Verinag is a town and a notified area committee in Anantnag district in the state of Jammu & Kashmir, India. It is about 26 kilometers away from Anantnag and approximately 78 kilometeres south-east from Srinagar which is the summer capital of the state of Jammu & Kashmir. Verinag is also the first tourist spot of Kashmir Valley when travelling by road from Jammu, the winter capital of the state of Jammu and Kashmir towards Srinagar, the summer capital of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It lies at the entry point of Kashmir Valley right after crossing Jawahar Tunnel.
A major tourist attraction of this place is Verinag Spring, for which this place is named. There is an octagonal stone basin at Verinag Spring and an arcade surrounding it which were built by Mughal emperor Jahangir in 1620 A.D. Later, a beautiful garden next to this spring, was laid out by his son Shah Jahan. This spring is known to never dry up or overflow. Verinag Spring is also the major source of river Jhelum. Verinag Spring and Mughal Arcade surrounding it is officially recognized by Archaeological Survey of India as a Monument of National Importance.
This place is so called after the name of a spring there called Verinág. The spring itself is named after the earlier name of a nearby town called Shahabad. Shahabad was earlier known by the name of Vér and also nag is local name for a spring. From this earlier name, this spring came to be known as Vernág which now has transformed to Verinag. Both the names, Verinag and Vernag, are used interchangeably.
Verinag Spring and Mughal Garden
Verinag spring which is in Verinag town, issues from a high scarp of a mountain spur, and is considered the source of the Jhelum river. It is situated at the bottom of a hill covered by pine trees and evergreen plants. Verinag spring was originally an irregular and shapeless pond, and water, oozing out from different places in it and spread about and formed a little marsh. Emperor Jahangir, whose artistic taste for polishing the beauty of nature is well known, saw this and at once determined to improve it. He built the octagonal tank of sculptured stones round it, so that all water was collected therein, for which carvers were brought from Iran. A garden was also built by Jahangir next to this natural spring which is of pre-Islamic religious significance. The construction date of the octagonal tank and the garden is 1029 Hijri or 1620 A.D, during the 15th year of the Jahangir’s reign, which is duly inscribed on a stone slab built into the southern wall of the spring. Seven years later, Jahangir’s son Shah Jahan, who was no less a lover of natural beauty, constructed cascades and aqueducts in straight lines through and around the fine garden which he, in order to enhance further the beauty of the place laid out in front of the spring. He also built hot and cold baths to the east of this garden, just outside of it, of which little trace is now left. The water contained in an octagonal spring has crystal blue water in which a variety of big fishes live. History and the carvings on stones in Persian on the walls surrounding the spring tell about how this great source of underwater spring is contained without revealing its architecture.The water is collected in a pool surrounded by arched recesses, and then flows down a 300-yard canal to the Bihat river. Jahangir wished to be buried at Verinag gardens, but his wife, Nur Jahan, disobeyed his wishes. Today nothing remains of the pavilions which once decorated the area.
According to a legend, goddess Vitasta(Jhelum) wanted to take rise from this spring, but it happened that when she came, Shiva was staying here, whereupon she had to go back and then she took her rise from Vithavatur(Vitastatra), a spring about a mile to the north-west of this place. Virah in Sanskrit means to ‘go back’ and ‘nag’ means a water spring and, as Vitasta had to go back from this place, it came to be called Virahnag or “Vernag”. This spring is also considered to be the residing place of Nilanaga, who is placed by ancient tradition, at the head of all Nagas or spring-deities of Kashmir. Thus this spring is also known as “Nilakunda” or spring of Nila. According to Nilamata Purana, the valley of Kashmir was once a lake called “Satisara” or lake of Parvati. Near this spring, Lord Vishnu is said to have first placed the point of the plough with which Satisara was drained and here goddess Parvati was brought to light from the netherworld in the form of river Vitasta by stroke of Lord Shiva’s trident.
The spring is at the exact centre almost 50 feet (as the locals tell about the depth) under water from where the water continuously comes up and flows into the gardens facing the spring. It is also a sacred place for Hindus as there is a Lord Shiva shivling in one of the arcs (the very first on the left of the entry of the spring). The historical garden also has an old temple with some ancient idols of Hindu goddesses.
