After having spent about 2 hours at Chashme Shahi we had to return taking the same road via the Governor’s residence (Raj Bhawan). The second largest Mughal garden known as Nishat Bagh was again located on the main road on the Eastern bank of Dal Lake with the same Zabarwan mountain ranges as its backdrop. The waters flowing out of the garden has been made to slide down from about 15 feet high into a rectangular pool by the side of the road.
Once upon a time the waters straight away fell into the lake but now there is the road in between. Nishat Bagh literally means a garden of joy or merriment which was got created by Asif Khan the brother of Noor Jehan (Mughal Empress) in the year 1633. It is rectangular in shape running some 1800 feet towards the mountains with a width of over 1100 feet. The mountain slope has 12 terraces, representing the Zodiacal signs. There is a mountain spring at the top which has been made to flow down through water channels built with polished stone. There are pools on every segment of the terrace with beautiful fountains. The entire length of the water channel also has fountains at regular intervals.
There was a large crowd at the ticket counter and almost all of them were Indians. We too joined them and after getting our tickets we could gain entry. At the far end there were large Chinar and Cypress trees. Their number seems to have dwindled and instead a new variety of flowering trees have come up whith a lotus like large fragrant white flowers identified as “Magnolia Grandiflora”. They are known as “Him Champa” in Hindi.
The long water channel with pools and fountains and flower beds were really a feast to our eyes. Our group members were not very much inclined to explore all the terraces fully as it seemed that their earlier visit to Chasme Shahi was very much fulfilling. In fact the upper reaches are said to be much more beautiful. However, the group as a whole was not keen to invest more time here and wanted to move to other destinations. It was some thing like a kind of dictatorship of the proletariat. The majority had the say.
After having visited Nishat Bagh we were to visit Shalimar Gardens as per schedule but before we could take our seats in our vehicles the group members started shouting in unison. The question was what is going to be there except the same flora and fauna. Sensing disinclination to visit Shalimar Gardens, our driver said “well I shall take you to a place which is different and not visited by any one except the locals”. It was again a garden, couple of decades old and not centuries. The location of Harwan garden was beneath a dam.
By the time we reached there and came out of the vehicles, it was drizzling. We procured our entry tickets and got in. We realized after our entry that what the driver was suggesting was nevertheless true. There were no outsiders there excepting ourselves and it looked as if this garden is reserved for Kashmiris. Interestingly we could not come across any of the locals in the two gardens we visited earlier as if they have developed a kind of apathy for them. May be they needed seclusion but here we are clearly encroaching upon their territory.
The garden has neat pathways with arched gates. There were climbing roses adoring the arches in full bloom and looked heavenly. The waters from the dam ran through a deep channel on one side passing through several age old shady Chinar trees. However the leaves resembled a Maple. The greenery all around captivated us. Several school children were on a visit that day. There were many girls sitting under a Chinar tree and singing together. Some Kashmiri families were also enjoying their picnic lunch.
It was drizzling but unmindful of our getting wet we climbed up the dam and could enjoy the beautiful view at the far end though it was a little foggy. The earthen slope of the dam also had a nursery of rose plants and some of them were also in bloom. Some school girls ventured to go inside to have a closer look at the flowers. We found that the girls were keen to have them photographed in their traditional attire. This facility was being provided by a photographer at the garden.
Yes it was a different experience and we had the satisfaction of having visited a place which is not frequented by tourists.
We were hungry and it was time for lunch too. We moved on and got down in front of a restaurant on the banks of Dal Lake. Our garden visits thus came to an end.