Kashmiri Pandits' Association, Mumbai, India


Lalla-Ded Educational and Welfare Trust

  Kashmiri Pandits' Association, Mumbai, India

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July-September 2002 Issue

Fusion of multi tiny specks of Pranav which pervades the Universe in the shape of OM. A drawing by Late Radha Krishen Kaul (Kotha), retired Asstt. Engineer of Bal Garden, Srinagar (Originally of Rainawari). Shri Kotha passed away in September 1994 at Delhi

Table of Contents

Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri

  From the Pages of History
Garden Tradition and the Mughal Contribution
... J.N. Kachroo

J.N. KachrooThe conspicuous contribution by the Mughals to the architectural wealth of Kashmir lies in the large number of gardens with their schemes of fountains and cascades which they built at several beauty spots in the Valley. Today they are major attraction to the tourists, both Indian and foreign. Their importance can not be underestimated.

 The history of the garden designs in Kashmir is closely associated with Buddhist landscape gardening in China.  From ancient times, flowers and plants have been admired and cultivated in India. Flower cultivation was almost a religious compulsion with Hindus - one had to make early morning offering of flowers to the deity. The ancient Indian like the Chinese preferred still-water, lotus bearing waters pent up within paved embankments.

 With the propagation of the Buddhist doctrine, the lotus assumed a special significance. Kashmir, endowed with springs, lakes, glens and beautiful flowers is truly Nature's own garden, requiring hardly any human effort to improve upon. However, slopes touching water reservoirs or areas around springs were well utilised by the  early Hindus in laying out landscape gardens.

 Sir Aurel Stein found evidence of the existence of gardens and ponds with lotuses along the route from Kashmir to Khotan. It, according to him and other travellers, is both reasonable and safe to believe that the Hindu and the Budhist missionaries, especially the Kashmirians, carried the garden tradition with them into China and beyond to Japan. The Kashmirian Budhist monk, Dharmamitra founded a Vihara at Tunghuang in China and planted more than 1000 trees round it.

 In Central Asia and Persia, the garden tradition took a different shape under the Muslim rule. The first condition was always the availability of life giving water. Water was directed through paved channels to a central reservoir. Artificial cascades and fountains were introduced. This formed a distinct feature in their garden designs.

 The Mughals from Babar to Shahjehan were great lovers of gardens. Babar had developed a taste to garden designs in Samarkand and Farghana, where Indian garden design had undergone considerable changes as mentioned. The Mughals reintroduced the old Indian art from their homeland. The Mughal gardens in India are copied from the gardens in Turkistan and Persia. 

 Kashmir was brought under the Mughal sway by Akbar who found the place resembling his original homeland in Turkistan. His successor Jehangir and his queen Nurjehan excelled all others in laying out gardens in Kashmir. Shahjehan improved upon them and laid some new ones. Also did some nobles, governors, princes and princesses responsible for laying some gardens. 

Shalimar Garden: 
The best example of the existence of a garden tradition in Kashmir from ancient times, is provided by the famous Shalimar Garden on the Dal Lake. A garden existed here in ancient times. During the reign of Pravarsena II, the founder of Srinagar city, there is said to be a villa called Man Shalla or the Hall of Love. The king used to visit a saint named Sukram Swami living near Harwan. On his way to his Ashram, or back from it to his place, the king used to rest at his garden villa. In the course of time, the villa vanished and the village came to be known as Shalamar.

 In 1619, Jehangir laid out a garden at this spot, calling it 'Farahbaksh' or 'Delightful'. Eleven years later, Zaffar Khan, a governor of Kashmir, extended it and the addition was called 'Faizbaksh' or 'Beautiful'. In the course of time, this came to be called as Shalamar Garden.

 Shalamar is laid in typically Mughal design. It is rectangular in shape , the area being divided into a series of Parterres. Being at the foot of a hill, it has become easier to divide it in four terraces. There is a line of tanks along the middle of the whole length of the garden. These are connected by a canal. The tanks and the canal have their own scheme of fountains and cascades. The canal and the tanks are lined with polished lime stone resembling black marble. The water to feed there, is brought from Harwan stream flowing in the back of the garden. The water enters at the upper end and flows down from terrace to terrace feeding numerous fountains. After leaving the garden, the water finally joins the lake by a canal.

 The garden is tastefully laid. There are flower beds on either bank of the canal and around small lawns. Decorative plants lend their charm, especially in the evenings in the artificial light.  Huge Chinars provide shade to the visitors.

 The fourth terrace was private portion of the garden, where the ladies of the harem stayed. It contains a magnificent black-stone pavilion on a 65 feet square platform. The pavilion is surrounded by a reservoir 52 yards square and about 3.5 feet deep. It is lined with stones and has 140 fountains.

 It is said that Jehangir had the intense delight of making up quarrel he had with his charming queen Nur Jehan, 'the light of the world' while resting here.

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