Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Oldest drawings of Khir Bhawani (1850s) By William Carpenter Junior

William Carpenter Junior(1818-1899), London born water colorist son of a portrait painter Margaret Sarah Carpenter, came to India in 1850 to draw people and scenery. In 1854, he came to Kashmir, staying for a good enjoyable year till 1855, producing some of his best works. William Carpenter Junior returned to England in 1857 and exhibited his new Indian paintings at the Royal Academy where they stayed on display for the next eight years. Many of these paintings were also reproduced in The Illustrated London News as special supplementary lithographs.

Following are two Kashmir drawings by William Carpenter Junior published in Illustrated London News, June 1858

old drawing khir bhawani

Caption: A Hindoo fair in Cashmere

pandit pilgrim in river at Kheer bhawani kashmir
The caption for the drawing does not mention the location of the fair but without doubt this fair was held at the Khir Bhawani Spring located at Tulmul village in Ganderbal district of Kashmir.

This drawing presents the scene of Pandit pilgrims performing the ritual of purification bath in the ice cold waters of the stream that surrounds the holy island. The stream is called Syen'dh in Kashmiri (and originates in Gangbal-Harmukh ) and is not to be confused with Sindhu (Indus) River. In older days, the pilgrims mostly used to reach the island spot in boats, doongas and wade through swamps and marshy lands. The perspective of the drawing reveals that William Carpenter was looking at the island from across the stream. In the background of the drawing, one can see the camp tents of the pilgrims pitched on the central island under the shade of chinar trees. The fair is still held annually in the month of June with the pilgrims camping out at the wonderful location for days.


old image of kheer bhawani in kashmir
Caption: Hindoo Festival, Cashmere - from a photograph by W.J Carpenter, Jun

temple at kheer bhawaniIn this drawing we can see Pandit men and woman sitting, surrounded by chinar trees, around the sacred spring (not visible but its end corner marked by flags and staffs*). The scared spring (naag) is believed to be the manifestation of an ancient goddess, who manifested herself as a serpent (naag) at this location to a Pandit.  According to the local legend, one Pandit Govind Joo Gadru had a vision of the serpent goddess who revealed the spot to him in dream. The Brahmin then arranged a boat and rowed through the marshy lands of Tulmul carrying a vessel of milk. Upon discovering the spot revealed by the goddess, he pored out the milk. Soon afterward, Kashmiri Pandit, one Krishna Taplu, had the vision of the same serpent a goddess who led him to the same holy spot. As time passed, the spot, marked in the marshes by flags and staffs, slowly became popular among the Kashmiri Pandits. The goddess became known as Rajni (Empress), Maharajini(The Great Empress), Tripurasundari (the same deity at Hari Parbat), Bhuvaneshwari and most famously as Khir Bhawani. The last name because it became the religious practice for the people to pour into the spring a dessert called Khir made of rice, sugar and milk.

A temple was much later built on the island under the Dogra rule of Ranbir Singh(1830 -1885) and his son Pratap Singh (r. 1885-1924).  Also, a goddess idol and a Shiva linga ( both believed to have been found in the waters of the spring) together were installed in a high chamber built inside the spring. A Shiv Linga and an idol of Goddess together cannot be found in any other hindu holy place. The work on temple was completed in the time of Maharaja Pratap Singh in 1920s.

Earlier in 1888 , British Land Settlement Commissioner to Kashmir, Walter Lawrence wrote about this place: 

Khir Bhawani is their favourite goddess, and perhaps the most sacred place in Kashmir is the Khir Bhawani; spring of Khir Bhawani at the mouth of the Sind valley. There are other springs sacred to this goddess, whose cult is said to have been introduced from Ceylon. At each there is the same curious superstition that the water of the springs changes colour. When I saw the great spring of Khir Bhawani at Tula Mula, the water had a violet tinge, but when famine or cholera is imminent the water assumes a black hue. The peculiarity of Khir Bhawani, the milk goddess, is that the Hindus must abstain from  meat on the days when they visit her. and their offerings are sugar, milk-rice, and flowers. At Sharka Devi on Hari Parbat and at Jawala Mukhi in Krihu the livers and hearts of sheep are offered. There is hardly a river, spring, or hill-side in Kashmir that is not holy' to the Hindus,and it would require endless space if I were to attempt to give a list of places famous and dear to all Hindus. Generally speaking, and excluding the Tula Mula spring, which is badly situated in a swamp, it may be said that the Hindu in choosing his holy places had an eye for scenery, since most of the sacred Asthans and Tiraths are surrounded by lovely objects. 

Interestingly, just around the start of the 20th century, Maharaja Pratab Singh, weary of curious European visitors who insisted on walking on the island with their shoes on and who fished in the sacred river waters surrounding the island, issued government decrees putting a check on their movement to this shrine.

Today, there is no historical account to inform us whether William Carpenter Junior had his shoes on or off while he visited the spring of Khir Bhawani and worked on those beautiful drawings.

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Found these old images (albeit no mention of Khir Bhawani there) at the great resource columbia.edu

Rest of the photographs were taken by me in June 2008.

Photograph 1: A Hindu pilgrim, silently reciting some scripture, standing on one leg (with a little support) in water of the stream surrounding the island. I came back two hours later and he was still there.

Photograph 2: The view of the holy spring, flags, chinar trees and recently tiled ground of the island.

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*Flags and Staffs: Walter Lawrence, in the aftermath of great flood of 1893 in Kashmir,  recorded a curious practice prevalent among Kashmiri people. He wrote, 'Marvellous tales were told of the efficacy of the flags of saints which had been set up to arrest the floods, and the people believe that the rice-fields of Tulamula and the bridge of Sumbal were saved by the presence of these flags, which were taken from the shrines as a last resort.'

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For more about Kheer Bhawani, you can read the book 'A Goddess is Born: The Emergence of Khir Bhavani in Kashmir' By Dr. Madhu Bazaz

Khir Bhawani Gate

The inner gate to the island of Khir Bhawani.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Headdress, Ear rings, Hair Braids

The song was playing on the T.V and my nani breathed out the names.

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Image: Sharmila Tagore in Shakti Samanta's Kashmir Ki Kali (1964). Religion unknown.

Tchand're Taa'che - Moon Headgear. Kashmiri Pandit woman also used to wear it.

Kan'waaj'e - Ear Rings

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The women are sometimes very handsome. The parda-nashins are, of course, very rarely seen. The men wear a long shirt called firan, which in the case of Hindus has long, narrow sleeves, and Muhammadans short, full ones. The Hindu woman or Punditani wears a girdle and has a white cap, whereas the Mussulman! wears a red head-dress. The black hair of young girls is braided in many thin strands, covering the back and forming a semi-circle, with a knot of hair hanging down the back, and stretching sometimes nearly to the feet.

