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The Verdant Mughal Gardens of Kashmir

Published: 28th August 2014 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 28th August 2014 12:30 AM   |  A+A-

VERDANT-MUGHAL

BANGALORE: Although Kashmir   has many hoary, ancient sites of Buddhist and Hindu heritage, it is the unique Mughal styled gardens that attract the most number of tourists and visitors.

Both the old city of Srinagari which was founded by the great Mauryan emperor Ashoka and the present city founded by Kashyapa, underwent drastic changes under the Mughal kings in the 16th century, bringing in Persian art and architecture.

It was during the reign of Jahangir and Shahjahan that many parks and gardens were set up with the   mighty Himalayas serving as the backdrop and freshwater lakes and streams imparting a unique beauty and charm.

As one walks along the periphery of the Dal Lake, one can see a verdant, colourful, terraced garden that literally draws one by the sheer force of its abundance, red, yellow, pink and purple hues and its heady fragrance.

Nishat garden is considered to be the second largest Mughal garden in the Valley. Situated on the banks of the picturesque Dal Lake, it is also known as the Garden of Bliss with the Zabarwan mountains forming its backdrop.

Built in 1633 by Noor Jehan's father Asif Khan, it has a plethora of fountains and an abundance of trees and flowering species.

Although, it is a Persian style garden, it has been modelled according to the mountainous topography and the availability of the water source.

On the other hand, Shalimar Garden which was built by Jahangir for his wife Noor Jahan in 1616 offers a panoramic view of other gardens, lakes and shallow terraces.

Also known as the Garden of love, the Shalimar Garden has four terraces, rising one above the other.

The references to paradise in Koranic scriptures have been incorporated in the landscaping of the garden, in the choice of flowers and sweet smelling grasses, shaded trees, pavilions, and often the garden architecture including zodiacal and numerological symbols. 

The smallest of the lot is the Chashma Shahi Mughal gardens. This royal spring which was built by Emperor Shah Jahan in 1632 is situated above the Nehru Memorial Park. Harwan is a huge garden in Srinagar that boasts of natural beauty and is absolutely devoid of any artificial features.

Just next to the Chashmashahi gardens, Pari Mahal which once served as the royal observatory and also as a Buddhist monastery, has a beautiful and well-planned garden in its frontal portion. However, Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of Shahjahan converted it into a school of astrology.

Once these verdant, Persian styled gardens served as a summer retreat for many Mughal Emperors. Impressed with the splendour of the valley, each emperor went on adding more and more features, be it fountains, flowers or new floral patterns.

Each made his own unique contribution in the form of the Mughal Gardens whose special feature was running water falling into a pool that reflected the beauty of the natural elements.

The gardens have been  designed and styled with  rectilinear layouts, walled enclosures, pools, canals and fountains. They also remind us just how central was the need for natural beauty in our lives once.



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