Those who have read or heard about the wonderful gardens in Kashmir make it a point to visit them whenever they plan a trip there. Six of these, which are known as Mughal gardens, are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and noted for their wonderful combination of style, aesthetics and raw beauty. Overlooked by enormous mountains, dotted with fountains and well preserved flower beds, they combine two architectural styles, Persian and Timurid. It was Babur, the first Mugahl emperor of India, who introduced the concept of building gardens that resembled small pieces of paradise on earth. The other gardens, including Shalimar, Nishant and Chasma Shahi, were built by his descendants. Other than these, there are other gardens too which endear themselves to tourists with their captivating beauty, style and design.
The first of the Mughal Garden is the Shalimar Garden in Srinagar, located just beside the Dal Lake. Built by the Mughal emperor, Jahangir, for his wife Nur Jahan in 1616, it represents the finest elements of Mughal architecture. The garden is dotted with fountains, trees and a variety of flowers that burst into bloom during spring and autumn. The magnificence of the gardens extends to its upper terraces, which were once reserved for the emperor and ladies of the household. During the tourist season, which lasts from May to October, a sound & light show is held in the evening.
The beauty of Chashma Shahi, or, Royal Spring gardens, has stolen the heart of royalty since historical times, from Mughals to Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Like so many other magnificent structures, it was built by Shah Jehan in 1632. It compensates for its small size with its delightful landscape which is marked by flowers, fruits and chinar trees. There is a freshwater spring inside the garden, whose water is believed to contain medicinal properties. It owes its popularity to its terraces, fountains and waterfalls, and affords lovely views of the Dal Lake.
Harwan Garden is an island of tranquility where the sounds you hear are of splashes on the lake and the whistling of the leaves of massive Chinar trees.
Its perfectly manicured lawns, and the canal flowing delightfully in between, make it an ideal place to enjoy a picnic or an outing. Even though the royal garden of Achabal, as you see it today, was built by Empress Nur Jahan in 1920, its history goes back even before the arrival of the Mughals. It was popular during the reign of Sultans in the 15th century. Like the other Mughal gardens in Kashmir, it has its fair share of Chinar trees and water channels. A beautiful canal occupies the center of the garden, while an enormous mountain creates an excellent background for it. Unlike other Mughal gardens, it still gets its water supply from its original water source.
The Zabarwan Mountains looks on from behind as the Nishat Bagh stretches itself leisurely. The largest of all the Mughal gardens, it enjoys a unique location and offers spectacular views of Dal Lake and Pir Panjal mountain range. Asif Khan, brother of Mughal empress Nur Jehan, built this garden back in 1633. It leaves the Shalimar Bagh behind when it comes to sheer magnificence. It is also noted for its location. Built along the banks of the Dal Lake, its lowest terraces leads directly to the lake while the upper ones treat onlookers to captivating views of it.
Even though Pari Mahal is included as a Mughal garden, it is more a historical monument. Once a Buddhist monastery, it was later converted into an observatory and a school of astrology. It is mostly famous for its terraced gardens, apart from its immense historical value.
In Jammu, the Bagh-e-Bahu is the most famous garden in Jammu. It shares a similarity with the other gardens mentioned above, especially when it comes to fountains. The difference is the sculptures which are seated on a rock, and stare curiously at onlookers. The garden is topped by an enormous artificial lake enveloped by excellently managed lawns, flower beds and stoned walkaways. The garden offers wonderful views of River Tawi from the top.