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An Analysis and Comparison of Taj Mahal Gardens, Agra and Shalimar (Shalamar) Gardens, Lahore

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Shalimar, a Persian style garden complex, was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in Lahore, modern day Pakistan. Its construction started in 1641 CE (1051 AH) and was completed in the following year. The Gardens are located near Baghbanpura along the Grand Trunk Road some 5 kilometers northeast of the main Lahore city. There are five geographical sources of inspiration for Shalimar Gardens: Central Asia, Kashmir, West Punjab, Persia, and the Delhi Sultanate.

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Lahore is often described as the "city of gardens". Although deserving of this title, few of its historic gardens survive to the present day and even fewer are preserved in something close to their original state. Shalamar is a grand exception to this trend. Comprising nearly forty acres on three broad terraces, its majesty brings to life the Mughal genius for landscape architecture like no other monument in Lahore. Prior to Shalamar, the Mughal emperors had been no strangers to garden building. Babur, the founder of the dynasty, had constructed a number of gardens during and after his invasion of the Indian subcontinent. Judging by his memoirs, he held a consumate interest in cataloging and describing the flora and fauna of the Indian landscape, and his gardens often incorporated varieties of native plants. Despite this, Babur never felt at home in the arid climate of Hindustan, preferring the cool weather of the Afghan mountains which had been his boyhood home. When he died, Babur left instructions to be interred in an earth covered grave in present-day Kabul rather than in a garden tomb on the subcontinent. As Babur's successors assembled a larger and more diverse empire, the gardens they founded served multiple purposes. In a practical sense, they provided an environment where the imperial court could camp in relative comfort as the emperor and his entourage traveled from site to site.

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Gardens integrate the finest features of naturaland built environments with the finest traditions of localand regional landscape design. They draw togetherhuman aspirations for worldly and spiritual order -merging the paradise-like potential of the world withsymbolic representations of the paradise that awaits thefaithful in the world to come (NathH, R. 1982). Mughal gardens also syn-thesize the aesthetic and functional needs of society.They provide a context for poetic, artistic, and personal beauty, on the one hand and for social functions, spatial protocol, and norms of social interaction, on the other.Mughal gardens of Lahore have a powerful impact onarchitectural history and design in many parts of theworld. Almost every introductory textbook on worldarchitecture refers to Mughal gardens as one of the pre-eminent expressions of Islamic art, culture, and values. Itis also important to narrate that there are two WorldHeritage sites in Lahore: Shalimar Garden and LahoreFort (Latif, S. M., 1981).When Emperor Akbar ordered for fortificationof the existing settlement of Lahore, there was a gardenrunning in fortification on other three of the four sides ofthe city.

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Given these points, the garden is majestic in it's size, and pretty impressive when you see the fountains and consider that they were built without modern technology. However, its excessive use and misuse by the crowd has robbed the gardens of its original beauty and landscape. The buildings deteriorated and greenery vanished. Therefore, in 1981, the Shalimar Gardens were included in the World Heritage list, under the UNESCO Convention concerning the protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage 1972.

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Latif, S. M. Lahore and its history, Architectural Remainsand Antiquities New Imperial Press 1892,Lahore, reprinted by Sandhu Printers, Lahore,Pakistan, 114-130, (1981).

NathH, R. History of Mughal Architecture, Abhinav publications, Delhi, India, 4, 31-39, (1982)

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