As one of the most important achievements of Iranian culture, Persian Garden is a reflection of the Iranian worldview. For many years, many Iranian and foreign scholars have tried to study the different forms, patterns and layout of the Iranian gardens and of course, “Chahar Bagh” pattern has been globally understood as the main lay out of the Iranian garden; A geometric pattern that symbolizes the Islamic-Iranian quaternary worldview mentioned in the ancient books.
Shapouri Pavilion and Garden, Shiraz, Iran
With the development of studies and the spatial adaptation between this pattern and the varied specimens of the Iranian garden, the “Chahar Bagh” pattern became the archetype for all Iranian gardens. Studies of recent Iranian scholars have generally shown that beyond the quadruple division, the Iranian garden is a pivotal garden in which one axis plays a fundamental role in shaping the geometry of the garden.
In order to understand the concept of the Persian Garden and to better understand its roots, we first need to realize the causes of the first “Four gardens” (Chahar Bagh) foundation. According to archaeological findings, the first garden formed in the shape of Chahar Bagh was Pasargadae Garden, founded by Cyrus the Great.
Babylonian Gardens, Mesopotamian or Hanging Gardens were ranked among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World listed by Hellenic culture. The exact beginning date for gardening or farming in Mesopotamia is unknown but Excavations in the westernmost Zagros Mountains near the border with Iraq, reveled evidences dating back to 6th millennium BC indicating the irrigation history of agricultural fields in the Zagros Mountains. They were described as a remarkable achievement of engineering – cited by Greek culture – with an ascending series of layered gardens containing a wide range of trees, shrubs and vineyards, resembling a Green Mountain, made of mud bricks and is said to have been built in the ancient city of Babylon, near present-day Hillah, Babil province, in Iraq.
The Hanging Gardens’ name is derived from the Greek word κρεμαστός (kremastós, lit. ’overhanging’), which has a broader meaning than the modern English word “hanging” and refers to trees being planted on a raised structure such as a terrace.
Pasargadae, Persian Gardens
A garden with a complete architectural structure indicates a close relationship between the cultural and natural context and is a sign of adaptation of human needs to the nature. The Persian garden has shown the latent power of the environment and nature, and how to use it. From the time of the Achaemenid Empire, the idea of an earthly paradise spread through Persian literature and Cyrus the Great was the first Iranian who created and formed a series of Persian gardens at Pasargadae. In fact, the geometrical design of the garden and its layout have been proposed as the Persian garden from Cyrus’ point of view – Based on the results obtained from different archeological projects.
Left: Imaginative Pasargadae gardens reconstruction Image – Right: Excavated irrigation channels of Pasargadae gardens
This magnificent regularity signifying the universe, is used to express the king’s power. What results from a survey of gardens in Mesopotamia show that gardens built in the Achaemenid period were used to represent the country’s political power, and were designed in a way to make it possible for tributaries and taxpayers to understand that they were ruled by a powerful ruler.
The connection between the garden and the palace
When Cyrus came to power, he built a garden palace that reflected the Achaemenid power in Pasargadae – influenced by Mesopotamian gardens. The earlier Assyrian gardens were either designed separately from palaces or from temples or were built attached to them. Cyrus’ Gardens, noting the long porches around the gardens, were built as a complementary part of the palaces. The overall composition consists of three Pavilions (Kushk), with porches stretched around a rectangular enclosure.
The common features of Iranian gardens
- High walls around the garden
- Four section division
- Crosswalks & parallel, straight streets
- Use of straight lines in design
- There is a pavilion or a building in the center or the highest part of the garden
- Use a main water canal usually supplied from a Persian Qanat
- Fountains and water streams
- Use of large pools for reflection effects to increase the beauty of landscape in front of the pavilion
Elements of the Persian garden
Iran’s dry climate makes shade important in gardens. Therefore, sunlight and its effects were of important factors of structural design in a way to make textures and shapes specifically to control the light. Trees largely feature as natural shade; trees such as Black poplar, sycamore, pine, willow, maple, Plane tree, spruce, cypress and various fruit trees have been popular with Iranians. Pavilions and walls are also structurally prominent in blocking the sun.
