The Shalamar Gardens: A Mughal garden complex located in Lahore...
The Shalamar Gardens: A Mughal garden complex located in Lahore...

The Shalamar Gardens are a Mughal garden complex located in Lahore. The gardens date from the period when the Mughal Empire was at its artistic and aesthetic zenith, and are now one of Pakistan's most popular tourist destinations. The Shalamar Gardens were laid out as a Persian paradise garden intended to create a representation of an earthly utopia in which humans co-exist in perfect harmony with all elements of nature. Construction of the gardens began in 1641 during the reign of Emperor Shah Jahan, and was completed in 1642. In 1981 the Shalamar Gardens were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as they embody Mughal garden design at the apogee of its development.

The Shalamar Gardens are located near Baghbanpura along Grand Trunk Road some 5 kilometers northeast of Lahore's Walled City and provide a popular recreation spot for Lahore's residents.

Lahore's Shalamar Gardens were built by the Mughal royal family primarily as a venue for them to entertain guests, though a large portion was open to the general public. The garden's design was influenced by the older Shalimar Gardens in Kashmir that were built by Shah Jahan's father, Emperor Jahangir. Unlike the gardens in Kashmir which relied on naturally sloping landscapes, the waterworks in Lahore required extensive engineering to create artificial cascades and terraces.

The Shalamar Gardens were designed as a Persian-style Charbagh 'Paradise garden' a microcosm of an earthly utopia. Though the word Bagh is translated simply as 'garden,' bagh represents a harmonious existence between humans and nature, and represents a poetic connection between heaven and earth. All natural, elements of the bagh are appreciated, including the sun, moon, and air. Muhammad Saleh Kamboh, historian to Shah Jahan, reported that the gardens of Kashmir inspired the design for the Shalamar Garden in Lahore, and that a wide variety of trees and flowers grew together in the garden.

The site was chosen for its stable water supply. The project was managed by Khalilullah Khan, a noble of Shah Jahan's court, in co-operation with and Mulla Alaul Maulk Tuni. Ali Mardan Khan was responsible for most of the construction, and had a 100-mile-long canal built to bring water from the foothills of Kashmir to the site.

The site of the Shalamar Gardens originally belonged to the Arain Mian Family of Baghbanpura. Mian Muhammad Yusuf, then the head of the Arain Mian family, ceded the site of Ishaq Pura to the Emperor Shah Jahan in order for the gardens to be built. In return, Shah Jahan granted the Arain Mian family governance of the Shalamar Gardens, and the gardens remained under their custodianship for over 350 years.

In 1962, the Shalamar Gardens were nationalised by General Ayub khan because leading Arain Mian family members had opposed his imposition of martial law in Pakistan. The annual Mela Chiraghan festival used to take place in the gardens until General Ayub Khan forbade it in 1958.

The Shalimar Gardens are divided into three distinct terraces. The area in red is the uppermost terrace, and was reserved for the Emperor's harem, while the area in blue was reserved for the Emperor. The area in green is the lowest terrace, and was occasionally open to the public.

Mughal Gardens were based upon Timurid gardens built in Central Asia and Iran between the 14th and 16th century. A high brick wall richly decorated with intricate fretwork encloses the site in order to allow for the creation of a Charbagh paradise garden, a microcosm of an earthly utopia.

The Shalamar Gardens are laid out in the form of a rectangle aligned along a north–south axis, and measure 658 metres by 258 metres, and cover an area of 16 hectares. Each terrace level is 4–5 metres (13–15 feet) higher than the previous level.

The uppermost terrace of the gardens is named Bagh-e-Farah Baksh, literally meaning Bestower of Pleasure. The second and third terraces are jointly known as the Bagh-e-Faiz Baksh, meaning Bestower of Goodness. The first and third terraces are both shaped as squares, while the second terrace is a narrow rectangle.

Shalamar's main entrance was onto the lower-most terrace, which was open to noblemen, and occasionally to the public. The middle terrace was the Emperor's Garden, and contained the most elaborate waterworks of any Mughal garden. The highest terrace was reserved for the Emperor's harem.

The square shaped terraces were both divided into four equivalent smaller squares by long fountains flanked by brick khayaban walkways designed to be elevated in order to provide better views of the garden. Cascades were made to flow over a marble paths in what are known as chadors, or 'curtains' into the middle terrace. Water collected into a large pool, known as a hauz, over which a seating pavilion was made.

The Shalamar Garden's contain the most elaborate waterworks of any Mughal Garden. It contains 410 fountains, which discharge into wide marble pools, each known as a hauz. The enclosed garden is rendered cooler than surrounding areas by the garden's dense foliage, and water features, a relief during Lahore's blistering summers, with temperature sometimes exceeding 120 °F (49 °C).

The distribution of the fountains is as follows:

The upper level terrace has 105 fountains / The middle level terrace has 152 fountains / The lower level terrace has 153 fountains / All combined, the Gardens has 410 fountains / The Gardens have 5 water cascades including the great marble cascade and Sawan Bhadoon.

Garden pavilions - The buildings of the Gardens include:

Sawan Bhadun pavilions, Naqar Khana and its buildings, Khwabgah or Sleeping chambers, Hammam or Royal bath, The Aiwan or Grand hall, Aramgah or Resting place, Khawabgah of Begum Sahib or Dream place of the emperor's wife, Baradaries or summer pavilions to enjoy the coolness created by the Garden's fountains, Diwan-e-Khas-o-Aam or Hall of special and ordinary audience with the emperor and Two gateways and minarets in the corners of the Gardens.

Trees - Some of the varieties of trees that were planted included:

Almond, Apple, Apricot, Cherry, Gokcha, Mango, Mulberry, Peach, Plum, Poplar, Quince Seedless, Sapling of Cypress, Shrubs

Sour / sweet, orange and pomegranate. Numerous other varieties of odoriferous (fragrant) and non-odoriferous and fruit giving plants.

In 1981, Shalamar Gardens was included as a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with the Lahore Fort, under the UNESCO Convention concerning the protection of the world's cultural and natural heritage sites in 1972.