The Shalimar Gardens, constructed by Shah Jahan in 1641-2 is a Mughal garden, layering Persian influences over medieval Islamic garden traditions, and bearing witness to the apogee of Mughal artistic expression. The Mughal garden is characterized by enclosing walls, a rectilinear layout of paths and features, and large expanses of flowing water. The Shalimar Gardens cover 16 hectares, and is arranged in three terraces descending from the south to the north. The regular plan, enclosed by a crenellated wall of red sandstone, disposes square beds on the upper and lower terraces and elongated blocks on the narrower, intermediate terrace; within, elegant pavilions balance harmoniously arranged poplar and cypress trees, reflected in the vast basins of water.
The project management was carried out under the superintendence of Khalilullah Khan, a noble of Shah Jahan's court, in cooperation with Ali Mardan Khan and Mulla Alaul Maulk Tuni. The Shalimar Gardens are located near Baghbanpura along the Grand Trunk Road some 5 kilometers northeast of the main Lahore city. There are five geographical sources of inspiration for Shalimar Gardens: Central Asia, Kashmir, West Punjab, Persia, and the Delhi Sultanate. The Gardens have been laid out from south to north in three descending terraces, which are elevated by 4–5 meters above one another.
- The upper terrace named Farah Baksh meaning Bestower of Pleasure.
- The middle terrace named Faiz Baksh meaning Bestower of Goodness.
- The lower terrace named Hayat Baksh meaning Bestower of life.
They are not to be confused with the Shalimar Gardens in Jammu and Kashmir. The Shalimar Gardens in Lahore are laid out in the form of an oblong parallelogram, surrounded by a high brick wall, which is famous for its intricate fretwork. This garden was made on the concept of Char Bhagh. The gardens measure 658 meters north to south and 258 meters east to west. In 1981, Shalimar Gardens was included as a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with the Lahore Fort, under the UNESCO Convention concerning the protection of the world's cultural and natural heritage sites in 1972.
To irrigate the Gardens, a canal named Shah Nahar meaning Royal canal, later also known as Hansti nahar, meaning Laughing canal was brought from Rajpot (present day Madhpur in India), a distance of over 161 kilometers. The canal intersected the Gardens and discharged into a large marble basin in the middle terrace. From this basin, and from the canal, rise 410 fountains, which discharge into wide marble pools. The surrounding area is rendered cooler by the flowing of the fountains, which is a particular relief for visitors during Lahore's blistering summers, with temperature sometimes exceeding 120 °F.