Mughal Gardens of Kashmir


Akeel Rashid


The famed Mughal Gardens of Kashmir owe their magnificence to Emperor Jahangir and his son Shah Jahan, as both had an unwavering appreciation for the beauty of Kashmir. Emperor Jahangir would himself select the plots and develop them in order for them to meet all the requirements of being the traditional paradise gardens. The Mughals, in Kashmir, never strayed too far from the original form or concept of the gardens and their only goal was to make the most of the chosen location and abundant water supply. The selected locations were always at the foot of a mountain, near a source of water (streams or springs). The concept of terrace gardening, it is worth mentioning, evolved in a big way as a result of this feature.


Despite the difficulties of hilly terrain, Mughal engineering talents and aesthetics assisted in fully leveraging the dominating natural scenery and plentiful water supplies, achieving an unrivalled level of perfection. Kashmir's Mughal Gardens are mostly located between the hill and the lake, at the lower height, and this positioning provides amazing views: to one side, the backside of the mountain, and to the other, the view of the lake. The evolution of terraces downwards, and the flow of water in that direction, with the huge chinars on either side, mark the visual relationship between garden and valley toward the lake.


The Mughal gardens in Kashmir, except Verinag and including Shalimar Garden, Nishat Garden and Chashma Shahi have been designed like the aforementioned model. Each garden is explored in detail below.


Shalimar Garden

Shalimar Bagh, a Mughal garden located in Jammu and Kashmir’s summer capital Srinagar, India, is connected to the famous Dal Lake through a waterway. It is also known by the names such as Shalimar Garden, Shalimar Bagh, Farah Baksh, and Faiz Baksh, and Nishat Bagh is another well-known shoreline garden in the area. In 1619, Mughal Emperor Jahangir created the Bagh for his wife Noor Jahan. The Bagh, also known as Srinagar's crown, is thought to be the pinnacle of Mughal gardening. It has now been converted into a public park. The garden's design is based on the Persian gardens, which are another type of Islamic garden. This garden was designed on a flat piece of land with four spreading arms emanating from a central water source. It had to be tweaked to fit the uneven terrain and the presence of a well that could be redirected from a higher elevation to the gardens.


Architecture

The three terraces of the garden have intricate architectural elements. The first terrace is a public or exterior garden that leads to the Diwan-e-Aam (public audience hall). A modest black marble throne was placed over the waterfall in this hall.

Two shallow terraces make up the second terrace garden along the axial canal, which is significantly wider. The Diwan-e-Khas (Private Audience Hall), which was once only open to noblemen and court guests but is now dilapidated, is located in the heart of the city. The carved stone bases and a lovely platform encircled by fountains, however, are still visible. The royal bathrooms are placed on the enclosure's northwestern edge.


In this order, the fountain pools of the Diwan-e-Khas, the Diwan-e-Aam, and finally the Zenana terrace are filled. There are 410 fountains in total.


The axial water channel flows through the Zenana garden on the third terrace, which is flanked by the Diwan-e-Khas and chinar trees. The limited and controlled entry zone of the royal harem is marked by two small pavilions or guard chambers (constructed in Kashmir style on stone plinths) at the entrance to this terrace. In the zenana garden, Shah Jahan erected a black marble baradari known as the Black Pavilion.


It is surrounded by a fountain pool that draws water from a higher terrace. Behind the pavilion, a double cascade cascades against a low wall carved with little niches (chini khanas). From the Black Pavilion, two smaller subsidiary water canals lead to a small baradari. The end wall of the garden is defined by two octagonal pavilions above the third level. The baradari is placed against a beautiful backdrop of snow mountains, making it a great location for the Bagh.


Behind garden waterfalls, the Shalimar Bagh is famed for its chini khanas, or arched nooks. They're a one-of-a-kind feature in the Bagh. These nooks were lit at night with oil lamps, giving the water falls a fairy tale look. However, the niches now house flower pots whose colours are reflected in the cascading water.


