Saturday, April 4, 2009

Nisim Bagh and Chenar trees

Akbar was the first Emperor to enter Kashmir. He built the fort at Srinagar called Hari Pabat (the Green Hill), and planned a large garden not far away on the shores of the Dal, that beautiful lake which lies between the city and the mountain amphitheatre to the north of Srinagar. The Nisim Bagh, Akbar's garden, stands in a fine open position well raised above the lake; and takes its name from the cool breezes that blow all day long under its trees. The walls, canals, and fountains have disappeared ; and the avenues of magnificent chenars with which it is closely planted must have been added long after the garden was laid out, if 'Ali Mardan Khanwas the first to introduce these trees into the country. Fully grown they resemble heavy- foliaged sycamores with serrated leaves and smooth, silvery boles and branches. They were, and are, greatly prized for their size and beauty, and more especially for their dense shade. Apart from the garden avenues, chenars are often to be seen in the villages and by the sides of the old caravan roads. They are usually planted at the four points of a square so as to shade a plot of ground all day long, and thus formed a series of halting-places between one camp and the next. In Kashmir they still remain royal trees ; they are Government property, not to be cut down with- out a special permit from the Maharaja. Green turf covers the ruined masonry terraces of the Nisim Bagh, which rise grandly from the water ; but the trees are in their prime, and the view from under their boughs across the blue expanse of the lake, crowned by the snow -streaked Mahadev, remains as enchanting as when Akbar chose this site for the first Mughal garden in Kashmir.

Between the Nisim and the Fort there is a smaller lake, at the far end of which are the remains of a picturesque garden called the Nageen Bagh. What is left shows another lake- side garden, smaller, but in character much like that of Lalla Rookh on the Manasbal. It is built on a narrow point of land, its terraces rising on three sides out of the water which forms large canals on either hand. A pavilion shaded by great chenars stands close down by the edge of the lake. All round the sides of the Dal Lake there are broken walls and terraces, the remains of early Mughal gardens. Hazrat Bal, the village close to the Nisim Bagh, stands on the site of one of these. The large mosque, where the hair of the Prophet is preserved, and specially venerated once a year at a great mela, is built round the principal garden-house. The narrow stone water- course runs beneath it, and through the village square, in the midst of which a beautifully carved stone chabutra figures conspicuously and still forms a convenient praying platform. The old entrance can be seen in the long line of stone steps leading down to the water, but the most interesting feature at Hazrat Bal is the carved stone fountains.

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From C.M. Villiers Stuart's 'Gardens of the Great Mughals' (1913)
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Photograph:

1. A Chinar Tree at a Garden on the bank of the Jehlum river, near Zero Bridge, Rajbagh, Srinagar.

2. Courtesy of George Eastman House Photography Collections Online
They have a great collection of "Lantern Slides of India" Do check it out!
The caption for the old photograph (probably dating back to 1890s) reads:
TITLE ON OBJECT: Hurri Purbut, from Nusseeb Bagh
PUBLISHER: McAllister, T.H.
transparency, woodburytype on glass

2 comments:

  1. That vintage photograph of Naseem Bagh is priceless. I lived in that area for 13 years..and have never seen it look the way it does in this picture..vast, bare expanse.
    Beautiful photograph.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I thought it would still be a vast and bare expanse. At Srinagar, standing on Habba Kadal bridge, even the sight of mobile towers fascinated me.

    ReplyDelete

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