The heat also makes constant flow of water important, both in the design and maintenance of the garden. These gardens have always been built next to Qanats, aqueducts or springs. Usually, the architecture and structure of the water flow was such that water enters the garden from one part to irrigate trees and plants and exits from the other end. Also, the Iranian desire to watch flowing water has created infrastructures to keep more water in the garden. The presence of elements such as streams, fountains, pools and ponds, in addition to the beauty and fun, had brilliant cooling effect. Also, Irrigation is required for plants, so trees are often planted beside a ditch called a Juy, which is connected to the decorative main streams and provides water access to the tree roots.
Iranian gardens are usually associated with mansions or pavilions. The Persian architects often attempt to integrate indoors with outdoors through the connection of a surrounding garden with an inner courtyard. Designers often place architectural elements such as vaulted arches between the outer and interior areas to open up the divide between them.
PERSIAN GARDENS LISTED IN UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE LIST1
Pasargadae – Fars Province (550 BC)
Although there is no specific picture or map of the original Pasargadae Garden today, but excavations in the current Pasargadae area, have shown that there was a beautiful garden in the site which was designed by Persians, perhaps Cyrus the Great himself. The oldest document from the Persian Garden is the “Shahdad Bronze Flag “, dated between 3500 and 3200 BC. On this metal plate, there is an image of an ancient goddess and three other women sitting in a lush garden in the shape of a chessboard, depicting the same pattern of four Iranian gardens.After Cyrus, other Achaemenid kings, such as Darius, Ardashir II, and Xerxes, also began founding gardens in Susa and other cities, and the pattern of Persian gardens spread to all cities.
Chehel Sotoun Palace Garden – Isfahan (17th C)
Shah Abbas I, the Safavid king, used urban developments and civil activities to consolidate and stabilize his kingdom. He was very active in the construction of Iranian Caravansaries and gardens so that he could gain the favor of the people.
Registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List, the Chehl sotoun Palace garden is an exquisite example of Iranian art designed by a genius called Sheikh Baha’i in 17th century. The garden was built on the southwest side of Isfahan‘s Royal Square at the behest of Shah Abbas I so that it could be a link between the Royal Square and Chahar Bagh Street. According to historical documents, Shah Abbas II built palace in the middle of old garden, to celebrate his coronation, later served as an audience hall to receive foreign guests.
At the time of the Afghan invasion of Isfahan, most of the city’s monuments, especially Chehel Sotoun , were heavily damaged. It is interesting to know that during the time of Qajar and during the reign of Zel ol-Sultan (son of Nasser al-Din Shah), many exquisite objects of the palace and its mirrors were moved to Tehran for the construction of Masoudieh Garden!
Chehel Sotoun Garden, Isfahan, Iran
Eram Garden – Shiraz (19th C)
Although the exact date of its construction is unknown, many stories about Eram Garden of Shiraz have been written in travelogues of western travelers who passed by Shiraz in 17th and 18th Centuries. According to authentic historical documents, the garden was built during the Seljuk Era following the order of Sultan Sanjar, but this was not the end, and in later centuries, Shiraz rulers restored various parts of it.
In Qajar era (19th C) during the reign of Nasser al-Din Shah, the garden became part of the royal estate and was given to the rulers of Shiraz, therefore a new mansion was designed and founded by Hussein Ali Khan Nasir al-Molk.
Two unique features of the Eram Garden of Shiraz are the variety of vegetation and the architecture employed in construction of Mansion which follows a complex of different styles such as Achamenid pillar capitals, Zandiyeh architecture and Qajar external tile work decorations.
Eram Garden, Shiraz, Iran
Fin Garden – Kashan (16th C)
Perhaps if Amir Kabir’s assassination in 1852 did not happen at Kashan’s Fin Garden, people would rarely have known this garden and about its famous Bath. History books have quoted that prior to the current bath and garden at this site, it was during the reign of Al-e-Buyeh dynasty (13th c) , when initial design of garden was done by Ghiasuddin Jamshid Kashani. Later it was completely destroyed by earthquake and once again by the Mongol invasion, until it was restored in the Safavid era in occasion of King Ismail’s coronation and later designed by Sheikh Bahai to become a popular pleasure spot for Sefevid royal family.
