A Royal Mughal Garden built by the Mughal Royalty as a place for repose and reflection is the Shalimar Garden - meaning the abode of love which sprawls over the right bank of the Dal Lake on its northeast at 34.149 N 74.873 E in Jammu and Kashmir s State Capital - Srinagar.
Built as a token of love by Mughal Emperor - Jahangir for his wife - Noor Jahan, the Shalimar Garden is reckoned with as a pinnacle of Mughal horticulture. Emperor Jahangir fondly called this Garden Farah Baksh (the bestower of pleasure) which also came to be known as Faiz Baksh (the bountiful) during the 1600s. The surprising aspect of this Garden is that it has remained intact since the time of it being constructed in 1619.
Romance is in the air in Shalimar Bagh. Surrounded by snow peaks, verdant lawns and landscapes, long row of fountains, waterfalls and pools with walkways laced with brightly coloured flowers - it makes for a perfect setting. Infact, this has been a movie setting for scores of romantic bollywood films in the last Century. Though visited by all, this garden is most enjoyed by honeymooners and lovers.
The Shalimar Bagh is a typical Persian Garden with Garden landscaping influenced by the Islamic Garden layout whose genesis lies in the Quran where several references to a Garden being a cool place of rest and reflection have been made. Following this principle is the Shalimar Bagh which stretches across 32 acres of fertile and flat land of Srinagar. Rectangular shaped, the Garden is about 2000 feet long and about 900 feet wide and is landscaped into 3 terraces which encompass rectangular pools of flowing water. The water from each terrace-pool flows down to the next terrace pool at a lower level - cascading down as a small waterfall. All pools have several water-fountains lined-up in the centre on the full length of the pools which are bordered by rows of Sycamore (Chinar) trees and well-paved walk-ways that run along the full length of the pools which are laced by Aspen trees. The source of water is its central water-canal called the Shah Nahar which is fed by the Dal Lake through a mile-long water-canal.
Each terrace of the garden has its own specialty. The first terrace being a public garden encloses a public audience Hall (Diwan-e-Aam) at the centre of which is a black marble throne below which is a waterfall. The second terrace encloses a Hall for private audience (Diwan-e-khaas) which was meant for the Emperor s audience with his court nobles and the guests of the court. The third terrace encloses are two small stone-pavilions meant for the royal harem which are surrounded by the Zenana Gardens. A black-marble pavilion (called the Baradari ) also stands in the Zenana Garden with the backdrop of the snowy mountains. The Baradari bears the famous Persian inscription Gar Firdaus rōy-e zamin ast, hamin ast-o hamin ast-o hamin ast meaning If there is a paradise on earth, it is this, it is this, it is this - which is by a famous Persian poet - Jami. 2 octagonal pavilions which are built on the third terrace mark the end of the Shalimar Garden.
The highlights of the Shalimar Gardens are the stone-alcoves which stand vertical behind the waterfalls - partially visible through the clear and smooth sheets of cascading water in the pools. After dusk, these alcoves were lit up with oil-lamps giving a hazy fantasy-like appearance and feel. These days, brightly-coloured flowers are kept in these alcoves which play hide-and-seek from behind the curtains of water.
This romantic garden has been a big source of inspiration for several other Persian Gardens especially the Shalimar Bagh in Delhi and the Shalimar Gardens in Lahore, Pakistan.