The Nishat Bagh has a name that translates to “The Garden of Bliss”, and it is certainly well-deserved. It is one of the Mughal gardens around the scenic Dal Lake, located to the lake’s east. Of all the Mughal gardens in the region, it is second only to one other in size (specifically, the Shalimar Garden, which is nearby).
The Nishat Bagh has a rather interesting history. It was built in the 17th century by the elder brother of Noorjehen, one of the most celebrated singers and actresses at the time. Her brother, Asif Khan, was also the prime minister of the Emperor Shah Jahan, who ruled the Mughal Empire for some decades. Asif Khan was father in law to the emperor, who had an established love of beauty: this was the man responsible for the construction of such world-renowned edifices as the Taj Mahal, after all, an iconic building in the timeline of the architectural style of the Mughals. When the emperor saw Asif Khan’s garden on the banks of the Dal, he apparently fell in love with it, and let slip more than a few hints regarding his appreciation of its design. The emperor’s hope, it was said, was that the prime minister would be thus moved to present the garden to him as a gift.
Asif Khan, however, did no such thing. Instead, he continued to enjoy and frequent his garden by himself. Piqued, Shah Jahan then ordered that water channels irrigating Asif Khan’s garden be cut off, resulting in the garden drying up. Asif Khan was apparently disconsolate and could only sit in the withered garden in depression, but one of his servants, apparently moved by his master’s sadness, dared what no other would do: he contravened the royal orders and opened the water channels once again. This horrified Asif Khan, who had a good understanding of royal tempers: fortunately, the emperor did not take umbrage, seeming to have gotten over his irritation with his prime minister, and even ordered that all the channels to the garden be opened again, in honour of the loyal servant who had dared to defy him just to preserve Asif Khan’s happiness.
A glimpse of Nishat Bagh may well explain why the emperor was so taken with it that he wanted it for himself. This garden is a triumph of Mughal gardening and architecture, equipped with a dozen stepped levels (terraces, that is) and a central water channel with fountains running through them. Each terrace is said to correspond to a zodiac sign. It is composed of two separate sections, with one being expressly for the women of the prime minister’s household at the time.
Nowadays, Nishat Bagh is open to all, which is fortunate for the public indeed. Describing this garden by saying it has the classical chadars (water ramps), wave patterns, and angular shapes in its layout as other Mughal gardens of the period hardly does it justice. Suffice it to say that this is undoubtedly a garden meriting a visit if you happen to pass by Srinagar.