By Ashraf Naushahi
Lahore is a city of gardens. There are several spectacular gardens and parks in the city. However, the most spectacular garden in the city of Lahore, in the opinion of people who visit gardens and parks, is a garden constructed and well maintained during the seventeen century. It is famous as “Shalimar” or “Shalamar” garden.
It is not known clearly what the word “Shalimar” meant when the garden was named first in the 17th century. Probably it was taken either from the Persian or Turkish language, both of which were commonly spoken and comprehended then in the Sub-Continent of South Asia. In the 18th century, it was changed a little as “Shalamar” and since then it is commonly mentioned about either as “Shalimar” or “Shalamar”.
Basically Shalimar was constructed as a combination of several gardens. Its construction was started in 1641 which concluded in 1642. It is also said that the construction had started earlier in 1634. It was designed and constructed by a group of architects, hydrologists, horticulturists and engineers in the period of Mughal Emperor Shah-Jahan. It is also said that it was built because Mehr-un-Nissa known as Nur-Jahan wished to build gardens in Lahore following the designs of Shalimar gardens in Srinagar.
For the construction of Shalimar gardens in Lahore, a sloppy field was selected, at a small distance of five kilometers away north east from the walled city of Lahore. A visitor to the Shalimar gardens could see a wall made of red sandstone on reaching near its gate. Within the wall encircling the gardens the visitor could not only look at a monument of artistic and aesthetic skills of the talented engineers and workers of the Mughal era, but could also sit in green gardens having cooling water fountains, flowers, trees, marbled pavilions and bricked pathways.
Shalimar gardens Lahore were built on a location having a stable supply of water for the trees, plants, grass, reservoirs and fountains. The gardens were built in a rectangular shape, having three parts or terraces encircling an area of about 40 acres. Each terrace was constructed at a different height and square in shape. Water reservoirs and ponds were made of marble for supplying water to hundreds of fountains. In the lower level terrace 153, in the middle level terrace 152 and in the upper level terrace 105 fountains were built.
Water canal, side-canals, reservoirs and fountains were designed and built not only for irrigation and supplying water to various parts in the gardens but also to keep temperature low and atmosphere moderately pleasant during the summer season. Large trees were planted, around and near the wall encircling the gardens, for shade and esthetic effect as background for plants, bushes and flowers. Constructions having 12 doors or Baradaris or Pavillions were made of marble and agate stones with artistic designs, while pathways were made of bricks. In the 18th century some destructions were caused to marble constructions. Restoration works were commenced during following periods keeping the Shalimar gardens in the almost the same shape as it was built in the seventeenth century.
At present, the Shalimar gardens are located in the vicinity of Baghbanpura, an area in Lahore. These gardens were built by following the designs of Shalimar gardens built in 1619, encircling an area of 31 acres, near Srinagar, Kashmir. Therefore, it is also said that the word “Shalimar” was probably taken from the Kashmiri language. A canal was specially built to supply water for Shalimar gardens in Srinagar, coming from a nearby lake. Another Shalimar garden was built in Delhi in 1653, following the designs of Shalimar gardens Lahore.