Fin Garden, Kashan, Iran
Prince Garden – Mahan (19th C)
The Prince’s Garden or Shazdeh Garden is located near the tomb of King Nematollah Vali in the city of Mahan (20 km from Kerman). One of the most prominent features of Mahan Gardens is its location as it is located in the heart of desert and is very well-known because of its design.
In the Qajar Era, a Yazdi famous architect Nasser al-Dawlah designed and built this garden next to the central mansion.
There are many fruit trees in the garden, and in front of the mansion are pools and fountains whose water is supplied from the Little Tigran River.
Shazdeh Garden (Prince Garden), Mahan, Kerman, Iran
Dowlat Abad Garden- Yazd (18th C)
Among the most unique Iranian gardens, we must point to Dowlat Abad Garden of Yazd. This garden with an area of about 70,000 m2 includes many buildings, ponds and water fountains. In the space between them are gardens with pomegranate and grape trees and ornamental flowers.
In addition to the garden itself registered in the UNESCO Heritage list, there is also a wind tower which is known as the tallest wind tower (Badgir) in the world. This tower with a height of 33.8 meters is the world’s tallest known mud brick wind tower, built in late Afshar Period (18th C) by Mohammad Taghi Khan Bafaqi (known as Khan the Great).
Mohammad Taghi Khan is one of the prominent figures in the towns of Dowlat Abad and Mehriz which were located around Yazd. He also founded the Dowlat Abad 5-canaled Qanat (flowing from Mehriz ancient Qanat).
Dowlat Abad Garden, Yazd, Iran
Akbariyeh Garden – Birjand (18th C)
Another beautiful Iranian garden named in the UNESCO list is Akribiyeh Garden in Birjand, with a total area of 3.5 hectares. Experts divide the time of the garden into four periods: Zandiyeh, Qajar, Pahlavi and after the 1979 revolution. Due to the importance of this place in Birjand, many changes were made to its face and body in different periods. But what is the story of the Akbariyeh Garden?
The city of Birjand is known as the first Iranian city to have an old and extensive pipeline and drainage system. During the reign of Zands (18th C) , Birjand was recognized as one of the strategic cities of Great Khorasan Province. After the Baharestan citadel was used by the government and military, the local ruler (Ali Akbar Khan Khazimeh) ordered the construction of a beautiful and magnificent building beside the Qanat (aqueduct) of the city and on the slopes of Mount Bagheran so that it could both show off his power and also protect the city. A two-story mansion was built at that time, with the first floor reserved for public servants and guests, and the second floor reserved for private life and visits.
During the Qajar and Pahlavi periods, various buildings were added to the Akbariyya garden complex. The building was abandoned in the early years of the revolution until the end of 1996, but in the same year, efforts were made to register the national heritage of Iran and UNESCO.
The various parts of the garden include the Mogharnas Entrance, the main mansion, service spaces, the three entrances to the mansion, the stables and the courtyard.
Pahlavan Pour Garden- Mehriz (19th C)
Pahlavan Pour Garden is one of the greenest and most lush gardens of Yazd located in Mehriz town. This garden dates back to the reign of the Qajar kings. It is interesting to know that three important Qanats of Mehriz city including Hassanabad, Shah Hosseini and Mazvir Abad Qanats pass through the famous Pahlavan Pour’s Garden- A Yazdi wealthy merchant.
One of the most important features of the Pahlavan Garden is its trees. In spite of the dry and warm climate of Yazd, the pomegranate, persimmon and almonds trees grow in this garden, and this is only due to the high water supply of the garden. The Pahlavan Pour Garden Complex consists of an old original pavilion, stables, a waterfall, a central courtyard, a bathroom and a dormitory, a caretaker’s house, and a winter house. In the past, irrigation water rationings of other Mehriz gardens were planned from this garden.
Pahlavanpour Garden, Mehriz, Yazd, Iran
Abbas Abad Garden (17th C)
Abbas Abad Garden is one of the most beautiful and important tourist attractions in the city of Behshar located in Mazandaran province, but why is Abbas Abad Garden so important to be listed in UNESCO world heritage?
