The Shalamar Gardens Lahore

The Shalimar Gardens, Lahore, Pakistan - April 2008

Photo Courtesy: Autumn Sun and Autumn Colour

The city of Lahore is often referred to as the City of Gardens for the reason that many a beautiful garden of ancient and modern times and architecture are found all over the city. Successive Mogul emperors constructed a number of gardens to add to the beauty of Lahore - a city they loved the most. But the most unique and beautifully laid out garden remains to be the Shalamar gardens built by none other than Emperor Shah Jehan in 1642 AD, who also built the immortal Taj Mahal in Agra, India. The Shalimar Gardens are located along the Grand Trunk Road some 5 kilometres northeast of the Lahore city centre. The site of Shalimar Gardens originally belonged to one of the noble family of Lahore, who were given the title of "Mian" by the Mughal Emperor, for their services to the Empire. The land for the gardens was donated by Mian Muhammad Yusuf, the head of Mian family, to Emperor Shah Jahan, who in return, granted the Mian family governance of the Shalimar Gardens. The Shalimar Gardens remained under the custodianship of this family for more than 350 years.

shalamar gardens lahore

The project was assigned to Khalilullah Khan, a noble of Shah Jahan's court. The Gardens are surrounded by high walls with watch-towers at its four corners. Originally, the gardens were spread over seven ascending terraces, but only three  now remain. spread over an area of about 42 acres. These terraces are elevated by 4-5 metres above one another. The upper terrace is known as "Farah Baksh", meaning Bestower of Pleasure, the middle terrace is named "Faiz Baksh" meaning Bestower of Goodness and the lower terrace is called "Hayat Baksh" meaning Bestower of life. The most novel thing about the gardens is its irrigation system, which remained a mystery for a long time. The designers and planners dug a 161 kilometres long canal, named "Shah Nahar" meaning Royal (Shah) canal (Naher), brought from Rajpot (present day Madhpur in India). The canal intersected the Gardens and discharged into a large marble basin in the middle terrace.

 The Shalimar Gardens, Lahore, Pakistan - April 2008 The Shalimar Gardens, Lahore, Pakistan - April 2008

Photos Courtesy: Autumn Sun and Autumn Colour

A number of small structures and buildings have been built in various shapes for rest and recreation of the royalties. These buildings include the sleeping chambers, the resting halls,  a royal bedroom or "Khawabgah" for the wife of the emperor, "Baradaries" or summer pavilions to enjoy the coolness created by the Gardens' fountains and two halls for the audience of the emperor by the ordinary and royalties.

shalamar bagh lahoreThere are hundreds of fountains installed on these three terraces which render the surrounding area cooler to give relief during the scorching summers of Lahore. It is a credit to the ingenuity of the Mughal engineers that even today scientists are unable to fathom how the fountains were operated originally. On the first terrace, there is a marble pavilion underneath with water flows and cascades down over a carved, marble slab creating a waterfall effect. Across the waterfall is a marble throne. At the end of the second terrace is a beautiful structure called "Sawan Bhadon", a sunken tank niches on its three sides. Water cascades down from it in sheets in front of the niches, producing the sound of falling rain.

These days the gardens have turned into the a picnic spot for the Lahorites,  and is always busy. The garden is majestic in it's size, and pretty impressive when you see the fountains and consider that they were built without modern technology. However, its excessive use and misuse by the crowd has robbed the gardens of its original beauty and landscape. The buildings deteriorated and greenery vanished. Therefore, in 1981, the Shalimar Gardens were included in the World Heritage list, under the UNESCO Convention concerning the protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage 1972.

Related Links: | Gardens of the Mughal Empire |  Shalamar Gardens (landscaped 1633-42) | Shalamar Bagh in Lahore |


This page was created on 6 April  2006 - updated 25 December 2008

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