The intricately designed patterns and the attention to detail can be seen in each and every structure made during their golden era but the Mughals weren’t just the masters of structures like Mosques and forts they had skills in making beautiful and serene gardens one of which was the Shalimar Gardens. There is a reason that despite several other prominent Mughal Capitals in the subcontinent like Delhi, Agra and Fatehpur Sikri who have beautiful gardens but only Lahore received the title of ‘The City of Gardens’ and there is no other reason than Shalimar Gardens for this.
His love for nature and architecture was known to everyone and so Shalimar Gardens was completed in a record time of one year. This extreme collage of nature and constructional artwork was completed under the supervision of Khalilullah khan who was a renowned noble of the Mughal court. Earlier it was reserved for the use of court royals but during the last 150 years, it has been used by locals. The public and the tourist can both enjoy the experience this serene garden provides.
History of Shalimar Gardens
The gardens were laid out as a Persian paradise garden which gave the impression of paradise on earth in which every person could co-exist with nature in perfect harmony. The trees and flowers planted in 1641 in these gardens were almost 660 m in size. Cypress and fruit trees were planted along the main axis of the garden since each of them had a special meaning to the Mughals.
The fruit trees symbolized the youth and life whereas the Cypress trees meant eternity this theme of planting trees was an oral tradition in the splendid Mughal era. The gardens were almost seven kilometres from Shahi Qila (Lahore Fort) which was a symbol of grandeur and might whereas the gardens induced a state of calm because of the perfectly arranged trees and the fountains which added to the beauty and tranquillity of these amazing gardens.
According to historians the fretwork on the walls of these gardens is one of the most beautiful in the Islamic world. These wondrous paradise gardens were built to inspire awe in people just like the Zen gardens of Japan. Shalimar Gardens were unique in the way they were built.
The gardens are rectangular in shape and have three terraces unlike the ones in Kashmir which had natural terraces, the ones in Shalimar garden were engineered. Pavilions at the end of each terrace were made to provide respite to rulers and royals strolling through the parks. The first of these terraces or the one at the highest elevation was called ‘Farah Baksh’ which literally means ‘bestower of pleasure’ the second level or the mid-level garden is known as ‘Faiz Baksh’ which meant ‘bestower of goodness’ finally the lower garden the one with least elevation is known as ‘Hayat Baksh’ which means ‘bestower of life’. All open for the public to enjoy and experience what their ancestors experienced.
There are several halls in the gardens the famous of which are Aiwan and Diwan-i-Khas-o-Aam. Aiwan was the hall used by the Mughal rulers whereas the Diwan was used to entertain ordinary people and any special guests. Another spectacular feature of the gardens is its 410 fountains, the water system. The whole fountain is so spectacular and advanced that engineers even today find it difficult to understand how the system was implemented. Surely a visit to this garden is definite if you’re an aspiring architectural engineer. Every terrace had a certain number of fountains to keep the people cool and give them a soothing feeling on a hot summer day.
Since the lowest terrace had the coldest water it featured 153 fountains whereas the mid-level had 152 fountains finally the terrace with the highest elevation had only 105 fountains because it was thought to be cool. Other buildings worth mentioning in the gardens were the Shahi Hammam (royal bath) and Aramgah (resting place). Pavilions were made to enjoy the fountains during summers. You may not be able to enjoy the gardens in the same way as the Mughals but as you visit the place you will surely feel the serenity that they all felt.
Restoration of Shalimar Gardens
Shalimar gardens have seen extensive restoration schemes because it was thought to have been damaged during a fight between Moin-ul-Mulk and Ahmad shah. The restoration of the parks started but wasn’t done with proper research until recently.
Anyone who wants to see one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring best-preserved Islamic gardens should pay a visit to Shalimar Gardens and witness the magnificence of the Mughals in there architectural and engineering prowess. You wouldn’t have the full ‘Lahori’ experience if you fail to visit its famous Shalimar Gardens.