- John Collett, A Guide for Visitors to Kashmir (1984)

 It was a somewhat wistful face, with great, shy, light- brown eyes. Her hair, too, was light brown, braided in many small braids, all caught together at the ends,reaching below her waist, and finished off with a large tassel of black wool, according to the decree of fashion in these parts. All round her forehead, soft, light-brown curls, blown by the wind, escaped from under her little cap. Her skin was very fair, and showed a delicate colour in her cheeks. There was a rebellious air about the pretty mouth. Dzunia was going to keep watch in her father's fields, to sit in a quaint little erection of straw and dried branches, like a huge nest, to scare away the birds and keep a look out for other pilferers. Her brother would not come to relieve her till late in the evening, and she had at least three hours of lonely vigil. She would break it by running home presently for a bowl of tea, but it was dull work.

P. Pirie, writing about a young Kashmiri village girl in Kashmir: The Land of Streams and Solitudes (1909)


Owing to hard work they soon lose their good looks. They are married at an early age, soon after ten. Little girls wear small skull-caps, and may have their hair beautifully done in a large number of plaits spread out over the back and gracefully braided together. After marriage, however, a thicker turban-like red cap, studded with pins, is worn, and over it a square of country cloth to act as a veil and cover the whole back. The rest of the usual dress of the village women is an ample pheran of dark blue cotton print, with a red pattein stamped on it; or the gown may be of grey striped cotton or wool, with wide sleeves turned back and showing a dirty lining. Round the neck a collar of silver or brass, enamelled in red or blue, or a coral and silver bead necklace, is usually worn; and large metal ear-rings are common. Glass bangles  or massive silver bracelets and finger rings, with agate or cornelian, complete the list of ordinary jewellery worn by Kashmiri women. The feet are bare, or leather shoes, often green, are worn. The houses are without chimneys, so the inmates become smoke-begrimed. There are fewer Mohammedan women than men. The ratio is about nine to ten. Perhaps for this reason polygamy is comparatively uncommon.

More females are born than males, but baby girls do not receive so much care as the boys, and the mortality from smallpox and infantine diseases is higher. The girls are often mothers at the age of fourteen.

Kashmiri women vary very much. A very large number of the peasant women are dirty, degraded and debased. But there are not a few who are very different and who are capable and manage their houses and children and even their husbands.
- Ernest Frederic Neve, Beyond the Pir Panjal: Life and Missionary Enterprise in Kashmir (1915)

The little girls of 6 — 9 are very pretty but their beauty must soon go, for though the women are mostly pleasant-looking, very few indeed can be called pretty. The little children wear bright-coloured tight-fitting caps, heavily ornamented with showy " jewels " and with very heavy flat triangular ornaments hanging at either side of their head with short chains of beads or pearls attached to them : they also wear heavy necklaces and anklets. The women wear long ear-rings with a great number of objects dangling from them which rather resemble a well-filled key-ring.

The little girls have their hair done in rather a peculiar manner : numerous little plaits lengthened by the addition of some foreign black material are joined behind the neck to the two outside plaits which meet in a knot with a tassel or cord hanging from it.
- Ambrose Petrocokino, CASHMERE:  Three Weeks in a Houseboat (1920)

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Image: A Kashmiri woman in Hijab and Pink slipper. June 2008.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Vegetables of Noorbagh

Sabziwol, Vegetable Seller at Hazratbal

The sellers kept insisting all the vegetable are from Noorbagh. We had stopped here to buy vegetables for the overnight stay at Tulmul.

The marshy grounds of Noorbagh on is the source of the finest greens in the valley. The city's manure also keeps that area fertile.

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To continue, however, our progress down the river and through the city. Immediately below the Alii Kadal, or fifth bridge, stands an old stone building, with an inscription, supposed to be Buddhist, in the Nagri character; and some few yards below again is an evidence of another faith. This is an old wooden mosque, said to be the oldest in the Valley, called the Biilbul Lankar, containing the grave of that fakir who, as before stated, is held by the inhabitants to have been the first and prime agent in their conversion to the faith of Mohammed. The Naya Kadal, or sixth bridge, comes next, and a little further down is the Sufifa Kadal, the seventh and last of the city bridges, below which, on the right bank, is a green open flat, called the 'Eedgah,' which reminds one of home, so like an English common does it appear. A fine old mosque, the Ali Musjid,stands at one extremity, shaded by some of the noblest trees in the Valley; and nearly opposite, on the left bank of the stream, is a spot of an ill-omened character, the Noor Bagh, or place of execution. In former days it was rare not to see the gallows at this place graced by some malefactor, but capital punishment is now seldom carried out; the Sikh religion discouraging the taking of human life; and the present Maharajah, a devout follower of this belief, acting so strictly up to its tenets that for many years the hangman's office has been literally a perfect sinecure, his services having never been required.
 - W. Wakefield, The Happy Valley: Sketches of Kashmir and the Kashmiris (1879)

Halwoi

 Parant'e, monj gooyl  (nadir monj of Kashmiri pandits) and other assorted fine Kashmiri snacks.
 Deep in Talks. A Shop near Hazratbal.

puj'waan, butcher shop

A butcher's shop at Hazratbal.

cycle shop

A cycle shop near Hazratbal

Saturday, April 11, 2009

View of Shankaracharya Hill

Time: Minutes before 10 in the morning.


At around 1100 feet, Shankaracharya hill looms over the Srinagar city. Ancient name of the hill is Gopadri. More than 2000 year old shiv temple atop the hill is dedicated to a form of Shiva known as Jyesthesvar. Kashmiri Muslims call it "Takht-i-Sulaiman or the "Throne of Solomon". The tower is dedicated to television and is known a 'TV-Tower' and not Sulaiman or Solomon. The green minaret top belongs to a local mosque. Looking at the hill, the word 'valley' finds true meaning.

House Roof and Kitchen Garden

kashmiri house 
A typical modern house in a suburb of Srinagar. Actually it's not modern, this house design was popular around 1980s.

Location: Raj Bagh, Srinagar

teen'e pash - tin roof tops

View from Hotel's Roof Top

Walk in a Park

chenar tree

Chenar tree in a park along the Jhelum river near Zero bridge. Chenar trees are protected by state laws.

dead chenar tree

Dead and dying Chenar trees.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Zero Bridge

Early Morning

zero bridge in Srinagar, Kashmir
Old Zero bridge on Jhelum. In the background, atop the hill, TV tower and Shankaracharya temple.

new zero bridge on Jhelum
New Zero Bridge.

house boat on Jhelum river
House boats on Jhelum river.

Kashmiri Shawl Seller

At Qazigund bus stand.

kaajwat, dooyn, bat, wokhul


Famous stuff from Qazigund

Hotel

A colorful hotel at Qazigund. It's evening time.

Move Out, Move In

rice paddy field kashmir

Photograph: Paddy fields of Kashmir. June 2008. Just before Qazigund.

