It is well known that the Mughals, especially Emperor Jahangir had a deep connection with Kashmir. His famous garden, the Shalimar Bagh attracts thousands of tourists each year, even now. But next time you head to the valley, do stop by at the ‘Pari Mahal’ or the Palace of Fairies built by his grandson, Dara Shikoh. Perched on top of the Zarbawan mountain range and overlooking the Dal Lake in Srinagar, the Pari Mahal lives up to its name. It looks straight out of a fairy tale!
The Pari Mahal was a Mughal observatory and school of astrology, commissioned by Prince Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in 1640 CE. It has a beautiful six terraced garden with pavilions, fountains and hammams.
Like his grandfather Jehangir, Dara Shikoh too, loved Kashmir. Being a great admirer of mysticism, Dara Shikoh loved visiting Kashmir and having scholarly discussions with the learned men who accompanied him. During his visits, Pari Mahal served as the Prince’s residence and library. Pir Mullah Shah, one of Dara Shikoh’s teachers lived here and did his research.
There is however, debate among scholars as to how Pari Mahal got its name. Some believe that the palace was named after Dara Shikoh’s wife, Pari Begum, while others believe that it was originally called Pir Mahal which was later corrupted to Pari Mahal.
Dara Shikoh was a great scholar and commissioned the translations of the Upanishads from Sanskrit to Persian in 1657. His book, Majma-ul-Bahrain or The Confluence of Two Seas, is considered to be one of the most influential Persian books of its time. In the book, Dara Shikoh details the similarities between the teachings of the Sufis and the Hindu Vedas. An original page from this book is currently housed in the Portrait Gallery of Victoria Memorial, Kolkata.
Sadly, in the war of succession that followed Shah Jahan’s death , Dara Shikoh lost to his brother Aurangzeb and was put to death on 30th August 1659. After his death, Emperor Aurangzeb turned his gaze to the south and Pari Mahal was abandoned. But despite the centuries of neglect, this ‘Palace of Fairies’ continues to amaze and enthral all those who visit it.