While the recent history and development of the Mughal types of gardens is credited to Emperor Jahangir, the ancient history of the garden can be traced to the 2nd century when it was built during the reign of Pravarsena II. Praversena II founded the city of Srinagar and ruled in Kashmir from 79 AD to 139 AD. He had built a cottage for his stay at the northeastern corner of the Dal Lake and had named it Shalimar . The word “Shalimar ” in Sanskrit means abode of love. The king, on his visits to a local saint by the name Sukarma Swami at Harwan, used to stop at this cottage. Over the years, the cottage fell into ruins and later could not be located. However, the name of the village remained as Shalimar.
It is here that Emperor Jahangir built his celebrated Shalimar Bagh, his dream project to please his queen.He enlarged the ancient garden in 1619 into a royal garden and called it ‘Farah Baksh’ (‘the delightful’). He built it for his wife Nur Jahan (‘light of the world’). In 1630, under Emperor Shah Jahan’s orders, Zafar Khan the governor of Kashmir extended it. He named it ‘Faiz Baksh’ (‘the bountiful’). It then became a pleasure place for the Pathan and Sikh governors who followed Zafar Khan.
During the rule of Maharaja Ranjit Singh the marble pavilion was the guest house for European visitors. Electrification of the premises was done during Maharaja Hari Singh’s rule. Thus, over the years, the garden was extended and improved by many rulers and called by different names, but the most popular name ‘Shalimar Bagh’ continues to this day.
During the Mughal period in particular, Emperor Jahangir and his wife Nur Jahan were so enamoured of Kashmir that during summer they moved to Srinagar with their full court entourage from Delhi at least 13 times. Shalimar Bagh was their imperial summer residence and the Royal Court. They crossed the arduous snowy passes of the Pir Panjal mountain range on elephants to reach Srinagar