The Pinjore Garden is unique not just because it’s one of the last Mughal Gardens to be built anywhere in the Indian subcontinent but also because various layers of Mughal, Sikh Patiala, colonial and modern intervention and influence can be discerned in it.
The garden walls, gates, Sheesh Mahal, Rang Mahal are all part of the Mughal layer alongwith the octagonal bastions and the old motel. The east wall of the upper enclosure and the south-east wall of the lower enclosure were raised during the Sikh period probably due to security reasons. The additions to these walls are in Lahori and modular bricks whereas the Mughal walls are in stone masonry.
The octagonal bastions have verandahs in front which have been added during the Sikh period. The roofs of these verandahs are jack arched which is a clear evidence of colonial influence during the later Sikh (Patiala) period. The Rang Mahal has asymmetrical additions on its first floor which were made during the Sikh period whereas the Jal Mahal as a whole is most likely a Sikh structure.
The rationale for conservation intervention is based on the understanding of the cultural significance of the various built components of the site and their existing condition. The objective being to conserve all the architectural components which are intrinsic to the original character of the garden.
Historically, the ownership of the garden vested with different dynasties from the Mughals, to the hill rulers of Himachal Pradesh, and the royal house of Patiala. Post independence, after the creation of Haryana, the ownership of the garden has vested with the Haryana Tourism Corporation. Some of the challenges in the conservation and preservation of the garden were :
- structural conservation of the garden walls and gates (Mughal structures were in a state of serious disrepair).
Conservation of the central axis as this is vital element of the garden. This included conservation of the water system, the channel, the paving of its original bed, the Jal Mahal and planting. The objective was to restore the garden to its intrinsic features.
- Conservation and reuse of the six bastions while preserving the character of the two distinct layers of intervention (bastions and the verandah). These would then be used to provide facilities for the visitors as well as the relocation of the restaurant which was being run out of the Jal Mahal.
- Removal of modern structural interventions which were against the basic character of the site, for example, the mini zoo, shopping kiosks and the four toilet blocks from within the Chaharbagh.
- Conservation of the various decorative features of the site – painted walls, chinikhanas, polychrome doors and wall paintings from the Sikh period.
- Revitalization of the central water system.
- Conservation of the garden especially the central axis and the two forecourts which had been planted in a manner which was not in the spirit of the Mughal garden.
- Interpretation, signages and amenities for the visitors so as to enhance the experience of the garden and its history.
It is an internationally accepted norm that the quality of experience of a heritage site should be the essence of any tourism project envisaged for it. The challenge was to make this historic place visitor friendly, self-sustainable without causing damage to its significant characteristics. Therefore, due care was taken while attempting the conservation of the garden that its historic fabric must conform to the principles that ensure its original integrity. All stakeholders involved with the restoration and upkeep of the garden were sensitized to respect its historic fabric, these included employees of Haryana Tourism Corporation, archaeologists, architects, engineers, surveyors, contractors, conservators and local authorities.
In an inspired effort, the Haryana Tourism Corporation with financial assistance from Union Tourism Ministry initiated the conservation and revitalization of this historical garden in 2006-2007. The garden’s vegetation, water system and drainage was revitalized, services and visitor amenities upgraded by re-interpreting them, the historic buildings and palaces conserved, later additions which were against the character of the garden like the mini zoo, shopping kiosks and the toilet block within the Chaharbagh dismantled. The restaurant running in the Jal Mahal was closed down and restoration of the fortress wall and bastions completed.