Located approximately seventy-five kilometers southeast of Srinagar, at the foot of the Banihal Pass, Vernag was an ancient place of worship. It was also an important rest stop on the way to Kashmir and its water spring. As with the Achabal Bagh, the water source for the Vernag garden is a spring inside the garden.
Like Vernag ("place of a snake,") many names in Kashmir contain the 'nag' syllable, including Anantnag, the name of the Dal Lake region. 'Nag,' or snake worship, is an old religion that predates Buddhism in Kashmir. Jahangir's memoirs include notes on snake worship in Vernag, and the Vernag spring was used as a sacred site long before Jahangir selected it as his own retreat. Jahangir had visited Vernag twice before he became the Mughal emperor, but it was in 1607, as emperor, that he ordered a garden with a long water canal to be built at Vernag. In 1620, the emperor ordered the planting of plane trees along the central canal of the garden. Jahangir died near Vernag, and it was reputed that he wished to be buried in the garden; however, upon his death (1627) he was buried in the Shahdara Bagh in Lahore.
The design of the Vernag garden is an adaptation of the traditional Persian chahar bagh (four gardens). The chahar bagh takes its inspiration from the Quranic description of heaven as having four rivers, of wine, honey, milk, and water. The traditional chahar bagh is uniformly shaped, with a water source in its center and four (chahar) radiating streams which divide the garden (bagh) into four parts.
As with other Kashmiri gardens, Vernag is located on a steep hillside, with its water source at the top. The traditional chahar bagh design had to be altered to fit the site's topography, as the source of water shifted from the traditional center of the square garden to the highest point of the garden. Given the limited options for flowing water (which could only run in one direction, from top to bottom), the double symmetry of the Persian garden was reduced to a central water axis, and the other traditional streams were minimized, appearing only in the form of the east-west canal.
The garden is rectangular in shape, measuring 460 meters by 110 meters. It runs a few degrees off a south-north axis, moving down the side of a hill. The garden is bisected on its long axis by a water canal that transfers water from the water source at the southern (upper) end into the Jhelum river on its northern end. Another canal running east-west intersects the main water canal at its southern end. The entrances to the garden lie at both ends of this east-west canal.
From the entrances, a walkway takes the visitor towards the octagonal pool, which is approached through a colonnade. This colonnade, composed of twenty-four arches, surrounds the pool, whose water comes from the spring deep below. The pool's water is clear and filled with carp. The water exits from the pool into the main axial water canal, which measures 305 meters long by 3.65 meters wide.
Some sources mention that the garden once featured palaces and pavilions for the Mughal emperor. On the sides of the octagonal pool, there exists stairs leading to upper levels, but no buildings remain.
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