Shalimar Bagh is one of the beautiful gardens in Srinagar, which is regarded as the monument of love. It was built in 1616 by Mughal Emperor Jahangir for his wife, Nur Jahan. This garden houses four terraces, fountains and a canal. The highest terrace at this site is known as ‘Abode of Love’, which was used by the emperor and royal ladies. This bagh is also called as Garden of Char Minar, Faiz Baksh and Farah Baksh.
About Shalimar Bagh :
Located in Srinagar, Shalimar Garden was laid out by Emperor Jehangir for his wife Nur Jahan in 1616. Shalimar Garden are the magnum opus of Srinagar’s many gardens and parks.This beautiful garden was originally named the Farah Bakhsh or ‘delightful garden’, but today it is known as the ‘garden of love’. The garden features a canal, lined with polished stones and is supplied with water from Harwan runs through the middle of the garden. Shalimar Bagh has an air of solitude and quietude, and its rows of amazing fountains and shaded lined trees seem to retire towards the snow dressed mountains. A sound and light show is held here every evening between May to October in the tourist season.
While the recent history and development of the Mughal types of gardens is credited to Emperor Jahangir of the Mughal Dynasty, the ancient history of the garden is traced to the 2nd century when it was built during the reign of Pravarsena II. Praversena II founded the city of Srinagar and ruled in Kashmir from 79 AD to 139 AD. He had built a cottage for his stay at the northeastern corner of the Dal Lake and had named it Shalimar (means “Abode or Hall of Love” Sanskrit). The king, on his visits to a local saint by the name Sukarma Swami at Harwan, used to stop at this cottage. Over the years, the cottage fell into ruins and later could not be located. However, the village name remained as Shalimar.
It is here that Emperor Jahangir built his celebrated Shalimar Bagh, his dream project to please his queen He enlarged the ancient garden in 1619 into a royal garden and called it ‘Farah Baksh’ (‘the delightful’). He built it for his wife Nur Jahan (‘light of the world’). In 1630, under Emperor Shah Jahan’s orders, Zafar Khan the governor of Kashmir got it extended. He named it ‘Faiz Baksh’ (‘the bountiful’). It then became a pleasure place for the Pathan and Sikh governors who followed Zafar Khan.
During the rule of Maharaja Ranjit Singh the marble pavilion was the guest house for European visitors. Electrification of the premises was done during Maharaja Hari Singh’s rule. Thus, over the years, the garden was extended and improved by many rulers and called by different names, but the most popular name ‘Shalimar Bagh’ continues to this day.
During the Mughal period in particular, Emperor Jahangir and his wife Nur Jahan were so enamoured of Kashmir that during summer they moved to Srinagar with their full court entourage from Delhi, at least 13 times. Shalimar Bagh was their imperial summer residence and the Royal Court. They crossed the arduous snowy passes of the Pir Panjal mountain range on elephants to reach Srinagar.
The layout of the garden is an adaptation of another Islamic garden layout known as the Persian gardens. This garden built on a flat land on a square plan with four radiating arms from a central location as the water source, could not be exactly replicated to the hilly conditions in the Kashmir valley. It needed to be modified to suit the hilly terrain and availability of a source of water, which could be diverted from a higher elevation by gravity to the planned gardens. Thus, modifications to suit the location were designed, which involved the main channel running through the garden axially from top to the lowest point. This central channel, known as the Shah Nahar, is the main axis of the garden. It runs through three terraces. This layout saved on radial arms and the shape became rectangular, instead of a square plan of the Chahar Bagh.
The garden, as finally laid, extends to an area of 12.4 hectares (31 acres) built with a size of 587 metres (1,926 ft) length on the main axis channel and with a total width of 251 metres (823 ft). The garden has three terraces fitted with fountains and with chinar (sycamore) tree-lined vistas. The Shahnahar is the main feeder channel to all the terraces. Each one of the three terraces has a specific role.
The garden was linked to the open Dal Lake water through a canal of about 1 mile (1.6 km) length and 12 yards (11 m) in width that ran through swampy quagmire. Willow groves and rice terraces fringed the lake edge. Broad green paths bordered the lake with rows of chinar trees. The garden was laid in trellised walkways lined by avenues of aspen trees planted at 2 feet (0.61 m) interval.
The architectural details of the three terraces of the garden are elaborate. The first terrace is a public garden or the outer garden ending in the Diwan-e-Aam (public audience hall). In this hall, a small black marble throne was installed over the waterfall.
The second terrace garden along the axial canal, slightly broader, has two shallow terraces. The Diwan-i-Khas (the Hall of Private Audience), which was accessible only to the noblemen or guests of the court, now derelict, is in its centre. However, the carved stone bases and a fine platform surrounded by fountains are still seen. The royal bathrooms are located on the north-west boundary of this enclosure. The fountain pools of the Diwan-i Khas, the Diwan-i-Amm, and in turn, the Zenana terrace are supplied in succession.
In the third terrace, the axial water channel flows through the Zenana garden, which is flanked by the Diwan-i-Khas and chinar trees. At the entrance to this terrace, there are two small pavilions or guard rooms (built in Kashmir style on stone plinth) that is the restricted and controlled entry zone of the royal harem. Shahajahan built a baradari of black marble, called the Black Pavilion in the zenana garden. It is encircled by a fountain pool that receives its supply from a higher terrace. A double cascade falls against a low wall carved with small niches (chini khanas), behind the pavilion. Two smaller, secondary water canals lead from the Black Pavilion to a small baradari. Above the third level, two octagonal pavilions define the end wall of the garden. The baradari has a lovely backdrop of the snow mountains, which is considered a befitting setting for the Bagh.
The Shalimar Bagh is well known for chini khanas, or arched niches, behind garden waterfalls. They are a unique feature in the Bagh. These niches were lighted at night with oil lamps, which gave a fairy tale appearance to the water falls. However, now the niches hold pots of flower pots that reflect their colours behind the cascading water.
Another unusual architectural feature mentioned is about the doors of the Baradari. In the garden complex, the Baradari had four exquisite doors made of stones supported by pillars. It is conjectured that these stone doors were ruins from old temples that were demolished by Shahajahan. The garden also provided large water troughs where a variety of fountains were fixed.
How to Reach Shalimar Garden in Srinagar:
The Shalimar Garden is just 11kms from the district headquarters of Srinagar.
Nearest Airport: You can drop into the Srinagar Airport and then reach Shalimar Garden by taking a drive.
Nearest Railhead: Jammu Railway Station is the nearest railhead which is 305km from Srinagar.
Roadways: Srinagar is interconnected with good number of roadways to the rest of the city.
Temperature : Summer 29.5 C (Max) 10.6 C (Min), winter 7.3 C (Max) -1.9 C (Min)
Population : 930136 (2001 Census)
Best Season: Throughout the year, though the winter months are quite cold
Clothing : Light woolens during spring and autumn while Cotton in summer and Heavy woolens in winter.
Languages Spoken : Kashmiri, Urdu, Hindi, and English