Monday, August 1, 2011

Wah Gardens! A Treasure Lost

I was in 8th class in Cadet College Hassan Abdal when visited Wah gardens for the first time on annual picnic. We had swimming, cricket, football, fishing and then lunch at this historical place. Then came a visit on a bike with my roommate Usman, who has been more than a friend to me. Again we had fun there. Especially the history and Usman's company and a glimpse of past made it a marvelous trip.

When we talk about the mughals, their art, their architecture, their wealth, their establishment, it is always an era, a huge data which our memory recalls. The fascinating buildings, tombs, castles, bewitching gardens, roads, palaces and much more takes back to the time of glory, when sub continent was termed as sparrow of gold.

Wah gardens is a bead of the thread which takes back to this golden era. When we talk about the history of Wah Gardens, It is said that when Mughal emperor Akbar came to this place, he was straightaway impressed by the beauty and landscape of the area and upon seeing the idyllic setting and clear, rushing waters, purportedly uttered the word "Wah" - the "Wow" in English. Hence the place came to be known as Wah. Another explanation is that Mughal Emperor Jahangir, while traveling to Kashmir, stopped at a small village near Hassanabdal. The village called Jalalsar was situated near a number of springs. “Wah, Wah, exclaimed the weary emperor at the idyllic sight.

From then on the village was renamed as Wah. Today, the area is called the Wah Gardens as the emperor had built a miniature Shalamar Gardens at the site. Whatever the root, Wah Gardens, built by Mughals are not only unique, aesthetically designed and laid but also provide freshness to the burning eyes from the scorching heat of the area. The basic map and design was planned by Ahmed Mehmer Lahori.

Although Hasan Abdal's springs and shrines have a much longer history, the fourth Mughal ruler, Jahangir, provides the first detailed Mughal account of the site and its garden. The sixth ruler, Aurangzeb, stayed there for over a year. The gardens fell into disarray during the Durrani and the Sikh periods. During the British period, the garden was handed over to Muhammed Hayat Khan of Wah, to prevent further deterioration.

After 1976, the government took over the gardens for archaeological study. Recently, the Department of Archaeology has excavated and restored part of the garden, while researchers such as Shahid Rajput (1996) have documented its history, spatial structure, and features. Philippa Vaughn (1995) has interpreted the garden as a unique surviving example of a Manzil Bagh, where traveling nobles would halt on their journey. Wescoat (1990) suggests it may reflect the influence of contemporary Mughal garden design in Kashmir, as it lay on an important road to that province and had a similar spring-fed, terraced layout. Abdul Rehman (1997) provides a detailed account of the garden within the natural and built environment of Hasan Abdal. And in view of this Manzil garden's beauty and historical significance, it seems likely to draw many more travelers, researchers, and conservationists in the years to come.

Here is a pictorial overview of Wah Gardens. See and get yourself lost in the beauty, art and aesthetics of the past.

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