Constructing Mughal Gardens was the most beloved pastime of the Mughal imperials. Mughal Gardens in Srinagar are basically the gardens that were built during the reign on Mughal Emperors. Influenced heavily by the concept of Persian Gardens or the charbagh, these gardens drew heavily upon Persian style of architecture. The common features that all Mughal Gardens share is the rectilinear layouts within the walled structure with canals, fountains, pools of running water and several species of shade providing trees , flowers, fruits and aromatic grasses.
No other emperor is credited with taking the garden architecture and floral designs to the height as Shah Jahan the pinnacle of which was reached when he constructed the sprawling funeral paradise Taj Mahal in Agra to commemorate his beloved wife Mumtaj Mahal. But in this write up we are not going to talk about the Taj Mahal. Instead we’ll focus on some of the other but equally impressive Mughal Gardens in Kashmir which the Mughal adopted as their summer capital. So read on about the top Mughal Gardens in Kashmir that you must visit if you are planning your tours to Kashmir.
A garden of bliss, a garden of joy, a garden of delight, whatever one chooses to call it, Nishat Bagh in Srinagar is exceptionally beautiful in every sense of the word. If one looks back in the pages of history, the Mughal era is likely to feel the most dominating one in Kashmir. After dethroning the mightiest of kings, these rulers of Persia set their foot in Kashmir in the 16th century. It was the sheer beauty of the valley that enticed them to conquer and rule. The glory days came with Jahangir, who was an avid art lover and who developed an undaunted love for Kashmir. He set the pace for the construction of some of the most splendid attractions in Kashmir, and that includes Nishat Bagh as well.
Nishat Bagh was actually built by Asaf Khan, brother of Mughal emperor Jahangir’s wife in the year 1633. True to its Persian heritage, Nishat Bagh is one of the most prominent gardens that the Mughals built in India. Facing the beautiful Dal Lake, the garden resides on its eastern bank. Interesting fact about its location is that its creators have kept the lowest terrace of the garden connected to the lake. Owing to this Persian design concept, Nishat Bagh is divided into 12 terraces that represent 12 zodiac signs. And the fascinating part is that many of the Chinar trees on these terraces were being planted by the hands of the Mughal emperors. In a nutshell, Nishat Bagh in Kashmir is a wonderful garden of flowerbeds, fountains and terraces that gives a deep insight into the Mughal style of architecture.
Timings: All days of the week (except Friday) (9 am to 7 pm)
Entry Fees: Rs 10 per person
Another enchanting creation, built under the eyes of the Mughal emperor Jahangir and this time built entirely by him, Shalimar Bagh is amongst the finest gardens in Kashmir, which were ever built by this Muslim dynasty. But before moving on to its description, its history must be given due attention. In the second century, King Pravarsena II founded the city of Srinagar. During his reign, he built a cottage for himself on the banks of Dal Lake, which he named as Shalimar. Later on, this cottage got destroyed and was left in ruins. But one thing that remained the same was its name, Shalimar. This name got carried forward in the coming centuries, and in the 16th century, when Jahangir came to this place; he built a royal garden on the sight of it, and named it Shalimar Bagh. In order to please his queen, the emperor built this royal garden and today, in the 21st century, it is the pride of Kashmir valley.
The present day Shalimar Bagh is attached with another garden Faiz Baksh, which was added in the later years during the reign of Jahangir’s son Shah Jahan. The lower portion of the garden, which comprises three of the terraces, is known as Diwan-i-Aam while the rest two are contained in the upper portion. It is believed that the upper portion of Shalimar Bagh was meant for the emperor and his royal courtiers, and hence, was called as Diwan-i-Khas.
The Mughals took utmost care in decorating the garden. This resulted in setting up of pavilions, pools and fountains on the edges of each terrace. Overall, the design of the garden is well planned and it wonderfully depicts the Mughal style of architecture. Structures which greatly support such a statement are the Pink Pavilion (Diwan-i-Aam) and Black Pavilion (Diwan-i-Khas). These two structures are also important as they are some of the few Mughal architectural buildings in the whole of Kashmir. Not just majestic wonders of brick and mortar, the two structures perfectly harmonize with the pristine natural beauty of Shalimar Bagh.
Timings: Open all days of the week (except Friday), (9 am to 7pm)
Entry Fee: Rs 10 per person
Built by the Ali Mardan Khan in 1632, during the reign of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, Chasma Shahi is amongst the major tourist attractions in Kashmir. This garden was commissioned by then Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan for his eldest and favorite son Dara Sikoh. Shah Jahan had it built on the slopes of the Zabarwan Mountains, around a natural spring. And the garden retains this spring, even in its present form. This natural spring sprouts from the first terrace of the garden, which further makes its way to the second and third terrace. As water from the first terrace pours into the second level, it meets a large pool, which has a fountain situated in the center of it. Some also believe that the water of this natural spring has medicinal properties.
