Construction began in 1641 AD (1051 AH) and was completed the following year. The project management was carried out under the superintendence of Khalilullah Khan, a noble of Shah Jahan's court, in cooperation with Ali Mardan Khan and Mulla Alaul Maulk Tuni. The meaning of the name Shalimar remains unknown, Russian scholar Anna Suvorova in her book "Lahore: Topophilia of Space and Place" has asserted that it is certainly an Arabic or Persian name since a Muslim King would never use a Sanskrit or Hindu name for a royal garden. The Shalimar Gardens are located near Baghbanpura along the Grand Trunk Road some 5 kilometers northeast of the main Lahore city. Shalimar Gardens draws inspiration from Central Asia, Kashmir, West Punjab, Persia, and the Delhi Sultanate.
The Shalimar Gardens are laid out in the form of an oblong parallelogram, surrounded by a high brick wall, which is famous for its intricate fretwork. This garden was made on the concept of Char Bhagh. The gardens measure 658 meters north to south and 258 meters east to west. In 1981, Shalimar Gardens was included as a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with the Lahore Fort, under the UNESCO Convention concerning the protection of the world's cultural and natural heritage sites in 1972.
The three level terraces of the Gardens
The Gardens have been laid out from south to north in three descending terraces, which are elevated by 4-5 metres (13-15 feet) above one another. The three terraces have names in Urdu as follows:
The upper terrace named Farah Baksh meaning Bestower of Pleasure.
The middle terrace named Faiz Baksh meaning Bestower of Goodness.
The lower terrace named Hayat Baksh meaning Bestower of life.
From this basin, and from the canal, rise 410 fountains, which discharge into wide marble pools.It is a credit to the creativity of Mughal engineers that even today scientists are unable to fully comprehend the water systems and thermal engineering from architectural blueprints. The surrounding area is rendered cooler by the flowing of the fountains, which is a particular relief for visitors during Lahore's blistering summers, with temperature sometimes exceeding 120 °F (49 °C). The distribution of the fountains is as follows:
- The upper level terrace has 105 fountains.
- The middle level terrace has 152 fountains.
- The lower level terrace has 153 fountains.
- All combined, the Gardens has 410 fountains.
The Gardens have 5 water cascades including the great marble cascade and Sawan Bhadoon.
Buildings of the Gardens
The buildings of the Gardens include:
Sawan Bhadum pavilions
Naqar Khana and its buildings
Khwabgah or Sleeping chambers
Hammam or Royal bath
The Aiwan or Grand hall
Aramgah or Resting place
Khawabgah of Begum Sahib or Dream place of the emperor's wife
Baradaries or summer pavilions to enjoy the coolness created by the Gardens' fountains
Diwan-e-Khas-o-Aam or Hall of special & ordinary audience with the emperor
Two gateways and minarets in the corners of the Gardens
Trees of the Gardens
Some of the varieties of trees that were planted included:
Sapling of Cypress
Sour & sweet oranges
Numerous other varieties of odoriferous (fragrant) and non odoriferous and fruit giving plants