The Garden Guide

Book: C.M Villiers Stuart Gardens of the Great Mughals
Chapter: Chapter 8 Summer gardens of Kashmir

Vernag Mughal Garden

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For those who feel the charm of solitude in a beautiful setting, Verinag Bagh is still an enchanting place to pass the early summer days. So at least we found it; reading, writing, and painting under the fruit trees, or ensconced in latticed summer-houses built across the stream, where straggling Persian rose-bushes scented the garden with their soft pink blooms. Early every morning the Brahmins in charge of the spring came to gather the flowers to decorate their shrine. Later in the day, a school of small boys were usually busy at work in the shade of a large chenar, or were drawn up in line for a diving lesson, learning to swim with merry splashings in the clear, fast-flowing stream. At noon even the shady garden grows too hot; and then the alcoves round the tank prove a welcome refuge, the icy water making the temperature of the surrounding court some degrees cooler than elsewhere. From the curiously vivid green depths of the tank an emerald flash lights up a polished black marble slab let into the walls, revealing Jahangirs inscription: 'The King raised this building to the skies: the angel Gabriel suggested its date-1609.' The masons tablet on the west side, erected seven years later, on the completion of the work, runs: 'God be praised! What a canal and what a waterfall! Constructed by Haider, by order of the King of the World, the Paramount Lord of his Age, this canal is a type of the canal in the Paradise, this waterfall is the glory of Kashmir.' Brave words these, but no doubts troubled Haider-a master-builder sure of his patron and his own skill. A Hindu shrine is set up in one of the arches where the marigolds and rosebuds wreath the drab plaster walls. Pink indigo bushes and lilac wild-flowers flourish on the earthen roofs, and grow between the grey cornice stones; behind which the giant poplars whisper restlessly in the lightest breeze; while over the close, delicate, northern harmonies the pine woods brood sombre and remote. Then with a sudden burst of sound and colour, a band of newly-arrived pilgrims flock in to make their puja at the shrine. The sacred fish are fed, roses are flung into the reservoir, the pradakshina is performed. Three times round the tank they go in their saffron, mauve, and marigold robes, and the water glitters bright with all the brilliance of the hot southern plains.