Saturday, April 4, 2009

Gardens, Routes, Kashmir

I went down into the Garden of Nuts
To see the green plants of the Valley,
To see whether the Vine budded
And the Pomegranates were in flower.

- Song of Songs.

Kashmir, the state which outweighed the whole Indian Empire in the estimation of the Emperor Jahangir, must have been particularly dear to the Mughals ; reminding them as it did of their cool northern home - country. The whole country, however, is not very large, consisting of one main valley ninety miles long by twenty-five miles broad, completely encircled by high mountains, and when the Mughal Emperors visited it, the difficulties of transport and of securing provisions, as well as the actual dangers of the road over the mountain passes, made it necessary to restrict the number of the Court as far as possible. Only nobles of the first rank were permitted to accompany the Emperor and Empress. What intrigues and heart-burnings there must have been over the question of privilege, since courtiers not in favour were condemned to stop short at the foot of the great mountains in the suffocating heat of the Bember ravine! The summer Bernier visited Kashmir, Fadai Khan, Grandmaster of the Artillery, Aurungzeb's trusted foster-brother, was left in charge, stationed as a guard below the pass, " until the great heat be over when the King will return."

There are three old routes into the country : by Bember and the Pir Panjal ; the Jumna route by Verinag ; and a much longer journey from the north-west through the valleys of the Kishenganga and Jhelum. This last seems to have been the natural outlet from Kashmir and the most frequented route in early times. At Hasan Abul, where the road leaves the plains, the Mughal Garden of Wah Bagh can still be seen. It was built here on account of the springs and used as an Imperial camping-ground.

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From C.M. Villiers Stuart's 'Gardens of the Great Mughals' (1913)
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Photograph: View of  Kashmir side of Pir Panjal. NH1-A from Jammu to Srinagar. Shot by me in June 2008.

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