There is an interesting story behind this belief of the spring. Legends has it that once, Mumtaz Mahal, wife of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan fell ill and she was made to drink the water of this natural spring. Miraculously, the empress got healthy, which later on resulted in wide spread use of the spring by the royals. The royals were under the impression that if taken on a regular basis, works wonders for the skin.True to its Mughal heritage, Chasme Shahi displays a glimpse of Persian art and architecture. Although the smallest Mughal garden in Kashmir, it stands out among its counterparts in terms of architecture and design. To the east of the Chasme Shahi lies the Pari Mahal where Dara Sikoh used to learn astrology and later killed by his usurper brother Aurangzeb.
Timings: Open all days of the week, except Fridays (9 am to 7 pm)
Entry fee: Rs 10 per person
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The family legacy of building architectural wonders continued after Shah Jahan as well. This time it was the son, who contributed in the Mughal art form. The eldest son of Emperor Shah Jahan, Prince Dara Shikoh built Pari Mahal in Kashmir in the year 1650 AD. Pari Mahal Garden sits on top of Zabarwan Mountain range in Kashmir, quite close to the Dal Lake. Built as per the guidelines of Persian architecture and Char Bagh concept, the garden, which is built around the Pari Mahal is segmented into seven terraces and has no water fountains like the other Mughal gardens in Kashmir. The reason it was named as Pari Mahal, which means the fairies adobe, was the structure, which looks like an enchanting fairytale castle. Highly noteworthy, the garden is a fine example of Mughal style of architecture and gardening.
The spot where this magnificent structure resides today was initially covered by a Buddhist monastery ruins. Prince Dara Shikoh established the Pari Mahal on the ruins and dedicated the structure to his teacher Mulla Shah, who used to give teachings on astronomy and astrology to the prince at the very venue. It is in this very garden that prince Dara Sikoh was later killed by his younger brother Aurangzeb. Designed in a typical Mughal architectural style, the entrance of the Pari Mahal consists of an arch, which is followed by a dome. On the sides of the dome follows a series of rooms or chambers. Although the design of the garden strictly follows a uniform Mughal architectural style, the third terrace looks different from the rest. All the terraces are connected to each other through a series of steps.
Do not get surprised if you catch the sight of any defense personnel in the vicinity, as the Pari Mahal is also a campsite of the Indian Paramilitary unit.
Timings: Open all days, except Friday (9:30 am to 5:30 pm)
Kashmir with its beauty enthralled the art lover Mughals to such an extent, that the emperor Jahangir with his wife and courtesans moved to this region in India and made it the summer destination of the Mughals. Emperor’s wife Noor Jahan was also an admirer of nature’s beauty and it was she who laid the foundations of Achabal garden in the year 1620. Situated around 58 km from the capital city of Srinagar, Achabal Bagh or garden is a real delight both for nature lovers and admirers of Mughal architecture. The garden is built on a hill, which has an altitude of 1677 m. The Achabal Bagh can be described as a riot of colors, the plantations of which are kept as per Persian style of gardening. In order to give it a royal feel, the garden was kept surrounded by tall Chinar trees. Today also, they stand straight with their lush green stature, maintaining the regality of the garden.
Following the trademark Char Bagh concept of Persian architecture, Achabal Bagh is divided into four terraces. The most distinctive feature of the garden is a spring, the water of which is primarily responsible for irrigating the whole garden. This spring connects to a canal, branch canal and pavilion, all within the boundaries of the garden.Despite being built as per the guidelines of Persian style of architecture of Char Bagh, Achabal Bagh differs from its parallels. What separates it from the other gardens in Kashmir is its solitary location and natural setting. Along with this, the garden still make use of its original source of water, while its counterparts are lacking in this. Thus, in the shade of all its natural beauty and structures, it looks like the enticing garden is still living the charm of its bygone Mughal past.
Verinag is a fascinating Mughal garden that is situated at the foothills of Banihal mountain ranges in the south of Srinagar. It was built by Mirza Haider, who was an able engineer of the Mughal court of Jahangir. On the orders of Emperor Jahangir, Mirza Haider started the construction in the year 1619. The garden is built around a spring, which is a part of Jhelum River, and is given an octagonal shape. What attracts in the design of Verinag, is the symmetry it obtains with the blend of its natural surroundings and geometrical shape. The beauty of Verinag is so tempting that the garden remained the personal favorite of Emperor Jahangir. Such was his attachment that he expressed the desire to be buried here, post his death.
The original garden, which was built by Mirza Haider looked a little different from the present one. After around seven years of its construction, Jahangir’s son, Shah Jahan thought of adding some features to the garden. This resulted in the construction of fountains and cascades all around the springs of the Jhelum, which the garden speaks highly of. Other than that, Shah Jahan also built hot and cold baths in the vicinity, which are kept in preservation today. Not just these additions, the Verinag of today also offers a sight of dense deodar forest hills, which were not in its backdrop during its original days.