Delhiwale: Shah Jahan’s real paradise
The lush trees and slim walkways of Shalimar Bagh tell the tale of an emperor’s love for parks and a pastoral setting lost in timedelhi Updated: Aug 15, 2017 14:18 IST
You might think that Mughal emperor Shah Jahan’s great gift to Delhi was the creation of the Walled City of Shahjahanabad.
Please allow us to disagree.
We are more thankful to Shah Jahan for a rarely visited garden.
Shalimar Bagh lies towards the north of the city. Nestled between banquet halls, bungalows and apartments are the 100-acre remains of a network of orchards and parks. Shah Jahan gave this land to his subjects on the understanding that their rent would be waived off if they grew trees. In the 1857 uprising, Indian sepoys fired at British soldiers on the Ridge from behind these trees. After the British took over the city, they cut down most of these woods. Today, the area is owned by the Delhi Development Authority.
Entering the Shalimar Bagh garden, also known as District Park, gives an idea of what it must have been like when the grove stretched all the way to Subzi Mandi in Azadpur. Fruits that have gone out of fashion can still be found here: badhal, kamrakh, shehtoot, karaunda, and amla.
Some trees are unwieldy; their limbs leaning close to one another, their branches embracing each other. These intertwined figures look like ghostly apparitions in a fairy tale.
The walkways along the garden are like ribbons choked with moss and grass. The sound of birds drowns out every other noise. A few cows and pigs complete the pastoral setting.
Once you’ve been here, come back and tell us if Shah Jahan’s greatest contribution to Delhi was its Walled City or this orchard.
First Published: Aug 15, 2017 14:16 IST