Bawan, Achebal, Verinag, and Pinjor, is one of those naturally beautiful spots which each religion in turn claims as a holy place. Legends of Buddhist, Brahmin, Mohammedan, and Sikh gather round the numerous springs that gush out of the ground at the north-west foot of the precipitous hill of Baba Wali.
The Chinese Buddhist pilgrim, Hwen Thsang, journeyed from Taxila to visit the spring ; where he mentions the tank, fringed with lotus flowers of different colours, built by the Serpent King, Elapatra one of those vague shadowy Naga kings whose splendours haunt all Indian history, and whose legendary doings reappear with a strange persistence in old Indian gardens.
The place is said to owe its present name to Akbar, who was so struck with its beauty, that it drew from him the exclamation of Wah Bagh ! (Oh, what a garden !) and Wah Bagh it is to this day. But it was Akbar's son Jahangir who actually built the garden-palace.
Moorcroft, who visited Wah nearly ninety years ago, describes it at some length : " The garden covers a space about a quarter of a mile in length, and half that in breadth, enclosed by walls partly in ruins. The gateways and turrets that were constructed along the boundary-wall are also mostly in a ruinous condition. The eastern extremity is occupied by two large stone- walled tanks ; the western by parterres, and they are divided by a building which served as a pleasure-house to the Emperor and his household. It was too small for a residence, consisting of a body and two wings, the former containing three long rooms, and the latter divided into small chambers. The interior of the whole is stuccoed, and in the smaller apartments the walls are decorated with flowers, foliage, vases and inscriptions, in which, notwithstanding the neglected state of the building and its antiquity, the lines of the stuccoed work are as fresh as if they had but just been completed, indicating a very superior quality in the stucco of the East over the West. The chambers in the southern front of the western wing, and others continued beyond it, constitute a suite of baths, including cold, hot, and medicated baths, and apartments for servants, for dressing, and reposing, heating-rooms and reservoirs : the floors of the whole have been paved with a yellow breccia, and each chamber is surmounted by a low dome with a
central sky-light. The water, which was supplied from the reservoirs first noticed, is clear and in great abundance. It comes from several copious springs, at the base of some limestone hills in the neighbourhood and, after feeding the tanks and canals of the garden, runs off with the Dhamrai river that skirts the plain on the north and east." The present owner takes a great interest in this old Imperial pleasure-ground, and has recently built up the ruined walls and done much to restore the gardens.
From C.M. Villiers Stuart's 'Gardens of the Great Mughals' (1913)
About the image: Lalla Rookh's Tomb Hassan Abdal, painted by Major E. Molyneux for 'Kashmir by Francis Younghusband' (1911)
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