While in Kashmir, Verinag is a must-visit place in the south of the Valley. Verinag is famous for the historic Mughal gardens and the Spring which is considered the source of the River Jehlum.
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 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 the 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) underwater 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 a temple inside it with some 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