Lahore, the city that once stood at the epicentre of the Mughal Empire, is often referred to as the ‘City of Gardens’ owing to its large number of parks, gardens and picnic spots. While the historic city is worthy of the title bestowed upon it, only a few of its Mughal-era gardens have managed to survive the various reigns that came after the downfall of the grand empire and later, the partition. Even fewer of those gardens were preserved as a reminder of the cultural significance of this bustling metropolis. Fortunately, the majestic Shalimar Gardens, Lahore, are among the ones that only survived the test of the times but stand proudly as the zenith of Mughal architecture and one of the most historical places in Pakistan.
The iconic complex of Shalimar Gardens was built in 1641-1642. Counted among the biggest tourist attractions in Punjab, Shalimar Gardens in Lahore – more commonly known as Shalimar Bagh – draw a large number of domestic and foreign tourists throughout the year. In fact, you can’t complete your trip to Lahore without visiting this stunning terraced garden with mesmerizing fountains, breathtakingly beautiful foliage, exquisitely designed pavilions and much more.
Want to know more? Well, here is all about Shalimar Gardens in Lahore, including the location, timings, entry tickets, history and architecture of this impressive site.
Shalimar Gardens, Lahore, Location
The Shalimar Gardens are situated along Grand Trunk Road northeast of the Walled City Lahore.
Some of the popular locations near this Mughal garden in Lahore include:
- University of Engineering and Technology: 5 kilometer
- Lahore Zoo: 8 kilometer
- Badshahi Mosque: 8.6 kilometer
- Lahore Fort: 8.7 kilometer
- Minar-e-Pakistan: 9.4 kilometer
Shalimar Gardens, Lahore, Timings
You can visit Shalimar Gardens in Lahore between 8:00 AM and 6:00 PM any day of the week.
Shalimar Gardens, Lahore, Entry Fees
The entrance fee for this Mughal-era garden complex is only PKR 20, making it one of the most affordable yet beautiful places to visit in Lahore for a family picnic.
History of Shalimar Gardens
The sprawling complex of Shalimar Gardens was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. His inspiration to create this utopic garden came from the first Shalimar Garden in Kashmir, which was constructed by his father, Emperor Jahangir, in 1620 against the backdrop of snow-covered mountain peaks. Since Kashmir was far away from the capital of the Mughal Empire, Shah Jahan wanted a similar garden built in Lahore to entertain the royal family and the noblemen of the region.
According to the historians, a flood swept through Lahore sometime between 1620 and 1630, exposing a tiered terrain at the edge of the River Ravi. Owing to its terrain and fertile soil, the terrain presented to be the perfect site to build a royal garden. Although it was about a day’s ride from the Lahore Fort at the time, it was mainly chosen as the perfect spot for Shalimar Gardens due to its stable water supply.
The construction of Shalimar Gardens in Lahore began in June 1641. Since the terrain was vastly different from the Kashmiri landscape, it took a team of engineers and architects almost 18 months to create the three-terraced garden complex with artificial water cascades, pools, fountains and seating areas.
The land of the Shalimar Bagh originally belonged to the Arain Mian Family. The head of the family, Mian Muhammad Yusuf, had ceded the site to the emperor to build the royal garden. However, once it was completed, Shah Jahan made Arain Mian family the custodians of the complex. Shalimar Gardens remained under their custodianship for more than 350 years.
After the fall of the Mughal Empire in the subcontinent, Shalimar Gardens were also destroyed and damaged to a great extent. The marble used in the construction of the garden was pillaged and its expensive gates were stolen and sold off.
In 1806, Shalimar Gardens were repaired by the then-Maharaja. Following the independence of Pakistan in 1947, the garden remained as one of the famous historical places to visit in Lahore. It also used to be the site for the annual Mela Chiraghan festival, which was banned in 1958. Four years later, General Ayub Khan nationalized the Shalimar Bagh, ending the custodianship of the Arain Mian Family.
In 1981, Shalimar Gardens, along with the Lahore Fort, were included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Pakistan.
Shalimar Gardens, Lahore, Architecture
The picturesque Shalimar Gardens comprises three stunning terraces that tell the tale of the imagination and inventiveness of the royal craftsmen, engineers, architects, horticulturists and hydrologists working under Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. Each of the three terraces was cleverly constructed on naturally tiered terrain and are elevated about 13 to 15 feet above the other. While the top and lowest terrace are shaped like squares, the middle one looks like a narrow rectangle. All three levels of Shalimar Bagh are filled with lush green grass, gorgeous flower beds, and beautiful fountains. The historical site, which is spread over an area of about 16 hectares, also features the most elaborate waterworks of any Mughal-era garden in the sub-continent.
The design of these exquisite gardens is reminiscent of the classic Timurid gardens constructed between the 14th and 16th centuries in what is now known as Central Asia. Much like those grand gardens, all three terraces of Shalimar Bagh are divided into multiple sections using fountains. Moreover, each section is flanked by elevated brick walkways that provide visitors with an enchanting view of the greenery and intricate architecture down below. Clean water cascades over a grand marble path into the middle terrace before collecting in a giant pool below the seating pavilion. There are four other water cascades in the garden as well, adding to its allure and serenity.
The top level of the charming garden complex is called Farah Bakhsh, which translates to ‘Bestower of Pleasure’. This terrace used to house the Emperor’s harem. The middle level is known as Faiz Bakhsh, which means the ‘Bestower of Goodness’ and was reserved for the king himself. The lowest terrace bears the name Hayat Bakhsh, meaning ‘Bestower of Life.’ It was open to the noblemen and occasionally, the public. The main entrance of Shalimar Gardens was through this level.
There are a total of 410 fountains in Shalimar Garden, making the site an engineering and architectural marvel. The top-most terrace has 105 fountains, the middle one houses 152 while the lowest terrace features 153 fountains.
Apart from the dense foliage and intricate waterworks, this garden in Lahore also boasts some impressive buildings featuring the signature artwork of the Mughal era. Some of the most notable structures inside Shalimar Gardens include the Baradaries that were built for the emperor and his noblemen to enjoy the coolness created by the fountains, the beautiful Sawan Bhadun pavilions, Naqar Khana, Aiwan, Aramgah, Khwabgah, and Diwan-e-Khas-o-Aam, among others.
To date, Shalimar Bagh tops the list of historical places in Lahore and remains crowded all throughout the year. Therefore, whether you are history buff or simply enjoy natural beauty, make sure to add this historic garden to your list of tourist attractions in Punjab.
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