The site of the Shalimar Gardens originally belonged to one of the noble Zaildar families in the region, well known as ArainMian Family Baghbanpura. The family was also given the royal title of 'Mian' by the Mughal Emperor, for its services to the Empire. Mian Muhammad Yusuf, then the head of the Arain Mian family, donated the site of Ishaq Pura to the Emperor Shah Jahan, after pressure was placed on the family by the royal engineers who wished to build on the site due to its good position and soil. In return, Shah Jahan granted the Arain Mian family governance of the Shalimar Gardens. The Shalimar Gardens remained under the custodianship of this family for more than 350 years.
The Shalimar Gardens 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.
The gardens have been laid out from south to north in three levels of terraces, which are elevated by 4–5 metres (13-15 feet) above one another. The respective names of the three terraces have been listed as follows:
The middle level terrace of the garden, known as the Faiz Bakhsh terrace
The upper level or the third terrace named Farah Baksh meaning Bestower of Pleasure
The middle level or the second terrace named Faiz Baksh meaning Bestower of Goodness
The lower level terrace named Hayat Baksh meaning Bestower of Life
From this basin, and from the canal, rise 410 fountains, which discharge into wide marble pools.It is a credit to the creativity of Mughal engineers that even today scientists are unable to fully comprehend the water systems and thermal engineering from architectural blueprints. 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 (49 °C). The distribution of the fountains is as follows:
The upper level terrace has 105 fountains.
The middle level terrace has 152 fountains.
The lower level terrace has 153 fountains.
All combined, the Gardens has 410 fountains.
The Gardens have 5 water cascades including the great marble cascade and Sawan Bhadoon.