Near Dal Lake is a famous garden also known as Farah Baksh and Faiz Baksh. Built by the son of Emperor Akbar, Emperor Jahangir, the Shalimar Bagh gets some of the most visitor traffic even in a place where other famous gardens are located. And with good reason: its gorgeous Mughal masonry, water fountains, and pavilions make it a top contender for being among the best sights in the city.
The name comes not from Jahangir but from a much earlier time, though. In the past, before the arrival of the Mughal rulers, the Hindu king Praversena, used to stay in a private chalet in the environs of Dal Lake. He named this chalet Shalimar or Abode of Love and frequently used it for his lodgings whenever he came to the area, both to bask in the splendour of Dal Lake and to be privy to the wisdom of a saint living nearby. Over time, however, the chalet became unused and fell into disrepair, and eventually, was lost entirely. The surrounding area kept the name, though, and it was here where Emperor Jahangir had the Shalimar Bagh built at the start of the 17th century.
It was an apt choice of venue. Jahangir had long had a lasting love affair with the Kashmir, after all; it said that he even said that Kashmir was the place dearest to his heart while dying, calling the rest “worthless”. More importantly, though, Jahangir had the garden built in order to please his wife and favourite, Nur Jahan. This was the woman who supposedly had the emperor so enamoured with her that she was often referred to as the true power behind the throne, even being approached by the court ministers on occasion for requests and favours. The love story between the two and the well-chronicled infatuation of the emperor for his wife thus gave birth to a garden that would, over time, be known by several different sobriquets and improved by several different emperors-but which would remain for many people even in the present day the Shalimar Bagh, in testament to the original purpose for which it was constructed.
This is one of the most beautiful gardens in Srinagar, and that is saying something indeed when the city is stuffed with them. Still, one cannot deny its appeal: nor indeed can the cities of Delhi and Lahore, which have their own Shalimar Baghs. Both of these were actually inspired by the original in Srinagar. The Srinagar version has several things rather unique to it, though, besides the spread of Dal Lake enhancing the view. For instance, it has recessed niches behind its waterfalls. Nowadays, these are filled with coloured flowerpots that lend some of their hues to the fall of the water: back in the day, though, they were used to hold lamps, which would have provided some unusual illumination for the cascading water indeed. Even if the lamps are no longer gone, the garden still has quite a persistently romantic quality to it that makes it a must-see for visitors in the city.