Saturday, April 4, 2009

Manasbal Darogha or Lalla Rookh's Garden

Entering the Kashmir valley through the ravine of Baramulla, the rest of the journey to the capital at Srinagar was undertaken by water. Crossing the stormy Wular Lake, the largest lake in India, Sumbal on the Jhelum River proved a favourite halting - place. At a short distance below the village a canal leads off to the little Manasbal Lake. The road to Gilgit runs along its western shore, and round the steep north-eastern banks are remains of various Mughal gardens. The largest of these, the Darogha Bagh, the royal palace built for the Empress Nur-Jahan, now fancifully called Lalla Rookh's Garden, juts out into the lake with its burden of terraced walls and slender poplar trees, like some great high-decked galleon floating on the calm clear water.

The banks of the Manasbal are deserted now, the gardens are in ruins. Only a few sportsmen, or hardy tourists, venture their boats up the narrow canal, and anchor in the shadow of the old chenars. Fashion sets away elsewhere, toward the English hill stations, with their small log huts perched high up on the mountain sides. But the Mughals, with their love of scenery and genius for garden - building, rarely chose a better site than the shores of this loveliest and loneliest of all the Kashmir lakes.

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From C.M. Villiers Stuart's 'Gardens of the Great Mughals' (1913)
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About the old Images of manasbal: Courtesy of British Library Online Gallery

1. Caption Reads: "Pencil and wash drawing heightened with white of the Manasbal lake, Kashmir by Charles Stewart Hardinge (1822-1894), dated 1846. Inscribed on the front is: 'Manasa Bal. May/46. Cashmere. Hardinge,' and on the reverse: 'Manasa Lake. The most beautiful lake in Cashmere'.
Manasbal Lake is situated in Jammu and Kashmir State, approximately 32 kilometres from Srinagar. The lake is about 5 kilometres long and 1.2 kilometres wide and is the deepest lake within the Kashmir Valley. On the northern shore is a ruined fort built in seventeenth century by a Mughal king to cater for the needs of caravans that used to travel from the Punjab to Srinagar. The lake is considered important for the abundance of lotus flowers which grow on its shores during July and August."

2. Caption Reads: "A view of Manasbal Lake framed by trees from the 'Album of Indian Views' by Samuel Bourne, 1864. Manasbal is situated on the Jhelum Valley at a distance of 32 kms from Srinagar. The word Manasbal is derived from Mansarovar, the sacred lake in the Kailasha Mountains. The Lake is surrounded by low hills and plateaus and is the deepest in Kashmir. Lotus flowers grow in profusion on the waters, and the lake is famous for the many types of birds that can be found here."

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