To Nishat Bagh…by Altaf Bashir
Normally, December month is quite chilly in Srinagar, but this time it seems that the bug of global warming has bitten this place also. Today it is unexceptionally warm as compared to yesterday, no wonder, we decided to go for a spin along with Faiz Khan, a friend of over five years. Today’s destination: drive along the famous Boulevard Road. Destination being the famous Mughal Garden, Nishat – famously known as ‘Garden of Gladness’. It was constructed in the 17th century by the most senior noble of the Mughal court. Mirza Abul Hassan or Asaf Jah, younger brother of Empress, Nur Jehan and the father- in -law of the Emperor Shah Jehan.
We chased an old town road in the Srinagar-city that was once a centre for art and culture for centuries, revered shrines, architecture which is over centuries old and has easily blended with styles from multiple eras, now reduced to a congested city that barely allows smooth vehicular movement.
It was unusual to ride motor-cycle in the month of December to blend with nature and architecture, but today it was different. At night the temperature mostly touchs zero. Faiz, sitting on the back seat of motorcycle, nuzzled his chin into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind of Chilaikalaan, forty days of harsh winter period in Kashmir.
The Boulevard road which connects to Nishat and other Mughal Gardens in the City of Srinagar, snakes around the shores of the famous Dal lake remain frequently crowded especially from spring to summer seasons when the tourist flow is high. But during winter season, the road wears a deserted look with infrequent vehicular movement that gave way to smooth and hassle free driving.
During summer months, driving through this road is never a lonely pursuit. The routine is broken at times while taking Shikra ride. As of now, the boatman still wait on the parapet of Boulevard-road for some occasional customers to come and visit the interior of Dal Lake.
During our brief stop, we chanced upon an architect from central India, who had been planning a trip to Sringar for a while, eventually made it in the cold month of December. Being Kashmiris, it was not difficult to start a conversation with him, which end up in an interesting obervations about keeping this whole stretch around Dal Lake clean and a place of tourist attraction. Dal Lake is a prime example of beauty and tourist attraction, this road should be designed in such a way that it attracts tourist in all seasons, the local traffic should be regulated if not stopped to ply on this road which disturbs the essence of serene lake. Hoteliers should not be allowed to discharge their waste through Dal Lake, there should be proper sanitation and waste product management in place around Dal Lake.
On reaching the Nihat garden, the most prominent site on this road is the camel bridge which is situated in the middle of Dal Lake. Looking out into the grey Dal Lake water spread in the front, on the other side of this lake is the famous Shrine Hazratbal and adjucent to it is the Kashmir University.
During summer months, one has to walk through a mesh mounted on poles stone pathway which channels the human traffic on a predefined route, protecting the saplings, streams from any unwanted human intervention. But here we are in the month of December, missing out all the colours of nature.
The streams in the garden during the winter time are dried up, the tourist flow is thin.
Nishat Bagh is divided into two sections: the Public Zone and the Last terrace forming the private enclosure. Nishat is famous and unique from other Mughal Gardens because of harmony of the relationship between the terraced gardens, the lake and the mountain that sets it apart from other Mughal gardens. The most breathtaking scene is when water terraces down onto the serene waters of Dal Lake during the summer months. The garden was conceived in 12 majestic tabakats (terraces) representing the 12 signs of the Zodiac. Play of water and sound, bountiful channels, gushing cascades shady vistas of Chinar lined avenues, all helped in creating an image or rather an impression of Firdous (Paradise) on earth.
Walking on these ascending paths can at times be an immensely liberating experience. The feeling of being one with the elements can fast turn into helplessness. Chastened by the experience, I pulled over at resting place at the top-terrace of Nishat Garden to calm down. This resting place has a park where small children love to play cricket. Avenues between Chinar trees are the best time to lit dried leaves and warm bare hands. There is a Shrine at the top the last terrace, where people summon and pay obseience .
Being the month of December, the lights are getting low, time for us to leave a plan for another bike ride soon.
About the author
Altaf Bashir is a South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation
Fellow, he has recently completed his Master’s in International
s Major’s in ‘Peace and Conflict Studies’. His areas of interest are nation-building and conflict resolution with a focus on
Afghanistan. He has been part of Afghanistan Think Tank and has worked on the subject of ‘Radical Islamization in Afghanistan’. His editorials have been published in Greater Kashmir. He enjoys travel and photography.