The most noticeable features on the lowest terrace are the two gateways decorated with fine enamelled tiles. The one in the west wall opens directly on to the old road from the fort, and was originally the principal entrance, for, like nearly all the Mughal baghs, the Shalimar was approached from the lowest terrace, and the topmost level, cut off by a high retaining wall with towers at the corners, was reserved for the private use of the zenana ladies.
This was a custom which added greatly to the charm of these terraced water gardens, for while the full effect of the white splashing cascades, rising one above the other, was seen on entering the enclosure, the various terraces were only discovered as it were one by one as each level was successively reached. The present approach, which leads directly through the rooms of the Sultanas pavilion on the upper terrace, certainly detracts from the general effect and character of the gardens.
To-day the whole enclosure may be described as one large mango grove; and it is difficult to say how much of the original Mughal design is left. The Badshah-Namah, a history of the Emperors compiled during Shah Jahans reign, mentions these gardens. The upper terrace is described as a continuous flower-bed with plane trees and aspens planted at regular intervals at the sides. Under each tree a platform or grass chabutra was built where the Emperor and the ladies of his zenana could recline at ease. An account is given of Shah Jahan himself planting an aspen between two plane trees on the banks of the Shah Nahr or principal canal.