The bus was a video-couch, and that wasn't the only reason for my happiness. We were going to Jammu, and unlike the last time, on this particular trip, almost everyone was going. I had been to Jammu the previous year with my parents. It had proved to be a good vacation, my first vacation, the first move out of the valley. Was it a summer vacation or a winter vacation, I don't remember...it must have been summer, I prefer it that way. And now we were going on another vacation. But, no one looked happy about it. Everyone was glum and edgy. Anyway, I made sure I got to sit in a window seat. It was a seat in the left aisle and just near the front gate. Between the two aisles, just above the door to the drivers spacious cabin, at a head level, seated in a box, a cabin of their own with a glass window, were a Colour TV and a VCR.  As the bus moved, I got to see things that a had never seen before. Outside the window, there is beauty everywhere. Willows and fields. All Green. And inside the bus, the movie show starts, o joy, o joy, it is Naseeb starring Amitabh Bachchan naar log zachchan. I was praying for a screening of his Toofan, I had recently seen the poster pasted, on the next door medicine man's next door drugstore cum video parlor shop. The red of the poster, the crossbow, it was all so enticing. But for now, for this journey, Naseeb seemed just as good. 'At least it not B&W', I told my very excited self. So, the Video coach really lived up to its promise and name.

Now, I look at the 14 inch color TV screen through the glass, what plays: the songs, the comedy, the dialogues, the fights, the symbolism of three holy rings, the brave heroes, misunderstandings, the monologues, the morals, the beautiful heroines, everyone dancing and the evil villains. Now, I look out the glass of the 20 inch slide window of the bus and I see the beautiful paddy fields for the first time . They look mesmerizing. (Now I know, we must have crossed Qazigund). 'Farmlands in Kashmir! What do they look like in winter?'What do these farmers do then?', I wonder. And then, for some reason, almost on cue, every in the bus starts to draw the folds of the window curtains. I am told to do the same. I protest. No use. Windows are duly covered. Not a single beam of sunlight inside the bus anymore. The video coach is completely dark, like a film theater. Temperature starts to drop, the uphill mountainous part of the journey had started. I start to feel glum. At least the film is still playing. Now, it's that hilarious scene: A very much drunk and beaten-up Amitabh applies Band-Aid on the mirror and consoles himself. He's not the only one in need of a repair. With every bump and jerk, the VCP seems to throw a fit, the screen starts to freeze and roll. The bus conductor starts hammering the TV cabin. He has been at it the whole time. But his treatment is not working anymore. But him is hitting the TV cabin all the more.The driver is now screaming about something. And just before we cross the Banihal tunnel, the movie is abruptly stopped, the cassette taken out, the TV switched off. Not a word. No one protests. Am I the only one watching this movie. The bus crosses over to the other side of the tunnel, but the TV is still dead and black. Video coach is a fraud played out on simple people.

For the rest of the journey, the movie wasn't played again. We reached Jammu in the evening. For the longest time, watching Naseeb all over again was the only thing I wanted . For the longest time, green paddy fields were my last memory of Kashmir. I was eight. And then, about eighteen  years later, I got my new last memories of Kashmir.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Deen'e Phila'safar - Man on the Bridge

Dinanath used to live at Habba Kadal. It is said, once in a while, on some mornings, a leaf or a flower - any flower, any leaf - in hand, he would walk up to the house of his botanist neighbor and ask him to check the caffeine content of the specimen. This was Dinanath's private quest for a caffeine free tea. But, people didn't get his private quests.

Dinanath was a professor of mathematics. Sine, Cos, Tan - that's all he understood. But people didn't understand him, they thought him strange. Calculus was his only love and reason. And for this people named him 'Deen'e Phila'safar', Dina the Philosopher.

A happening in a morning from his life is still quite a popular anecdote among the people.

On that morning, while taking a walk on the old Habba Kadal bridge, as was his wont, contemplating - as it is said - whatever it is that great people contemplate - Dinanath stopped right in the middle of the bridge, slowly moved close to the rusty railing, and looked down deep at the cold, brown m - it was still late summer - murky waters of Jehlum. A man, just a random guy who recognized Dinanath and saw him walking to the edge of the bridge, shouted out, 'Haya! Deen'e Phila'safara,' and walking towards Dinanath from the opposite side of the bridge, with a movement of eye that could be mistaken for a wink, but may well have been an involuntary twitch, in a mischievous tone added, 'are you thinking of jumping into the river?'

It was the morning of Dinanath's beautiful proof. Dinanath remained unmoved, caustic agent seemed to have had no effect. The other man must have thought of saying something more but then in a sagely heavy voice, Dinanath replied, 'Why should I jump off the bridge and into the river when I am already in the river!' The other man was perplexed even if he was hearing this from the Deen'e Phila'safar himself. To this man's astonishment , Dinanath added, 'If we think about it, if I may point out, even you are right now down in the river'. And then, Dinanath produced his legendary 'Man in the river' proof. It went something like this:

If, A= B and B = C
then, A=C is always true

Similarly, if Man is on the bridge and Bridge is on the river

then,
Man is on the bridge
-------------------------
Bridge is on the river

Bridge-Bridge cancel out..Now that the bridge is out of the equation, now that there is no bridge, without doubt, man is in the river.

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Image: An illustration and the view from the railing of the new Habba Kadal bridge.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Laila-Majnu Symbolism of Gardens

An Indian garden where each baradari in its turn is as purposeful as it is decorative, should not only be looked at, but should be lived in to realise its charms. At Achibal the summer- house set in the tank just beneath the waterfall is planned for the noontide rest, lulled by the sound of the cascade, cooled by the driving spray. As the shadows lengthen, carpets are spread on the chabutras under the huge chenars, and towards sunset the upper pavilions near the spring are used. Seen from the forest walks above the light on the submerged rice-fields turns the valley into a golden sea, on whose southern shores rise the peaks of the Pir Panjal, like giant castles, with the long, monsoon cloud pennants streaming from their towers. At night, from the gallery of the large pavilion the garden shows a vague, mysterious form ; marked out by the shapes of the dark chenars, the grey glimmer where the cascade foams, and the reflections of the stars in the pools.

Old histories and stories haunt the garden : of Jahangir and his Nur-Mahal, and Majnum and Laila claim this Paradise again he in his hopeful cypress shape, she on her rose-bush mound. For Moslem garden-craft, like Mughal painting, is full of symbolism, and rich with all the sensuous charm and dreaminess of the old Persian tales ; and the story of Laila and Majnum, the faithful lovers who only saw each other twice on earth, is most frequently memorialised in the garden. Two low-growing fruit trees, such as a lemon and citron, or a lemon and orange tree, planted in the midst of a parterre of flowers, are the lovers happy in Paradise ; the same idea is also illustrated by two cypresses, or the so-called male and female date palms, which are generally planted in pairs. The design of the double flower-beds in which the two symbolic trees were planted can be seen in the brick parterre at Lahore and in those of the Taj. Majnum's sad, earthly symbol is the weeping- willow (baide majnum), whose Laila, the water lily, grows just beyond his reach. Two cypress trees are frequently grown as their emblems, and the prettiest and quaintest emblem of all is Laila on her camel litter, a rose-bush on a little mound. Dark purple violets mean the gloss and perfume of her blue-black hair, saman (jasmine, which also means a foaming stream) is Laila's round white throat, " cypress-slender " is her waist, tulips and roses are her lips and cheeks, and the fringed, starred narcissus her eyes. There are other garden legends more difficult to discover, and traditional ways of memorialising well-known verses by the planting and arrangement of the trees. But the old craft is dying for want of encouragement, and we must be quick if we would secure its secrets.

