Shalimar Garden or Shalimar Bagh in Srinagar is the largest Mughal garden in Kashmir valley built by Mughal Emperor Jahangir in the year 1619 AD for his wife Empress Nur Jahan. The term Shalimar comes from Sanskrit language which means “Adobe of Love”. This famous garden in sited on the right banks of Dal Lake and the garden is also popularly called as Shalamar garden or Bagh, Faiz Baksh and Farah Baksh. This garden is the outstanding example of Mughals in the field of horticultural. The garden is currently owned and managed by Jammu and Kashmir tourism department.
History of Shalimar Garden
The history of Shalimar Garden can be traced back to second century. It is during that time period King Pravarsena II form Vakataka dynasty who ruled Kashmir from 79 AD till 139 AD. King Pravarsena II was the founder of Srinagar city who build a cottage surrounded by a park close to Dal Lak and named it Shalimar. The King often visits Saint Sukarma Swami at Harwan and after his visit the King stays in Shalimar cottage till then the cottage was well maintained. After that the cottage without proper maintenance was ruined and totally was destroyed but the name Shalimar got stick to the village and the village was called Shalimar itself.
Mughal Emperor Jahangir to please his loving wife Nur Jahan decided to build a garden which was his dream project and he chose Shalimar as the garden location. He renovated the old garden built by King Pravarsena II into a royal Mughal garden in 1619 and named it “Farah Baksh” which means “The delightful”. King Jahangir and his wife Nur Jahan along with the entire Jahangir’s court used to spend the summers in Shalimar garden which was their royal summer residence. To visit Shalimar they cross snow topped Pir Panjal mountain range near Shalimar using elephants.
Later in 1630 Kashmir Governor Zafar Khan as per Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan’s order extended the garden and named it “Faiz Baksh” which means “The Bountiful”. The park during Zafar Khan Administration was also used as an entertaining hub for Pathans and Sikh Governors who were friends with Zafar Khan.
Apart from Mughals many other rulers also altered Shalimar at various time intervals. Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Sikh Empire built a marble guest house in Shalimar for his European guests. Maharaja Hari Singh the last ruling King of Jammu and Kashmir from Rajput clans electrified Shalimar. All the rulers gave Shalimar many different names but the name Shalimar was mush popular amongst all which stays even today.
Layout of Shalimar Garden
The garden covers an enormous 31 acres plot along the Dal Lake. Shalimar Bagh is a typical Mughal garden with three terraces which follows a Persian garden layout on 31 acres of plot with 587 m of length and 251 m of depth. The garden is constructed on flat land close to Dal Lake with a rectangular central layout with four radiating arms. Shah Nahar is the main water channel in Shalimar which runs from the higher or top terraces to the lower or bottom terraces of the garden.
All the three terraces of Shalimar are lined with Chinar trees and are fixed with water fountains to supply water each terraces apart from Shah Nahar water channel. A canal connects Shalimar with the Dal Lake which runs for 1.6 km to reach the lake and it is of 11 m of width. The walkways of the garden are decorated with Aspen trees which are planted at a distance of 2 feet apart from each other.
Architectural style of Shalimar Garden
The three terraced Shalimar Garden is very well known for Mughal architectural excellence which is planned according to the ground surface and the water supplying source. The garden is divided into public and private garden. Water fountains and pools are located in each terraces and water to it are supplied in series. Shalimar has a total of 410 water fountains within its premise.
The first cum lower terrace or the outer garden of Shalimar is the public garden ah has many water fountains. This terrace leads to “Diwan-e-Aam” which is the public audience hall within which a water fall flows with a small black throne on its top.
The second terrace of Shalimar has two narrow terraces lined by many water fountains. This terrace leads to “Diwan-e-Khas” which is the private audience hall which was once used only by the Royal courts, noble men and their guests. Royal bathrooms can also be sited towards the north west of the terrace.
The third terrace of Shalimar is the Zenana garden with loads of Chinar trees and water is supplied through axial water channel. The entrance of Zenana garden has two small pavilions constructed in Kashmir style over a stone platform and was used by security guards. Zenana garden was used only by the Royal courts. Black pavilion in Zenana garden was erected by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan using full black marbles and it is surrounded by water fountains. Just behind the black pavilion flow two small waterfalls. The black pavilion also has an inscription in Persian written by Persian Poet Amir Khusrau saying “If there is a paradise on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here”. The terrace ends with two octagonal pavilions.
Visiting Time in Shalimar Garden
The exotic Shalimar garden is one of the renowned tourist landmarks in India that attracts visitors around the globe. The months of February and March or the autumn and spring season is considered best season to visit the garden since the leaves of the chinar trees changes its colour during this time period. The garden is opened for public visit on all days in the week from 10.00 am till 3.30 pm.