The texts I study for my academic research include a genre of Sanskrit texts on the topic of Vṛkṣāyurveda, literally "knowledge of the life span of trees" but more generally to be understood as "horticulture". Large parts of these texts, which are mostly in verse, deal with the minutiae of how to best plant different trees, fertilizer recipes, techniques for warding off and destroying insect pests, and the like. Occasionally, however, they take a step back from such practical matters to touch upon more aesthetic concerns and to ponder the importance of gardens and gardening more generally. In this vein, the following verse opens the first section of two vṛkṣāyurveda texts, the Vṛkṣāyurveda of Surapāla presumably written in 12th-century Bengal and the Upavanavinoda or "enjoyment of pleasure groves" section of the Śārṅgadharapaddhati, an encyclopedia produced in the 14th century in the Central Indian region of Bundelkhand:
पुंसां सर्वसुखैकसाधनकराः सौन्दर्यगर्वोद्धुर-
क्रीडालोलविलासिनीजनमनः स्फीतप्रमोदावहाः ।
युक्ताः सन्ति गृहेषु यस्य विपुलारामाः स पृथ्वीपतिः ।।
puṃsāṃ sarvasukhaikasādhanakarāḥ saundaryagarvoddhura-
yuktāḥ santi gṛheṣu yasya vipulārāmāḥ sa pṛthvīpatiḥ
He is the lord of the earth in whose abode there are spacious gardens,
Endowed with wide, gleaming ponds with an abundance of lotuses opened by buzzing bumblebees,
Which provide the means of men's greatest delight
In the manner of beautiful women thrilling in amorous play, unrestrained in pride in their beauty, flourishing and bringing joy.
Asian lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) at a nursery in Michigan
Another endearing - if much less polished - verse from a shorter treatise rather prosaically entitled Vṛkṣādīnāṃ ropaṇādiprakaraṇa or "the method of planting, etc., of trees and more" takes a somewhat sassier tone:
न खाताः पुष्करिण्यो ऽपि रोपिता न महीरुहाः ।
मातुर्यौवनचौरेण तेन जातेन किं कृतम् ।।
na khātāḥ puṣkariṇyo 'pi ropitā na mahīruhāḥ
māturyauvanacaurena tena jātena kiṃ kṛtam
What is achieved by the birth of a child that robs the mother's youth
(But) by whom no lotus pools are dug nor even any trees planted?
Clearly these texts are trying to make a claim for the importance of horticulture that goes well beyond the merely practical to include moral or ethical notions and a particular vision of earthly success and accomplishment. Grand gardens are a prerequisite of kingship - or, more generally perhaps, of elite social status - but they are also "the means of men's greatest delight" and thereby that which makes such good fortune truly enjoyable. A life entirely devoid of gardening, on the other hand, is envisioned as a waste not only of that individual's time but of the self-sacrifice made by the person's mother in giving birth to and raising him or her.
Gopal, Lallanji. Vṛkṣāyurveda in Ancient India (with Original Texts and Translation). New Delhi: Sundeep Prakashan, 2000.
Śārṅgadhara. Upavanavinodaḥ. Girija Prasanna Majumdar, ed. and trans. Calcutta: Indian Research Institute, 1935.
Sureśvara. Vṛkṣāyurveda: Das Wissen von der Lebensspanne der Bäume. Rahul Peter Das, ed. and trans. Stuttgart: F. Steiner, 1988.