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

Read more:


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Image:  Superimposed images of
Laila Majnu in a Garden, a painting from Kota, Rajasthan, circa A.D.1760-1770, National Museum, New Delhi
and
A poster of Bollywood film Laila Majnu (1976)

Achabal Garden in the 19th century

Bernier went to Achibal along the pilgrims' way. " Returning from Send-bray (Bawan) I turned a little from the high road for the sake of visiting Achiavel (Achibal), formerly a country house of the Kings of Kashemire and now of the Great Mogol. What principally constitutes the beauty of this place is a fountain, whose waters disperse themselves into a hundred canals round the house, which is by no means unseemly, and throughout the gardens. The spring gushes out of the earth with violence, as if it issued from the bottom of some well, and the water is so abundant that it ought rather to be called a river than a fountain. It is excellent water, and as cold as ice. The garden is very handsome, laid out in regular walks, and full of fruit trees apple, pear, plum, apricot, and cherry. Jets d'eau in various forms and fish ponds are in great number, and there is a lofty cascade which in its fall takes the form and colour of a large sheet, thirty or forty paces in length, producing the finest effect imaginable;especially at night, when innumerable lamps, fixed in parts of the wall adapted for that purpose, are lighted under
this sheet of water."

As in the case of nearly all these Kashmir gardens, the lowest terrace is destroyed by the highway, and Achibal Bagh is much smaller than it was in Mughal days. But nothing can spoil the natural loveliness of this river, gushing out of the honeycombed limestone cliff, just at the point where the mountains intrude farthest on the plains. It is an ideal site. If I were asked where the most perfect modern garden on a medium scale could be devised, I should answer without hesitation, Achibal. Nowhere else have I seen such possibilities for the combined appeal of a stately stone - bordered pleasance between ordered avenues of full-grown trees, and a natural rock and woodland upper garden with haunting, far-reaching views, where the white wild roses foam over the firs and the boulders, rivalling the " sheet of water " Bernier praised.

The garden, which had fallen into decay, was re-enclosed on a smaller scale by Gulab Singh, the grandfather of the present Maharaja of Kashmir. Opening out of the south wall there is a large harem building, with a Mughal hummum and a swimming tank for the ladies in the centre of the square.

The actual pavilion through which the spring bursts out is broken down, and all that remains is an arched recess, a ruined portal set against the side of the cliff. One would give much to see in what manner the great rush of water was first confined and utilised. On either side of the reservoir into which it falls is a stone-edged chabutra shaded by big chenars. There are several Kashmiri pavilions built on the Mughal stone foundations; delightful little structures with their cream plaster walls and rich brown cedar woodwork, their airy latticed windows and their carved flower-bell corbels. They are neither as elaborate nor so fine as the older work of the same class scattered up and down the country; but they are beautiful and useful none the less, and represent a national living art, which the builders of the Srinagar villas and the pine huts of Gulmarg might with advantage make more use of than they do. In many out- of-the-way villages the old tradition lives, and the head man's new house springs up adorned with rough but tasteful plaster-work and the cunning carving of an older day. One reads therefore, with something more than astonishment, the Report written only five years ago, which, in its archaeological zeal for Mughal work, recommended that the Kashmiri pavilions should be pulled down to the level of the underlying stone, not on account of their ugliness or want of utility, but merely because they were not Mughal ! Surely this is a short-sighted and unhistorical view. The antiquarian spirit in India is a pious one; but without a sense of proportion, a study of the life of the people, and aesthetic enthusiasms, it will have no force or driving power. Meanwhile the clever carvers of Srinagar spend their time on hideous, over - elaborated travesties of European furniture, tortured tea-tables, and uncomfortable chairs, not that they have forgotten the larger and bolder work so suited to their style, with its balconies and the flower-bell ends, but for the simple reason that nobody nowadays wants such things. The Delhi Durbar showed what Kashmir workmen well inspired
could do. The gateway of their Maharaja's camp was perhaps not very happy a stone temple design carried out in wood but the high pierced and carved railing on either side of it was one of the most beautiful and satisfactory examples of modern Indian craftsmanship.


 - An Extract from C.M. Villiers Stuart's 'Gardens of the Great Mughals' (1913). Another passage regarding Achabal from elsewhere in this book:

Green, white, and brown are June colours at Achibal, for the garden itself has few flowers, though some of the old orchard trees have been spared; and in autumn the quince trees weave a spell of their own when the gnarled boughs droop over the water with their burden of pale yellow balls. To plant fruit trees close up to the edges of the reservoirs was a favourite custom. And a very pretty one it was. Nothing was more tiresome in the English garden of the last century than the sham gentility which spoke of 'ornamental trees' as if they must be necessarily useless ones, and banished the apple, plum, and pear trees to the distant kitchen garden regions. Well, that is past now, and thanks chiefly to Japan, the orchard is again in favour. But we might have been reminded of its beauties long ere this, for every Indian garden was once full of fruit trees; Moslem and Hindu artists never tire of their symbolic contrast with the cypress; and Babar noted long ago: 'One apple tree had been in excellent bearing. On some branches five or six scattered leaves still remained, and exhibited a beauty which the painter, with all his skill, might attempt in vain to portray.'

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More from 'Gardens of the Great Mughals' here:

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About the image: Plan of the 'two remaining' terraces of Achabal Garden. Found in 'Gardens of the Great Mughals' (1913).

March of the Amarnath Pilgrims in early 20th century

Two days the summer pilgrims rest at Verinag, below the mountain pass. Then they toil on to Achibal, over the stony Sandrin river-bed, and up the rugged hill behind Shahabad, which is covered in the early summer with creamy peonies and the lovely Kashmir rose; the wild rose resembling masses of bright pink gorse so close the flowers, so prickly their stems. The temple of Martand, on the plateau above Islamabad, is the third place of pilgrimage; the splendid ruin through whose colonnade the ninety miles of valley can be seen. To the north, at the foot of the Martand plateau, is Bawan ; and far up, near the glaciers at the head of the Lidar River, lies Amarnath Cave, with its frozen spring representing Siva the Preserver. This is the goal of the pilgrimage, the whole object of all these weary months of marching. Here the poorer pilgrims turn homewards; and they are nearly all poor, these travellers by the old Jummu way. So they rarely journey farther down the main Kashmir valley, or see Srinagar, with its water-streets, its curiously carved shops and houses, its Imperial lake-side gardens, and its new well -laid roads. The same remark applies to quite another class of pilgrim, who, entering the valley at the opposite end, race up to Gulmarg ; and all that many of these pilgrims see of Kashmir is the forest, the faint glistening mountains of the Indus, and the smooth, green bowl-shaped meadow at their feet, where round and round the links they go, pursuing the British god of games.

