SHE’S HAD SIX GLASSES of keora sherbet in the last hour. The thin streams of cool air from the indoor water channels are a relief, but as soon as Nur Jahan parts the khus curtain to step out, she is arrested by a wall of heat. Though they were sprinkled twice already, the Imperial gardens are wearing a veil of dust. Further out, the Yamuna is down to a stream. There is really only one way out of the oppression of the impending summer. She will leave for the cooler environs of Kashmir, where she will be joined a little later by Jahangir.
It will not be Jahangir’s first retreat to Kashmir as Emperor. He still remembers watching the harvest of the saffron fields as a child in the company of his father, who came to regard Kashmir as his private garden. Of Kashmir, he writes in his journals:
In the soul-enchanting spring,
the hills and plains are filled with blossoms,
the gates, the walls, the courts, the roofs are lighted up
by the torches of banquet-adoring tulips.
Jahangir has already had many pleasure gardens built in Kashmir, notably: Shalimar Bagh, Achabal and Nishat Bagh. But his special favourite are the pavilions at Vernag, the spring at the source of River Jhelum. The construction of the pavilion garden at Vernag has only recently been completed and guests at the party held a while back to mark its completion, marvelled at the arcades, walkways, baradaris and its overall effect of being one with the landscape, as they drank of the wine and ate peaches the Emperor had specially ordered from Kabul.
This time as Jahangir spends the afternoon at Vernag, he has attendants catch the carp in the central tank and release them back after placing gold nose rings on each fish. As he walks back looking up at the hills rising in the distance, he tells Nur that if he could choose the place where he should die, it would have to be Vernag.