Pari Mahal, Srinagar: the story behind it

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The Story Behind is a CNT series that shines a light on lesser-known landmarks across Incredible India

Overlooking Dal Lake and sitting high above the Zabarwan mountain range, Pari Mahal, which translates to “fairy palace”, offers some of the most breathtaking views in all of Srinagar. Admire the rolling hills and shimmering waters in the distance and the monument will certainly seem to live up to its moniker. At first glance, one might think the palace was built straight out of a fairy tale. But according to local legends, Pari Mahal was not named for its heavenly location, but for its mythical sightings and traditions of princesses who were held there against their will by evil magicians.

Mahal betFrank Bienewald / Alamy Stock Photo

These macabre tales are perhaps the furthest thing from your mind when you arrive here. This seven-tiered garden structure was built by Mughal Prince Dara Shikoh, eldest son of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, in the mid-1600s. Prince Dara Shikoh was the heir apparent, but despite his father’s support , he was defeated by Aurangazeb who then became the next emperor. A patron of the arts, the prince was well known for his collection of paintings and calligraphy called “Dara Shikoh” which was later presented to Nandira Banu, his wife.

Inside Pari Mahal, Srinagar

The entire structure of Pari Mahal pays homage to the art of the era of Shah Jahan’s reign, with iconic elements of Islamic architecture – its exquisite arches and terraced gardens set it apart from other monuments in Kashmir.

The prince lived here in the 1640s, 1645 and 1654 respectively, during which time Pari Mahal is said to have served as a library, spiritual center and dwelling place. Due to its height and unique location, the structure has also been used as an observatory for teaching astronomy and astrology. Soon after Indian independence in 1947, these terraced gardens became the property of the government of Jammu and Kashmir.

A five-minute drive from the famous Cheshma Shahi Gardens, a gift from Shah Jahan to his eldest son, Pari Mahal is a must-see in Srinagar.

Opening hours: 9.30am-7.30pm; Rs10 for a one hour entry. Pari Mahal, Dal Lake, Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir

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