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

Read more:

Image: (not from 'Gardens of the Great Mughals') A painting by Leila K. Williamson (c.1894-1914): "Pilgrims at Pahalgam, on the road to holy Amarnath,"

History of Verinag Bagh of Anantnag

Islamabad, the second town in Kashmir,stands a few miles higher up the Jhelum from Bijbehara, just where the river narrows. It is the starting-point for the Verinag-Jummu route. At the foot of the hill, overlooking the town, there are numerous springs, and consequently remains of Mughal gardens. But only some Kashmiri pavilions, and the stone tanks which swarm with sacred carp are left.

The direct road from Islamabad to Verinag Bagh, Nur-Jahan's favourite Kashmir garden, runs for nineteen miles across the rivers and the rice-fields and a very bad road it is. For the traffic of the country goes down the new Jhelum valley road by Baramulla and Domel, up over the Murree hill, and out to join the railway at Rawal Pindi. Now, if a river washes away a bridge or two between Islamabad and Verinag, no one hurries to replace it ; and the old road is left to the pilgrims from the plains or to stray travellers, such as the little company who gathered in the gardens at the northern foot of the Banihal Pass to spend, after the old fashion, the last hot weeks of June by the ice-cold holy spring.

The previous autumn I had tried to reach the gardens and failed ; but on my second visit to Kashmir the journey was accomplished, and I and some friends arrived there at last.

Camped under the chenars of the ruined garden, where the pine forest runs down a steep limestone spur to the tank in which the spring rises, it is easy to understand the romantic charm of Verinag (the secret spring, the supposed source of the Jhelum, " the snake recoiled," as the literal translation runs) and the spell which held Jahangir and Nur-Mahal in their palace by the bright blue-green pool, where the largest of the sacred carp bore the Queen's inscriptions on gold rings placed through their gills. On the cold mountain pass above, Jahangir died ; leaving a last request that he might be brought back and buried by the spring. But as we have seen, his wishes were set aside; the courtiers no doubt were frightened by the approach of winter, and the danger of the passes being closed ; and the Court continued their journey south- wards, carrying the dead Emperor down to Lahore.

The octagonal tank built round the spring is designed to form the centre of the palace buildings. No omrah's house at Delhi was complete without its fountain court, and the same idea is carried out on the grandest scale for the Emperor's palace at Verinag. Round the reservoir there are twenty-four arched recesses still roofed over, some containing small stairways 'which led to the rooms above; and the few carved stones of the cornice that are left show how fine the building must have been. The current rushes out through the large arched crypt on the north side, flowing under the chief fagade of the house. The stream, flashing through the gloom, lights up the dark arches with a flickering green magic like a mermaid's cave, beyond which lies the serene upper world of the sunlit watercourt.

The palace is built on a succession of small arches extending across the width of the first terrace.Only the lower story is left, the rest of the building having been destroyed by a fire a few years ago. A road and an ugly rubble wall shut out the terrace and turfed wooden bridges across the canals, and spoil the whole effect, which must have been most impressive when the palace walls formed the southern garden boundary, backed by the dark pines on the cliff behind the spring. The main canal is about twelve feet wide, and is crossed by a second watercourse running immediately under the building. The garden has been a large one, although it is somewhat difficult to make out the whole plan. At present the first terrace is alone enclosed, but a broken water-chute leads to a lower level, and a big hummum with stone-edged platforms and other buildings can be traced on the east side.

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 Jahangir's inscription : " The King raised this building to the skies : the angel Gabriel suggested its date 1609." The mason's 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 rest- lessly 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 lung 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.

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

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Image: Verinag - The source of river Jehlum - in 1911. [Found it at the Flickr album of richardasplen. Thank to the great efforts of original uploader! The album has some of the most rear and unseen photographs of Kashmir.]

Dara Shukoh's Garden at Bijbehara

But see ! The rising moon of Heav'n again
Looks for us, Sweetheart, through the quivering plane ;
How oft, hereafter, rising will she look
Among those leaves for one of us in vain.

- Omar Khayyam.

Leaving Srinagar by the Jammu route, the old way was by boat up stream to Islamabad. A whole series of ruined gardens lies scattered throughout its length. In most cases they mark the site of royal camping-grounds, built for the convenience of the Court on the journey to and from the plains ; while other gardens, like the ruins at Bawan, which lie off the direct route, were centred round a holy spring.

The garden, the remains of which now form the favourite camping -ground of Bijbehara, at the bottom of the Lidar valley, is by far the most remarkable of the riverside ruins. The plan, more resembling that of a garden in the plains than any I have seen in Kashmir, can still be clearly made out by the glorious chenar avenues. The trees form the usual cross on a very extended scale, radiating from what was once a large tank surrounded by wide parterres, with a pavilion set in the midst of the water. The eastern canal supplied the garden with a force of water drawn from the Lidar River, and the avenues to the north and east disclose vistas of the snow mountains which shut in this end of the Kashmir valley. The walls are broken down, but remains of octagonal towers mark their corners. There is the usual hummum, now in ruins, and the south avenue terminates in a tank and brick pavilion. Below this building is a long river terrace a feature repeated on the opposite side of the Jhelum, once crossed by a stone bridge ; and the originality of the whole plan lies in its carrying out Shah Jahan's idea of a double garden, one on each side of a river.

This was formerly known as Dara Shukoh's garden, but is now called the Wazir Bagh. The banks are steep, and the Bijbehara reach of the river is a beautiful one. The high balconied houses of the little town, and the massive forms of the chenars overhanging the stream, stand out grandly against the piled -up mountain back-ground ; and once, when the stone-edged terraces stepped delicately down on either hand, and the water from the canals fell clear over the carved cascades to join the swift broad Jhelum, Dara's garden must have had as fine a setting as any of those built by his father Shah Jahan.

Dara Shukoh, it will be remembered, was the eldest of four brothers, and the one who inherited his father's artistic, splendour-loving temperament ; but unfortunately for himself and India, he failed in the more important quality of administrative ability. Dara, generous but conceited, proud of his intellectual gifts, and intolerant of advice or contradiction, fell an easy prey to the wiles of his brother Aurungzeb. In 1659 he was finally captured and beheaded ; and the large mosque at Lahore was built with the funds derived from his confiscated estates.

