination with Mughal gardens was ignited by her perusal of the 1921 translation of Babur’s memoir, “The Baburnama.” Immersed in Babur’s vibrant tales, charmed by his accounts of Indian flora and fauna, and enthralled by his recollections of a lotus garden near Dholpur, she was captivated by the lure of these ancient horticultural marvels.
Despite prevailing beliefs that many Mughal gardens had been consigned to the annals of history, Mrs. Moynihan harbored a steadfast hope that remnants of these cultural treasures might still endure. In 1978, armed with “The Baburnama” as her guide, she embarked on a quest to India, ultimately unearthing the remnants of Babur’s lotus pool on a stone terrace in the village of Jhor, just outside Dholpur.
This remarkable discovery captivated Indian archaeologists and garnered recognition as “an important archaeological revelation” by the esteemed New York Times. Mrs. Moynihan, typically reticent about media attention in the United States, was moved to share this momentous achievement, unbeknownst even to her husband, Pat Moynihan.
In the ensuing years, Mrs. Moynihan continued her pursuit of identifying and documenting several other gardens attributed to Babur. Her seminal works included the publication of “Paradise as a Garden: In Persia and Mughal India” in 1979 and her editorship of “The Moonlight Garden: New Discoveries at the Taj Mahal” in 2000.
The latter work chronicled her collaborative efforts with Indian scholars in studying the Mahtab Bagh, a forgotten garden near the iconic 17th-century Taj Mahal in Agra. Mrs. Moynihan spearheaded the American team in this undertaking, significantly enriching the contemporary understanding of the Taj Mahal’s historical context. Her enduring commitment to Mughal gardens and her fervent dedication to the preservation of historical legacies have indelibly shaped India’s cultural heritage.