Some 2 km away is Vithavatur(Vitastatra), supposed to be the source of river Jhelum. The waters of the many nearby springs, called collectively, Sapta Rishi, have their confluence at Sangam, where people bathe on festival days. The birth of the river is celebrated annually with a fair on the thirteenth day of the bright fortnight of the month Bhadrapada of the Hindu Calendar.
Stone slab on southern wall
There are two stone slabs built into the western and southern walls of Verinag spring, on which prose in Persian language, in praise of the spring, and the dates of construction of the tank and aqueduct, are inscribed. The translation of prose in Persian language written on stone slab built into the southern wall of spring is as follows:-
The king of seven kingdoms, the administrator
of justice, the father of victory, Nur-ud-din, Jahangir
son of Akbar, the martyr king, halted at this spring
of God’s grace in the 15th year of his reign. This
construction was made by order of His Majesty.
By Jahangir, son of King Akbar,
This construction was raised to the skies.
The architect of intelligence got its date—
‘May the mansion last for ever together with the spring Vernag!’ (1029 Hijri)
Stone slab on western wall
The translation of prose in Persian language written on stone slab built into the western wall of spring is as follows:-
Haidar, by order of Shah Jahan, the paramount lord of his age—-
God be praised—made the cascade and aqueduct flow.
This aqueduct reminds one of the aqueduct of paradise.
By this cascade Kashmir attained glory
The unseen Angel declared the date of aqueduct:-
‘The aqueduct has issued from the heavenly spring’ (1037 Hijri.)
§Verinag Spring in historical texts
This spring has been mentioned in various historical texts. Various accounts of this spring are as follows:
Ain-i-Akbari: Ain-i-Akbari, is a 16th-century, detailed document recording the administration of emperor Akbar’s empire, written by his vizier, Abu’l-Fazl ibn Mubarak. The account of Verinag Spring in this text is as follows:
“In the Vér tract of country is the source of the Bihat. It is a pool measuring a jarib which tosses in foam with an astonishing roar, and its depth is unfathomable. It goes by the name of Vernág and is surrounded by a stone embankment and to its east are temples of stone.”
Bihat, as metioned in the above quoted text, is the name of a river in Verinag.
Tuzk-e-Jahangiri: Tuzuk-e-Jahangiri or Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri is the autobiography of Mughal Emperor Nur-ud-din Muhammad Jahangir (1569-1609). It is also referred to as Jahangirnama. The account of Verinag Spring in this text is as follows:
“The source of the Bihaṭ is a spring in Kashmir called the Vīr-nāg; in the language of India a snake is vīr-nāg. Clearly there had been a large snake at that place. I went twice to the spring in my father’s lifetime; it is 20 kos from the city of Kashmir. It is an octagonal reservoir about 20 yards by 20. Near it are the remains of a place of worship for recluses; cells cut out of the rock and numerous caves. The water is exceedingly pure. Although I could not guess its depth, a grain of poppy-seed is visible until it touches the bottom. There were many fish to be seen in it. As I had heard that it was unfathomable, I ordered them to throw in a cord with a stone attached, and when this cord was measured in gaz it became evident that the depth was not more than once and a half the height of a man. After my accession I ordered them to build the sides of the spring round with stone, and they made a garden round it with a canal; and built halls and houses about it, and made a place such that travellers over the world can point out few like it.”
Rajatarangini: Rājatarangiṇī is a metrical historical chronicle of north-western Indian subcontinent, particularly the kings of Kashmir, written in Sanskrit by Kashmiri Brahman Kalhaṇa in 12th century CE. Verinag Spring in this text is known by the name of Nilakunda.The account of Verinag Spring in this text is as follows:
“That (land) is protected by Nīla, the lord of all Nāgas, whose regal parasol is formed by the circular pond (of the Nīlakunda) with the Vitastā’s newly rising stream as its stick. There Gauri, though she has assumed the form of the Vitastā, still keeps her wonted inclination.”
The “land” referred to in above quoted text is Kashmir. Vitastā is another name for river Jhelum.
Verinag Mughal Garden Design
Verinag Mughal Garden Plan
The design of the Verinag garden is an adaptation of the traditional Persian Charbagh(four gardens). The Charbagh takes its inspiration from the Quranic description of heaven as having four rivers, of wine, honey, milk, and water. The traditional Charbagh is uniformly shaped, with a water source in its center and four (char) 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 Charbagh 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.