Throughout history, less attention was paid to gardening and design green spaces in places of northern Iran due to suitable vegetation and abundance of forests in the region. But Abbas Abad garden is the most important garden in north of Iran and in non-desert climate of Iran. Generally, the time of construction of Abbas Abad complex in Behshahr dates back to the Safavid and Shah Abbas periods.
To construct the Abbasabad Garden, the Safavid engineers created a platform by cutting in the mountains and founded a sloped garden using the Achaemenid techniques.
The most notable feature of the garden is its clay pipes, which, like Taj Mahal and al-Hamra palace, were used to direct water flow and create water movement music.
There is also an old dam and a beautiful lake in the middle of garden. The lake supplied by spring and is connected to the palace fountains and pools with clay pipes.
Abbas Abad Garden, Behshar, Iran
Famous Iranian Gardens
Here is a list of some other famous gardens in Iran that are worth a visit:
Suleimaniyeh palace-Garden – Karaj (19th C)
Suleimaniyeh Palace-Garden is reminiscent of the Iranian Safavid and Qajar dynasties. This garden is in fact a birthday present to Soleiman Mirza, the son of Qajar King Fath Ali (19th C).
After Abbas Mirza was appointed as crown prince of Iran, his brother Soleiman got so frustrated. In order to attract the king’s attention, Soleiman started a war against the governor of Baghdad and defeated him very soon, and offered all his war trophies to his father. The king, proud of his son, entitled him Dowlat Shah (The king’s wealth) and gifted him a beautiful edifice in Karaj. One of the interesting things about this mansion and the garden is its resemblance to Shams al-Amareh palace, even in terms of decoration such as paintings and window design.
Kalat Garden – Kalat Naderi (18th C)
Sun Palace or Sun Mansion are the names that are used to call the Nader Shah’s garden and palace located in Khorasan Razavi province. The palace was built on the order of Nadir Shah Afshar (18th C) to maintain the Royal Treasury in the form of a circular tower.
Gorkani-Indian architecture and the ancient Zoroastrian tradition were used in the construction of the Sun Mansion. In fact, the four floors of the tower and the mansion represent the four social classes of the time. You should also know that the garden around the mansion was built in the style of 5 Iranian gardens.
Bagh-e Irani Garden – Tehran (20th C)
The Garden of Bagh-e Irani located in the old neighborhood of Deh Vanak, Tehran, was an old garden whose traditional architectural elements has been recently rebuilt, and the greenery was designed based on the pattern of Persian Gardens full of orchards and flowers.
The garden’s total area is approximately 3.5 hectares, of which 2.5 hectares is used for green space.
In the design and construction of this garden, the old trees of the former garden have been preserved. Other plant species include Privet, Laurel, Barberry, Cotoneaster, Myrtle, Piracanta (Fire Thorns) , Roses, Tulips, and other seasonal or perennial shrubs.
Baghe-e Irani, Tehran,Iran
National Botanical Garden of Iran – Tehran
The National Botanical Garden of Iran is a national park where a variety of native and non-native plants are cultivated outdoors and in greenhouses. The garden is used as a genetic reserve for endangered plants and provides the opportunity to study and to conserve biodiversity.
Using different scientific methods, it is possible to identify the plant species of Iran and determine their distribution range. Research on the methods of breeding and cultivating valuable species from a conservation and economic point of view is another area of interest in Iran botanical garden.
The National Botanical Garden of Iran is located on the south slope of central Alborz mountain range in Chitgar District, northwest Tehran. The lay out of the garden was designed to create the natural ecosystem of three mountains representing Zagros, Alborz, and Himalayas, as well as two lakes and two rivers that each has simulated natural spaces for the relevant vegetation, providing a wonderful tourist attraction at the same time.
National Botanical Garden of Iran, Tehran
Persian Garden and Art
In the Culture of Iran, the garden has an all-encompassing image, so that it has permeated almost all Iranian art & Handicrafts and has been proposed as a part of Iran’s cultural identity. The Persian garden is one of the manifestations of the Iranians’ belief in the promised paradise, and this factor has made the presence of campuses colorful in works of art. For this reason, different types of Iranian art have paid special attention to the representation of the Iranian garden. The two areas that have dealt with this issue in abundance are Persian carpets and Miniature Art.