Persian gardens

Persian gardens

The tradition and style of garden design of Persian gardens (Persian باغ ایرانی) influenced the design of gardens from Andalusia to India. The Taj Mahal is one of the largest Persian gardens of the world, but the gardens of the Alhambra equally show the influence of Persian garden style on a more intimate scale.


From the time of the Achaemenid dynasty the idea of an earthly paradise spread through Persian literature and example to other cultures, both the [Hellenistic gardens of the Seleucids and the Ptolemies in Alexandria. The Avestan word "pairidaêza-", Old Persian *"paridaida-", Median *"paridaiza-" (walled-around, i.e., a walled garden), was transliterated into Greek "paradeisoi", then rendered into the Latin "paradisus", and from there entered into European languages, e.g., French "paradis", German "Paradies", and English "paradise". The word entered Semitic languages as well: Akkadian "pardesu", Hebrew "pardes", and Arabic "firdaws". [Fakour M., "Achaemenid Dardens" [] ; CAIS-Online - accessed Jan 15, 2007]

As the word expresses, such gardens would have been enclosed. The garden's purpose was, and is, to provide a place for protected relaxation in a variety of manners: spiritual, and leisurely (such as meetings with friends), essentially a "paradise on earth". The Persian word for "enclosed space" was "pairi-daeza", a term that was adopted by Christian mythology to describe the garden of Eden or Paradise on earth. [Persians: Masters of Empire, p 62, ISBN 0-8094-9104-4]

The manner in which the garden is constructed may be formal (with an emphasis on structure) or casual (with an emphasis on nature), following several simple rules governing the design. This is said to allow a maximisation, in terms of function and emotion, of what may be done in the garden.


The origin of Persian gardens may date back as far as 4000 BCE; the decorated pottery of that time displays the typical cross plan of the Persian garden. The outline of Cyrus the Great's garden, built around 500 BCE, is still viewable today.

During the reign of the Sassanids (third to seventh century CE), and under the influence of Zoroastrianism, the presence of water in art grew increasingly important. This trend manifested itself in garden design with greater emphasis placed on fountains and ponds in gardens.

During the Arab occupation the aesthetic aspect of the garden increased in importance, overtaking the utility of the garden. During this time the aesthetic rules by which the garden is governed grew in importance. An example of this is the "chahār bāgh" (چهارباغ), a form of garden which attempts to emulate Eden, having four rivers and four quadrants, representing the world. The design sometimes extends one axis longer than the cross-axis and creaters water channels running through each of the four gardens to connect to a central pool.

The invasion of Persia by the Mongols in the thirteenth century saw a new emphasis on highly ornate structure within the garden, examples of which include tree peonies and chrysanthemums. The Mongol empire then carried a Persian garden tradition to other parts of their empire (notably India).

Babur introduced the Persian garden to India; the now unkempt Aram Bāgh garden in Agra was the first of many Persian gardens he created. The Persian concept of an ideal, paradise-like garden is perfectly embodied in the Taj Mahal.

The Safavid Dynasty (seventeenth to eighteenth century) built and developed grand and epic layouts that went beyond being a simple extension to a palace and became an integral aesthetic and functional part of it. In the following centuries European garden design began to influence Persia, particularly the design of France and secondarily that of Russia and the United Kingdom. Western influences led to changes in the use of water and the species used in bedding.

The traditional forms and style are still used among the population of Iran. They are also be found in historic sites, museums and affixed to the houses of the rich.

Elements of the Persian garden

Sunlight and its effects were an important factor of structural design in Persian gardens. Textures and shapes were specifically chosen by architects to harness the light.

Due to the dry heat of Iran, shade is also very important in the garden, without which it could not be usable. Trees and trellises largely feature as biotic shade; pavilions and walls are also structurally prominent in blocking the sun.

Also related to the heat is the importance of water in the gardens. A form of underground tunnel, below the water table, called a Qanat is used to irrigate the garden and its environs. Well-like structures then connect to the Qanat, enabling the drawing of water.

Alternatively, an animal driven Persian well would be used to draw water to the surface. Such wheel systems could also be used to move water around surface water systems, such as those which exist in the "chahar bāgh" style. Trees were often planted in a ditch called a "jub", which prevented water evaporation and allowed the water quick access to the tree roots.

The Persian style often attempts 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.


The oldest representational descriptions and illustrations of Persian gardens come from travelers who reached Iran from lands to the west. These accounts include Ibn Battuta in the fourteenth century, Ruy Gonzáles de Clavijo in the fifteenth century and Engelbert Kaempfer in the seventeenth century. Battuta and Clavijo make only passing references to gardens and do not describe their design.

Kaempfer made careful drawings and converted them into detailed engravings after his return to Europe. They show chahar bāgh type gardens with the following features: an enclosing wall, rectangular pools, an internal network of canals, garden pavilions and lush planting. There are surviving examples of this garden type at Yazd (Dowlatabad) and at Kashan (Bāgh-e Fin). The location of the gardens Kaempfer illustrated in Isfahan (city) can be identified.


The six primary styles of the Persian garden may be seen in the following table, which puts them in the context of their function and style. Gardens are not limited to a particular style, but often integrate different styles, or have areas with different functions and styles.


Publicly, it is a classical Persian layout with heavy emphasis on aesthetics over function. Man-made structures in the garden are particularly important, with arches and pools (which may be used to bathe). The ground is often covered in gravel flagged with stone. Plantings are typically very simple - such as a line of trees, which also provide shade.

Privately, these gardens are often pool-centred and again structural. The pool serves as a focus and source of humidity for the surrounding atmosphere. Again, there are few plants - this is often due to the limited water available in urban areas.


This is a public, formal garden that puts more emphasis on the biotic element than the "hayāt" and that minimises structure. Plants range from trees, to shrubs, to bedding plants, to grasses. Again, there are elements such as a pool and gravel pathways which divide the lawn. When structures are used, they are often built, as in the case of pavilions, to provide shade.

Chahar Bāgh

These gardens are private and formal - the basic structure consists of four quadrants divided by waterways or pathways. Traditionally, such gardens would be used in work-related functions for the rich (such as entertaining ambassadors). These gardens balance structure with greenery, with the plants often around the periphery of a pool and path based structure.


Much like many other parks, the Persian park serves a casual public function with emphasis on plant life. They provide pathways and seating, but are otherwise usually limited in terms of structural elements. The purpose of such places is relaxation and socialisation.


Like the other casual garden, the park, "bāgh" emphasizes the natural and green aspect of the garden. Unlike the park it is a private area often affixed to houses and often consisting of lawns, trees, and ground plants. The waterways and pathways stand out less than in the more formal counterparts and are largely functional. The primary function of such areas is familial relaxation.


*Fin garden
*Afif abad garden
*Eram garden
*Narenjestan-i Qavam garden
*Taj Mahal
*Shalamar Gardens (in Lahore & Kashmir)
*Dowlat abad Garden
*Shazdeh Garden

ee also

* Charbagh
* Persian architecture
* Paradise garden
* Bāgh



*Khonsari, Mehdi; Moghtader, M. Reza; Yavari, Minouch (1998). "The Persian Garden: Echoes of Paradise". Mage Publishers. ISBN 0-934211-46-9
*Rochford, Thomas (1999). [ Isfahan "Persian Garden Design" website] . Retrieved 3 February, 2005.
*Newton Wilber, D (1979). "Persian gardens and garden pavilions". Washington.

External links

* [ Influence of Persian gardens in India]
* [ Animated film inspired by the Persian Architecture]

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