At the age of twenty he had been married to his cousin, the Princess Nadira, to whom he remained devotedly attached, and to whom he gave the album of Mughal miniatures which still goes by his name, and forms one of the chief treasures of the India Office library. His taste can be seen in this collection of illuminations with their rhythmic line, and perfection of balanced colour harmonies ; the portraits of the Emperors, the decorative paintings of the favourite Mughal flowers, and pages of dreamy Persian poetry, each surrounded by floral borders as beautifully chosen as the pictures and poems they enclose. Much Jhelum water has flowed under the old wooden bridge at Bijbehara, with the mulberry trees and elms sprouting from its piers, since Dara first built his terraced garden there on both sides of the stream. It is a far cry from his once magnificent palace at Lahore to the dark, sober-coloured surroundings, the solemn hush, and the busy scratch of pens in the great official London library ; but the cousins seem wonderfully near, they live again as one reads the simple preface : " This Album was presented to his Dearest and Nearest Friend, the Lady Nadira, Begam, by Prince Mahomed Dara Shukoh, son of the Emperor Shah Jahan 1641."

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

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Image: 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: Bridge at Bijbehara on the Jhelum
PUBLISHER: McAllister, T.H.
transparency, woodburytype on glass

Chasma Shahi Bagh as it was

High up in a hollow of the mountains which overlook the lotus fields of the Dal Lake is the Chasma Shahi, the little Garden of the Royal Spring. Very few of these smaller pleasure-grounds have survived, but the Chasma Shahi Bagh shows that a Mughal garden need not necessarily be large to prove attractive.

The enclosure, small as it is, has all the charm and shows the same Mughal feeling for sensation, as its great rivals round the lake. The copious spring round which it is built bubbles up in a large stone vase in the hall of the upper pavilion. The garden in front of this building is an oblong of about an acre divided into two terraces. A stone chabutra with a shallow carved fountain basin, something after the fashion of those at Hazrat Bal, is the feature of the upper terrace. A tiny carved water-chute brings the narrow canal rippling down three feet to the second terrace, in the centre of which is a tank with a single fountain jet ; the water running on through another pavilion at the end of the garden. These buildings are characteristic Afghan structures on older stone foundations. Walking through the hall to the arched openings overlooking the Dal, where the wall is bounded by a black marble rail, a relic of Mughal times, the lower garden comes as a complete surprise. The narrow water -chute slopes sharply down eighteen or more feet to a second enclosure, about half the size of the upper garden. In the centre is a reservoir with five fountain jets. Round its edges are the outlines of a continuous flower parterre, and the sides of the garden are still filled with lilac and fruit trees.

There is a famous old garden saying which may be translated :

Morning in the Shadow of the Nishat Bagh,
Evening in the Breezes of the Nisim,
Shalimar and its Tulip Fields,
these are the Places of Pleasure in Kashmir and none else.

But I would add the little Chasma Shahi, with its spring, and its marvellous view, seen across
the fragrant foreground of the lilac thicket.
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From C.M. Villiers Stuart's 'Gardens of the Great Mughals' (1913)
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About the photograph: Children playing in the ice-cold waters of the Chasma at the Chasma Shahi Garden. Captured by me in June 2008.

Lotus field of Kashmir


Lotus time comes in July, when the great flowers and leaves rise on their slender stalks three or four feet from the surface of the lake. They may be taken as the Hindu sacred flower, much as the rose is the first flower in the eyes of the secular Moslem poets ; and all the world goes out to gaze on the bright pink lotus blooms. To see these flowers in perfection one must start at dawn, before the sun has climbed the mountain crags, and row out towards the Nishat Bagh, where the lake-side gardens are lost in dim blue shadows and the surface of the water is pearly grey and mauve. Then forcing the light shikara through the sweeping freshness of the large leaves until the boat is almost lost among them, wait till the sun wakes the lotus buds of Brahma. As their rose-dyed petal tips disclose the golden heart you will know why AUM, MANI PADME HUM (" Hail, Lord Creator ! the Jewel is in the Lotus ") is the oldest and most sacred prayer in India.

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

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About the image: View of Lotus fields of Dal lake in the month of June. While taking the photograph, I was specifically told by the Shikarawalla, 'Lotus bloom is still a month away.'

Spring Flowers and Flower Festivals of Kashmir

The Nishat, like other gardens of its size, was originally planted with avenues of cypress and fruit trees. On two of the terraces green depressions mark the sites of former parterres. The garden will be even more lovely when these old details are taken into account ; when roses are once more trained down the sides of the walls, and soften the edges of the steps by the water, repeating the motive of the cascades they enclose. Taking a hint from the early Mughal miniatures, where the garden is " flower -scattered " like some picture by Sandro Botticelli or from the alpine meadows on the crags, which rise 4000 feet above the Nishat Bagh, let us scatter spring flowers under the fruit trees. White iris still light up distant corners of the garden with their frail beauty. But purple and mauve iris should be massed near the lilac bushes ; narcissus and daffodils planted under apple and quince trees; and the soft turf under the snowy pear and plum trees should blaze again with crown-imperials and the scarlet Kashmir tulips. The Mughal flowers were spring flowers ; but roses, carnations, jasmine, hollyhocks, delphiniums, peonies, and pinks brought in summer.

The baradari on the third terrace of the Nishat Bagh is a two-storied Kashmir structure standing on the stone foundations of an earlier building. The lower floor is fifty-nine feet long and forty-eight feet wide, enclosed on two sides by wooden - latticed windows. In the middle there is a reservoir about fourteen feet square and three feet deep, with five fountains, the one in the centre being the only old stone fountain left in the garden.On a summer day there are few more attractive rooms than the fountain hall of this Kashmir garden house. The gay colours of the carved woodwork shine through the spray in delightful contrast to the dull green running water. Through a latticed arch a glimpse is caught of the brilliant garden terraces and their waterfalls flashing white against the mountain side. Looking out over the lake which glitters below in the sunshine, the views of the valley are bounded by faint snow-capped peaks, the far country of the Pir Panjal. Climbing roses twine about the painted wooden pillars, and nod their creamy flowers through the openings of the lattice. All the long afternoon a little breeze ruffles the surface of the lake and blows in the scent of the flowers, mingling it with the drifting fountain spray ; for the terrace below the pavilion is planted after the old custom with a thicket of Persian lilac.

There are three flower festivals still observed every year in Kashmir, and the first of these is the lilac viewing. The lake-side by the gardens is crowded with boats when the long trusses of feathery mauve flowers are fully out. All day the people stream up the steps into the garden ; and, sitting in rows on the terrace wall above, drink in with delight the sweet colour and scent of these favourite flowers. Nearly all the older gardens show the remains of lilac thickets ; they were closely planted in squares divided by narrow paths through which to walk and enjoy their perfume.