The doors of the Baradari are another remarkable architectural feature noted. The Baradari has four magnificent stone entrances supported by pillars in the garden complex. It's thought that these stone doors were relics from old temples that Shah Jahan demolished. Large water troughs with a variety of fountains were also placed in the landscape.

The gardens were beautifully maintained even later, under Maharaja's reign, and remain so now as one of the most popular visitor attractions near Dal Lake. Because of the colour shift in the leaves of the famous Chinar trees, the garden is particularly lovely in the autumn and spring.


Nishat Garden

Nishat Bagh is a terraced Mughal garden located near Srinagar in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir, India, on the eastern side of the Dal Lake. In the Kashmir Valley, it is the second largest Mughal garden. The Shalimar Bagh, which is also located on the Dal Lake's edge, is the largest. "Garden of Joy," "Garden of Gladness," and "Garden of Delight" are all Urdu words for "Nishat Bagh."


Nishat Bagh is a garden of happiness that commands a spectacular view of the lake beneath the snow-capped Pir Panjal mountain range that lies far away to the west of the valley. It is located on the bank of the Dal Lake, with the Zabarwan Mountains as its backdrop.

Asif Khan, Nur Jehan's older brother, designed and built the Bagh in 1633. Nishat Bagh's layout was based on the basic conceptual model of Persian gardens, but it had to be modified to match the topographic and water source requirements at the chosen site in the Kashmir valley.


Architecture

Nishat Bagh is now a long cascade of terraces flanked with avenues of chinar and cypress trees that extends from the shoreline to an artificial façade at the hilltop. It rises from the Dal Lake's edge, with twelve terraces reflecting the twelve Zodiacal signs. However, compared to the four sections of the Shalimar Bagh, it only has two sections, namely the public garden and the private garden for the Zanana or harem; this difference is attributed to the fact that the latter Bagh catered to the Mughal Emperor, whereas Nishad Bagh belonged to a man of his court, a noble.


There are certain parallels, such as the polished stone waterway and terraces, with the Shalimar Bagh. The two gardens get their water from the same source. The upper terrace features the Zenana garden, while the bottom terrace is connected to Dal Lake and is built in an east-west direction. The lowest terrace has recently merged with the approach road. The gardens are supplied with clean water from a spring known as the Gopi Thirst. In the area of the Bagh, there are a few historic Mughal structures.


Chashma Shahi

The Mughal Governor Ali Mardan Khan built the garden around the spring around 1632. The Mughal emperor Shah Jahan commissioned it for his eldest son, Dara Sikoh. Dara Sikoh used to study astrology at the Pari Mahal (Fairy Palace) to the east of Chashma Shahi. The garden is 108 metres long and 38 metres wide, with a total area of one acre. It is the smallest of Srinagar's three Mughal gardens; the largest is the Shalimar garden, and the second largest is the Nishat garden. All three gardens are located on the Dal Lake's right bank, with the Zabarwan Mountains (Zabarwan Range) in the background.


Architecture and the spring

The garden displays Mughal architecture as it appears in many Mughal gardens. The garden's art and architecture are influenced by Iranian culture, and the design is inspired by Persian gardens. It is built around a fresh water spring that flows in terraces through the centre. The garden was created due to the topography and steepness of the land. The spring, which flows down in terraces and is divided into three sections: an aqueduct, a cascade, and fountains, is the garden's major centrepiece.


At the first terrace, where the spring originates, a two-story Kashmiri cottage sits. The water then pours into the second terrace via a water ramp (chadar). A big fountain rises in the centre of the second terrace, which acts as a water pool. The water pours down a water ramp into the third terrace, which features a five-fountain square pool. It is the garden's lowest pool, located at the entry.


The guests are greeted with a flight of stairs leading up to the spring's source on both sides of the terraces. The spring's water is thought to have certain medicinal characteristics. Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, India's former Prime Minister, used to bring the spring's water to Delhi.