Due to the abundance of parks, gardens, and picnic areas in Lahore, the former capital of the Mughal Empire, the city is frequently referred to as the “City of Gardens.” Only a few of the Mughal-era gardens in the historic city have survived the several reigns that followed the fall of the great empire and the subsequent partition.
Fewer yet of those gardens have been kept as a reminder of the cultural importance of this thriving city. The magnificent Shalimar Gardens, located in Lahore, are fortunately among those that have not only withstood the test of time but also stand proudly as the pinnacle of Mughal architecture and one of the most historic locations in the country. The splendid gardens are indeed a brilliant masterpiece of the Mughal Civilization.
History and background
The Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan constructed the Shalimar Gardens at the request of his wife. The first Shalimar Gardens in Kashmir, which was built in 1620 by his father, Emperor Jahangir, against a backdrop of snow-capped Himalayan peaks, served as inspiration for him to design this utopian garden.
Shah Jahan wanted a garden to entertain the royal family and the local nobility created in Lahore because Kashmir was far from the Mughal Empire’s capital. Here are some historical facts about the gardens;
- In June 1641, work on Lahore’s Shalimar Gardens officially began
- The three-terraced garden includes artificial water cascades, pools, fountains, and seating spaces
- It took a team of engineers and architects over 18 months to construct because the topography was so different from the Kashmiri scenery
- Shalimar Gardens suffered significant destruction and loss with the collapse of the Mughal Empire on the subcontinent
- The magnificent gates of the garden were taken and sold together with the marble that was utilized in its creation
- The Maharaja of that time renovated Shalimar Gardens in 1806
- The park continued to be one of the most well-known historical attractions in Lahore after Pakistan gained its independence in 1947
Garden design and layout
The charming Shalimar Gardens are made up of three magnificent terraces that showcase the creativity and ingenuity of Shah Jahan’s royal craftsmen, engineers, architects, horticulturists, and hydrologists. The three terraces were carefully built on naturally tiering topography and are each elevated by 13 to 15 feet.
The middle terrace has a narrow rectangle-like appearance while the top and bottom terraces are square-shaped. Shalimar Bagh has three levels, each with lush green grass, lovely flower beds, and stunning fountains. It also has the most sophisticated waterworks of any Mughal-era garden in the subcontinent at the historic site, which spans an area of around 16 hectares.
Water features and garden pavilions
These beautiful gardens’ layout is reminiscent of the traditional Timurid gardens that were built in what is now Central Asia during the 14th and 16th centuries. Shalimar Bagh’s three terraces are split into numerous sections by fountains, much like those opulent gardens.
Additionally, raised brick walkways flank each portion, giving visitors a stunning perspective of the lush landscaping and complex architecture below. A large pool of clear water collects below the seating pavilion after flowing over a majestic marble path into the central terrace. The garden also features four additional water cascades that add to its attractiveness and tranquility.
The attractive garden complex’s top floor is known as Farah Bakhsh, which means “Bestower of Pleasure” in Persian. The Emperor’s harem once occupied this terrace. The king himself was given exclusive access to the middle level, known as Faiz Bakhsh, which translates to “Bestower of Goodness.” The name Hayat Bakhsh, which means “Bestower of Life,” is given to the lowest terrace. It was accessible to noblemen and sometimes to the general people.
Shalimar Gardens – A unique heritage
This Lahore Park is home to spectacular structures with Mughal-era artwork in addition to its lush vegetation and intricate water features. The Baradaries, which were built for the emperor and his noblemen to enjoy the coolness produced by the fountains, the lovely Sawan Bhadun pavilions, Naqar Khana, Aiwan, Aramgah, Khwabgah, and Diwan-e-Khas-o-Aam, among others, are some of the most noteworthy buildings inside Shalimar Gardens.
This beautiful artifact was even recognized as UNESCO’s World Heritage Site in 1981. Many tourists from all over Pakistan and even abroad come to visit Shalimar Gardens in order to relive the Mughal experience and dwell in the glory of the past.