Kesharmahal Kathmandu: An oasis in the midst of arid Kathmandu’s bustle, the Garden of Dreams, a neoclassical monument dedicated to intense beauty and vibrant aesthetics, truly lives up to its name. Originally built as the palace garden of late Field Marshal Kaiser (Keshar) Shumsher Rana’s Kaiser (Keshar) Mahal, it was named by Time magazine as one of the 24 must-visit places in the world in its Adventure Travel tour packages Special in 2013. This magnificent opus of natural allure, in the absence of an equally beautiful and managed counterpart, serves today as a common hangout for friends and families.
Designed and constructed by Kishore Narsingh Rana and his brother Kumar Narsingh, the Garden of Dreams embodies Kaiser Shumsher’s personal, refined taste in architecture, especially the Edwardian style, landscape and beauty. Saanu Karmacharya, Office Assistance at the Garden of Dreams, says, “When Kaiser Shumsher had gone to England, he visited the gardens of the then king, Edward VII. Those gardens inspired him to have one back home.”
Within the walls, the axial positioning of the Garden’s architectural features, such as an enthralling ensemble of pavilions, fountains, decorative garden furniture, pergolas, balustrades and balconies, urns and birdhouses, stands in contrast to its more informal and natural planting. This juxtaposition is consistent with that of the gardens created in England during the reign of Edward VII.
Walk on the paved paths around the perimeter and around the planting areas surrounded by a sunken flower garden with a large pond at the center; rest in the trellises in the middle of a low maze; lie on the mat at the amphitheatre with a book in your hand; or sit comfortably at the beautiful pavilions and gazebos – you simply cannot help losing yourself in that quiet environment. Home to a rich library where visitors can feast on elegance commingled with historical and architectural finesse, it is no wonder that the Garden of Dreams is considered as one of the most attractive tranquil locations in the city.
The then Prime Minister Chandra SJB Rana obtained the plot adjacent to the former Royal Palace for his son Kaiser Shumsher, where Kaiser established his magnificent palace and the charming garden. Karmacharya says that during one particular Tihar, Kaiser Shumsher won Rs. 100,000 in a game of Kauda against his father, and the money he later spent on the Garden.
Upon its creation in the early 1920s, the garden was known as the Garden of Six Seasons for the six different pavilions in it that were named after the seasons, and was taken to be the most sophisticated private garden of that time. These pavilions provide the Garden’s framework and lend a cosmopolitan flavor to the formal arrangement of flowers, shrubs, and trees. Today, only three of those pavilions exist: the Spring pavilion, the Summer pavilion, and the Monsoon pavilion; the rest crumbled down and disappeared in the course of time.
The Narsingh Rana brothers had previously designed and supervised the construction of Singha Durbar for Chandra Shumsher in 1907. At that time, Singha Durbar had been dubbed one of the most ambitious palaces in Asia. Impressed by their work, Kaiser Shumsher then commissioned them to build him the Garden. The brothers’ experience, combined with Kaiser Shumsher’s vision, resulted in the extraordinary sophistication and perfection of what stands today as the Garden of Dreams.
After the demise of Kaiser Shumsher in 1964, the Garden was handed over to His Majesty’s Government of Nepal as per his will. However, due to lack of proper care and maintenance, the Garden lacked appropriate management for decades. Later, with the help of the Austrian Government, the Garden was restored by the Ministry of Education and Eco-Himal between 2000-2007 AD.
The crumbling gazebos were reinstated, the garden paths repaved, the overgrown weeds were yanked out, and the rich varieties of flora and fauna were refurbished so that Garden could once again live up to its name in its original grandeur and stand among the best South Asian monuments.
Today the Garden remains open (for a nominal fee) for all those who wish to see, feel and enjoy Kaiser Shumsher’s singular and exotic gift of fascinating architecture and resonating beauty to Nepal.