The Garden Guide

Book: C.M Villiers Stuart Gardens of the Great Mughals
Chapter: Chapter 6 Gardens of the Plains Lahore

Shalimar Bagh Mughal Garden Lahore

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Shah Jahan, Jahangirs son and successor, built the Shalimar gardens at Lahore on the model of his fathers Kashmir garden. They were commenced in 1684 by his architect, Ali Mardan Khan. The making of one of these huge water-gardens in the plains, with their tanks and, literally, hundreds of fountains, was no easy matter; but Ali Mardan Khan was also celebrated as an engineer-he is said to have been the greatest executive officer who ever served a Mughal Prince. It was he who constructed the canal which supplied Shah Jahans Delhi, so that each house could have its fountains and its tanks; the same canal somewhat remodelled is in use to this day. Among other posts he held was the governorship of Kashmir; he is credited with having first introduced the chenar (Oriental Plane tree) into that country. While there he would naturally become familiar with the royal garden on the Dal Lake, the first Shalimar Bagh built under Nur-Jahans direction. The Lahore garden, which is divided into three terraces, is five hundred and twenty yards in length and two hundred and thirty yards in breadth. Formerly, there were outer gardens extending much beyond these measurements. But as it stands to-day the garden plan may be said to consist of two char-baghs joined together by a narrower terrace, the whole centre of which is occupied by an immense raised tank. There are pavilions on three sides, and in the centre is a small chabutra reached by two stone causeways. The scale of the tank is so large that it admits of double paths and a flower parterre running all round the water. The design of this parterre is given on the opposite page. The pattern is based on a succession of octagons and resembles the star parterres of the Taj gardens. In both cases the design was formerly filled in with flowers and the oblong beds were also planted with two small trees, such as an orange and a lemon tree, with a cypress tree in each smaller bed. This was the usual order, which was sometimes reversed by planting the cypresses in pairs between an orange tree or white-flowered banhina (mountain ebony). In Kashmir and Turkestan, a plum or apple tree replaced tree orange trees and banhina.