Chashma Shahi

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Chashma Shahi

Among the Mughal gardens of Kashmir Chashma Shahi fascinated Shahjahan, the fourth Mughal emperor, the most owing to the fact that it haunted him with the sweet memories of his beloved queen, Mumtaj Mahal who always accompanied him during his visit to these gardens. Once she fell ill and could not be cured despite several efforts of the royal Vaidyas and Haqueems and the chief of the medical staff of the court suggested that she must be allowed to visit some health resort especially during summer months and for that matter there was none the better than the valley of Kashmir that too Shahjahan preferred to stay at Pari Mahal along with his queen leaving behind all the busy schedule of political maneuvering. She enjoyed the fresh air and fresh vegetables and drank sweet water of Chashma Shahi resulting into miraculous recoupment in her health.

Mughal royal families were charmed by the scenic beauty and landscapes of its surroundings in addition to the sweet water of Chashma Shahi having medicinal value. Mughals were followed by Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab who reigned north India in early 19th century. He was also fond of Mughal gardens, Chashma Shahi was his favourite. He was followed by Dogra rulers, second and third Dogra emperors namely Maharaja Ranbir Singh and Maharaja Pratap Singh were the frequent visitors of this garden and spring. Its water was being carried to the royal kitchen to be used by the members of royal family. Shaikh Sahib, afterwards, also used the water of Chashma Shahi and it is said the water was supplied to him during his confinement. After sixties the modern emperors, high officials were allotted newly built huts in the environs of Chashmashahi and for their benefit a small canal supplying water of the spring to a reservoir was diverted to these huts with the result the original reservoir in the garden dried up causing damage to the environment of the layout of the garden.

Shahjahan was a great Mughal emperor who frequently visited Mughal gardens and stayed at Pari Mahal time and again with his queen. And with the improvement of her health after regular intake of water of Chashmashahi other members of the royal family were attracted towards this spring. Mughal princesses too wanted to take its water, as such a special department was created to carry its water to Agra to be used in the royal kitchen.

Hundreds of ponies were engaged with almost a hundred of supervisors who supervised the operation of carrying water from the valley to Agra in large earthen wares which were carried by the ponies, two at a time by a single pony, and a caravan of almost thirty to fifty ponies at a time used to travel from Chashma Shahi to Agra and vice versa via Mughal road cut through Poonch and Rajouri distts. at present. These earthenwares were covered with red cloth pieces and were used to be kept moist so as to regulate the coolness of the water inside. These earthenwares full of water of Chashmashahi used to reach Agra almost after a week and there was no time for the persons responsible to carry them to rest a while with the result they were exhausted terribly.

Since these earthen wares, full of precious water, were more costly than their exterior as such much care was taken to carry them safely to the Mughal capital . If any pot was broken along the way the man responsible for the same was punished and fined to pay the cost of the pot as well as having his salary for the tenure confiscated. In addition he had to pay the cost of the fodder used to feed the pony during this travel.

The Mughal princesses especially were very fond of this water. They believed that its medicinal nature improved their skin and taking it at regular intervals caused a glow to their visage.

We get ample information of this department until the death of the Shahjahan, after that, perhaps, this department was closed down by his descendant Aurangzeb, since he thought it to be a waste of money and energy.

Chashma Shahi is a beautiful garden situated at the distance of almost eight kilometers from Srinagar towards Harvan. It was a natural spring around which a garden was developed by the brother of Nur Jahan, the famous queen of Jahangir, the third Mughal emperor. He was so fascinated with the surroundings that he not only decorated the spring’s surroundings with beautiful floral plants and ornamental trees but also roofed the spring. A reservoir was constructed around the spring from which water gushed through canal network to causing fountains to play day and night, creating a soothing atmosphere during the summers.

Shahjahan added several trees and had the ceiling and had the roof of the spring decorated. He added several apartments to the Pari Mahal and a permanent settlement for the royal family was created which was in vogue till the regime of Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab came to rule the area.