The narcissus fields and tulip fields vanished next follows the festival of the roses. The Shalimar Bagh is most frequented on this occasion. Crowds come from the city, bringing their women-folk, their babies, and their birds. Gay family parties gather on the grass chabutras, listening to the plash of the water and the sweet little piping of the birds, or smoking their hookahs and talking endlessly in the shade. Beautiful groups they make : the women with their rose and orange robes and graceful long white veils, and the enchanting Kashmir babies, their fair faces, dark eyes, and curls peeping out from under little bright green caps, from which their large round tinsel earrings dangle. One can hardly tell whether the babies or the flowers they are brought to look at are the prettier. Pink roses grow beside the water, red flowers fill the parterre which with its paved stone walks surrounds the zenana baradari. .But the loveliest roses in the garden are the Marechal Niels, which climb the grey-green walls of the Hall of Public Audience and hang their soft yellow globes head downward in clusters from the carved cedar cornice.

It is pleasant to find what a pride and delight both Indians and Kashmiris take in the old Imperial gardens. Only the Europeanised Indians have lost touch with these simple pleasures: young Rajas, 'doing' Kashmir or the gardens at Lahore, accompanied by some bored English tutor, and followed by a noisy horde of retainers, walk hurriedly up one side of the stream and down the other; but even they sometimes cast wistful glances back at the flowers and the fountains, ere they whirl off again in their motor cars. Bustling sightseers, however, are a rare occurrence here, and the famous baghs are always full of real garden lovers. All great festivals and holidays are celebrated, if possible, in a garden. Students bring their books, and work under the trees. A day in one of these great walled gardens is an event which appeals as much to purdah ladies as to the very poorest class. The great Emperors who planned them and lived in them-Babar, Akbar, Jahangir and his Nur-Jahan-are far more vivid personalities in India than Elizabeth or the Stuart sovereigns are in England. And every Indian speaks with a lingering regret of the days of the older Bad-shahi, 'when the gardens were in their splendid prime.'

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

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Image:
1.Wildly growing flowers in meadows of Gulmarg. Shot in the month of June, year 2008.
2. "Spring in Kashmir "painted by Major E. Molyneux for 'Kashmir by Francis Younghusband' (1911)

History of Nishat Bagh

The Nishat Bagh, true to its name, is the gayest of all Mughal gardens. Its twelve terraces, one for each sign of the zodiac, rise dramatically higher and higher up the mountain side from the eastern shore of the lake. The stream tears foaming down the carved cascades, fountains play in every tank and watercourse, filling the garden with their joyous life and movement. The flower-beds on these sunny terraces blaze with colour roses, lilies, geraniums, asters, gorgeous tall-growing zinnias, and feathery cosmos, pink and white. Beautiful at all times, when autumn lights up the poplars in clear gold and the big chenars burn red against the dark blue rocky background, there are few more brilliant, more breathlessly entrancing sights than this first view of Asaf Khan's Garden of Gladness.

When Shah Jahan was in Kashmir in 1633, he visited this garden. Its high terraces, and wonderful views of lake and mountain, so delighted him that he at once decided that the Nishat Bagh was altogether too splendid a garden for a subject, even though that subject might happen to be his own prime-minister and father-in-law.
He told Asaf Khan on three occasions how much he admired his pleasure-ground, expecting that it would be immediately offered for the royal acceptance. But if Shah Jahan coveted his neighbour's vineyard, the Wazir was no less stiff-necked than Naboth ; he could not bring himself to surrender his cherished pleasance to be " a garden of herbs " for his royal master, and he remained silent. Then as now the same stream supplied both the Royal Garden and the Nishat Bagh, which lies on the mountain side between the Shalimar and the city of Srinagar. So Shah Jahan in his anger ordered the water- supply to be cut off from the Nishat Bagh and was avenged, for the garden he envied was shorn of all its beauty.

Nothing is more desolate than one of these great enclosures when their stone -lined tanks nd water channels are dry and empty. Asaf Khan, who was staying in his summer palace at the time, could do nothing, and all his household knew of his grief and bitter disappointment. One day, lost in a melancholy reverie, he at last fell fast asleep in the shade by the empty watercourse. At length a noise aroused him ; rubbing his eyes he could hardly believe what he saw, for the fountains were all playing merrily once more and the long carved water-chutes were white with foam. A faithful servant, risking his life, had defied the Emperor's orders, and removed the obstruction from the stream. Asaf Khan rebuked him for his zeal and hastily had the stream closed again. But the news reached the Emperor n his gardens at Shalimar; whereupon he sent for the terrified servant, and, much to the surprise of the Court, instead of punishing him, bestowed a robe of honour upon him to mark his admiration for this act of devoted service ; at the same time granting a sanad which gave the right to his
master to draw water for the garden from the Shalimar stream.

The old approach was by water, and the Nishat Bagh, like other Kashmir gardens, loses greatly by the intrusion of the modern road, which cuts off the lake-side terrace from all the others. The enclosure is now five hundred and ninety-five yards long and three hundred and sixty wide. Being a private garden, and not a royal pleasure-ground, there are only two large divisions : the main garden built in a series of terraces each slightly higher than the other; and the upper zenana terrace, where the wall is eighteen feet high, and runs across the full width of the garden. The water-chute running down from the second story of the small pavilion on the ladies' terrace is constructed of paved brick arranged in the usual wave patterns, and there are traces of a similar brick pavement on each side of the canal, which at the Nishat is thirteen feet wide and eight inches deep. Each end of the high retaining wall is flanked by octagonal towers, with inner stairways leading to the upper garden.

The number of stone and marble thrones is a special feature of the Nishat Bagh. There is one placed across the head of almost every waterfall. The gardens have recently been partly restored, and an attempt has been made to replace the vases which once adorned the platforms and terrace walls of all these Mughal baghs. Those already made for the Nishat are decorative and add something of the old character, but they are too small for the scale of the gardens. The Indian mali is often laughed at for his devotion to his " gumalis " and tubs, though they are very practical in the plains, where the white ants are likely to devour everything growing in the ground, for his crazy patchwork bedding, and his rows of untidy little pots. It is the small scale and multiplicity of these gumalis, and flower-beds, which prevents us seeing that they are only the degenerate forms of two well-known Mughal motives geometrical floral designs and plants in vases. Beautiful carved stone and moulded earthenware garden- vases might yet be made by Indian masons and potters if they were given scope and time. Filled with flowers, their effect on the great masonry platforms would be wonderfully fine. After all, the mali has a sound tradition in his favour.

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From C.M. Villiers Stuart's 'Gardens of the Great Mughals' (1913). In the book the passage about 'Mali' has the title: The Mali and His "Gumalis"

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About the Images:
1. An old photograph of Nishat Bagh. Found in 'Gardens of the Great Mughals' (1913)
2. View of Dal Lake from Nishat Garden. In the frame, just near the second electricity cable from the top, you can see the Akbar's Bridge (16th century) in the distance. Shot one late evening in June 2008.

