Kashmir At It's Royal Best
The Mughal (also spelt as Moghul) emperors built gardens from
Tehran to Agra but it is in Kashmir, complemented by the lake
and the mountains, that they reach their perfection. Indeed
after houseboats and the mountains it is these gardens for which
Kashmir is most famous.
The Garden's Layout
The gardens all
follow the same rectangular layout with a series of terraces
rising one above the other up the hillside. Down the centre
flows a stone channel carrying water through a series of pools
and cascades. This system of carrying running water through the
artificial cascades, and the layout of the fountains, was
introduced to India by the artisans employed by the emperor
Akbar. 'Bagh' means garden. One can enjoy some of Srinagar's
better gardens in a leisurely bike ride around the shores of the
Set some distance back from the lake, but reached by a small
canal, the Shalimar were built by Emperor Jehangir for his wife
Nur Jahan, 'light of the world' in 1616. Although it is known
today as the 'garden of love' it was originally named the Farah
Bakhsh or 'delightful garden'.
The garden is built in four terraces with traditional water
channel running down the middle. The gardens measure 540 by 183
metres. During the Mughal period the top terraces used be
reserved for the emperor and the ladies of the court and was the
most magnificent. It included a pavilion made of black stone in
the middle of the tank. Black Marble fluted pillars supported
the pavilion, which was used as a banquet hall.
Shalimar Bagh has an air of seclusion and repose, and its rows
of fountains and shaded trees seem to recede towards the
snowcapped mountains. A Son Et Lumeiere or sound and light show
is put on here every evening during the May to October tourist
The Nishat Bagh is another lovely
garden with its 12 terraces representing the 12 signs of the
zodiac, which descend gradually and seem to almost merge into
the lake. It is situated on the banks of world famous Dal Lake
in the backdrop of Zabarwan hills. With its flowerbeds, trees,
fountains, the Nishat presents a dramatic sight. The gardens
were designed in 1633 by Asaf Khan, brother of Nur Jahan, and
follow the same pattern as the Shalimar gardens with a polished
stone channel running down the centre and a series of terraces.
It's the largest of the Mughal gardens measuring 548 metres by
338 metres, and often the most crowed. The walks beside the
channel are bordered with lines of cypresses and Chinars. Also
found within its vicinity are some remains of Mughal period
buildings including a double storey pavilion enclosed on two
sides latticed windows.
Directly behind the garden is the Gopi Tirth, a small spring
gushing forth crystal clear water, which feeds the garden water.
Smallest of the Srinagar Mughal gardens, measuring just 108
metres by 38 metres, the Chasma Shahi, or 'Royal Spring', are
well up the hillside, above the Nehru Memorial Park. The fresh
water spring in these pleasant, quieter gardens is reputed to
have medicinal properties.
The gardens were laid out in 1632 by Ali Mardan Khan and include
three terraces, an aqueduct, waterfalls and fountains. The water
from the spring supplies the fountains and then goes through the
floor of the pavilion and falls to the lower terrace in a fine
cascade of five metres, over a polished black stone chute.
Some extensions have recently been made to the gardens. Like all
the gardens the Chasma Shahi is open from sunrise to sunset but
unlike the other gardens this is the only one, which charges
admission. There is a small shrine, the Chasma Sahibi, near the
gardens, which also has a fresh water spring.