Natch House, Shalimar gardens, Srinugger [Srinagar].
Photographer: Bourne, Samuel
Medium: Photographic print
This photograph taken at the Shalimar Gardens in Srinagar in the modern-day Himalayan state of Jammu and Kashmir was taken by Samuel Bourne in the 1860s. The Shalimar Gardens were built for the empress Nur Jahan by her husband Jahangir in 1616. They are approached via a walkway strewn with lotus plants along the route of a canal leading from Lake Dal. In the centre of the garden is a wide, rectangular basin in which there is a black marble pavilion surrounded by fountains and jets of water. Behind, are rows of chini-kanas or pigeon holes, in which lights were placed behind the cascading water. The name of the Natch House suggests that it was used as a venue for performances of singing and dancing by locally trained Natch girls. Such girls traditionally sang and danced in temples as well as performing for the members of royal houses. Their training usually began in infancy. Each girl's profits would then be held as common stock until she was old enough to acquire the right to her own fund.