History of Shalimar Bagh


The famous Shalimar Bagh lies at the far end of the Dal Lake. According to a legend, Pravarsena II., the founder of the city of Srinagar, who reigned in Kashmir from A.D. 79 to 139, had built a villa on the edge of the lake, at its north-eastern corner, calling it Shalimar, which in Sanskrit is said to mean " The Abode or Hall of Love." The king often visited a saint, named Sukarma Swami, living near Harwan, and rested in this villa on his way. In course of time the royal garden vanished, but the village that had sprung up in its neighbourhood was called Shalimar after it. The Emperor Jahangir laid out a garden on this same old site in the year 1619.

A canal, about a mile in length and twelve yards broad, runs through the marshy swamps, the willow groves, and the rice-fields that fringe the lower end of the lake, connecting the garden with the deep open water. On each side there are broad green paths overshadowed by large chenars ; and at the entrance to the canal blocks of masonry indicate the site of an old gateway. There are fragments also of the stone embankment which formerly lined the watercourse.

The Shalimar was a royal garden, and as it is fortunately kept up by His Highness the Maharaja of Kashmir, it still shows the charming old plan of a Mughal Imperial summer residence. The present enclosure is five hundred and ninety yards long by about two hundred and sixty-seven yards broad, divided, as was usual in royal pleasure-grounds, into three separate parts : the outer garden, the central or Emperor's garden, and last and most beautiful of the three, the garden for the special use of the Empress and her ladies.

The outer or public garden, starting with the grand canal leading from the lake, terminates at the first large pavilion, the Diwan-i-'Am. The small black marble throne still stands over thewaterfall in the centre of the canal which flows through the building into the tank below. From time to time this garden was thrown open to the people so that they might see the Emperor enthroned in his Hall of Public Audience.

The second garden is slightly broader, consisting of two shallow terraces with the Diwan-i-Khas (the Hall of Private Audience) in the centre. The buildings have been destroyed, but their carved stone bases are left, as well as a fine platform surrounded by fountains. On the north- west boundary of this enclosure are the royal bathrooms.

At the next wall, the little guard-rooms that flank the entrance to the ladies' garden have been rebuilt in Kashmir style on older stone bases. Here the whole effect culminates with the beautiful black marble pavilion built by Shah Jahan, which still stands in the midst of its fountain spray ; the green glitter of the water shining in the smooth, polished marble, the deep rich tone of which is repeated in the old cypress trees. Round this baradari the whole colour and perfume of the garden is concentrated, with the snows of Mahadev for a background. How well the Mughals understood the principle that the garden, like every other work of art, should have a climax.

This unique pavilion is surrounded on every side by a series of cascades, and at night when the lamps are lighted in the little arched recesses behind the shining waterfalls, it is even more fairy-like than by day. Bernier, in his account of the Shalimar, notes with astonishment four wonderful doors in this baradari. They were composed of large stones supported by pillars, taken from some of the " Idol temples " demolished by Shah Jahan. He also mentions several circular basins or reservoirs, " out of which arise other fountains formed into a variety of shapes and figures."


When Bernier visited Kashmir the gardens were laid out in regular trellised walks and generally surrounded by the large-leafed aspen, planted at intervals of two feet. In Vigne's time the Bagh-i-Dilawar Khan, where the European visitors were lodged, was still planted in the usual Eastern manner, with trellis -work shading the walks along the walls, " on which were produced the finest grapes in the city."

Pergolas were in all probability one of the oldest forms of garden decoration. A drawing of an ancient Egyptian pleasure-ground shows a large pergola surrounded by tanks in the centre of a square enclosure. The trellis -work takes he form of a temple with numerous columns. In the Roshanara Gardens at Delhi a broken pergola of square stone pillars still exists, and a more modern attempt has been made to build one outside the walls at Pinjor.

These cool shady alleys have, under European influence, entirely disappeared from the Kashmir gardens ; though here and there round the outer walls some of the old vines are left, coiled on the ground like huge brown water-snakes, or climbing the fast growing young poplars. But their restoration would be a simple matter. The pergolas with their brick and plaster pillars are a charming characteristic well worth reviving. It should be always remembered, however, to make them bold enough : high and wide with beds or spring bulbs on each side between the pillars spring bulbs, such as Babar's favourite tulip and narcissus, to flower gaily before the leaves of rose and vine completely shade the walks.

A subtle air of leisure and repose, a romantic indefinable spell, pervades the royal Shalimar : this leafy garden of dim vistas, shallow terraces, smooth sheets of falling water, and wide canals, with calm reflections broken only by the stepping-stones across the stream.

A complete contrast is offered by the Nishat, the equally beautiful garden on the Dal Lake built by Asaf Khan, Nur-Mahal's brother.

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From C.M. Villiers Stuart's 'Gardens of the Great Mughals' (1913)
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Images:
1. Ground plan of Shalimar bagh found in C.M.   Villiers Stuart's 'Gardens of the Great Mughals'
2. View from Outer Garden of Shalimar Bagh
3  Central structure at Shalimar Bagh
4. A painting of Pergola at Shalimar Bagh by H. Clerget (1870)
5. Central Pergola at Shalimar Bagh
6. Inside the central structure at Shalimar Bagh. (All photographs taken by me in June 2008)

Kashmiri Fountains

In the early northern gardens, before the canals were enlarged sufficiently to admit of the line of fountain jets which afterwards became such a characteristic, these shallow fountain basins were used as much in the open garden as they were in rooms or verandahs. Sometimes they were introduced in the centre of a raised stone chabutra ; or placed at intervals along the narrow watercourses like those at Hazrat Bal, the finest of which we found hidden away under the wooden platform of the mosque. This was almost lost, buried under the mud and refuse, when, thanks to the exertions of some village boys urged on by two white-bearded elders, we unearthed this really fine example of the stone- mason's art. It is a large oval basin cut in ight deep flutes radiating from the centre; each division having a fish or wild duck carved in relief, represented as about to swim away over the edge of the fountain. A crane or stork is carved at each end where the basin is cut away to meet the swirl of the water as it rushed in and out from the narrow canal. The second fountain is similar, but smaller.

Charming as they are from a purely decorative point of view, these fountains are more noticeable on account of the birds and living creatures used in their ornamentation. This points to their early origin, when under the wise, art-loving Akbar the old Hindu temple carvers and craftsmen were encouraged to work again in stone for their new Moslem masters : and even these two forgotten carvings show that wonderful Indian sense of rhythm which still remains a living national trait.

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From C.M. Villiers Stuart's 'Gardens of the Great Mughals' (1913)
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Photograph: Kashmiri Children playing under fountains at Shalimar Bagh

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

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."

Wah Bagh, Hasan Abul

Hasan Abul, like 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.

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From C.M. Villiers Stuart's 'Gardens of the Great Mughals' (1913)
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About the image: Lalla Rookh's Tomb Hassan Abdal, painted by Major E. Molyneux for 'Kashmir by Francis Younghusband' (1911)
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