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Himalaya

Day 27: Lahore

Lahore, Pakistan 
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Unblocking the fountains, Shalimar Gardens, Lahore.
Michael Palin - HimalayaA short night. Spend the morning at what has been described as the 'Versailles of the Punjab', the Shalimar Gardens, created 360 years ago by that prodigious creator of fine monuments Emperor Shah Jahan, the tasteful tyrant who gave the world, among other things, the Taj Mahal.

Long, metre-thick pink and cream sandstone walls protect the gardens from the commotion outside, and a great and soothing sense of space and tranquillity envelops you as you enter.

In a city bulging at the seams it is both gratifying and surprising that these 40 acres of royal pleasure gardens survive at all, even though it's clearly a struggle to maintain them to Shah Jahan's specifications.

The layout is formal, based on descriptions in the Koran, with three descending terraces and the ultimate in water features streams, pools, cascades and waterfalls all set in precise geometric harmony. In the days when the Emperor and Empress looked out at each other from their own personal pavilions, separated by shaded walkways and water channels, 400 fountains played in the gardens, kept at constant pressure by water from huge storage tanks continually topped up from a canal by a conveyor belt of wheels and buckets.

But that was the 17th century and modern technology just hasn't been able to keep up. The 20th century pumps are far less effective and water springs from the calcified fountains in dribbles rather than jets. An old man is wading around in the water tank unclogging non-performing fountains by hammering a wooden peg into their sclerotic spouts.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 27: Lahore
  • Country/sea: Pakistan
  • Place: Lahore
  • Book page no: 59

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