Persian gardens

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UNESCO World Heritage Site
The Persian Garden
Name as inscribed on the World Heritage List
40sotoon.jpg
Chehel Sotoun's garden

Type Cultural
Criteria i, ii, iii, iv, vi
Reference 1372
UNESCO region Asia and Australasia
Inscription history
Inscription 2011 (35th Session)

The tradition and style in the design of Persian gardens, known as Iranian gardens in Iran (Persian باغ ایرانی Bāgh-e Irāni), has influenced the design of gardens from Andalusia to India and beyond. The gardens of the Alhambra show the influence of Persian Garden philosophy and style in a Moorish Palace scale, from the era of Al-Andalus in Spain. The Taj Mahal is one of the largest Persian Garden interpretations in the world, from the era of the Mughal Empire in India.

Concept and etymology[edit]

Eram Garden is a famous historic Persian garden in Shiraz, Iran
A schematic diagram of a Persian garden. Note the quadripartite structure with focal water feature, connecting aqueducts, and surrounding trees, as well as the placement of the palace
Shazdeh Garden is one of the largest gardens of Kerman Province.

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 pairidaēza-, Old Persian *paridaida-,[note 1] Median *paridaiza- (walled-around, i.e., a walled garden), was borrowed into Ancient Greek: παράδεισος parádeisos, then rendered into the Latin paradīsus, 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.[1]

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 Common Iranian word for "enclosed space" was *pari-daiza- (Avestan pairi-daēza-), a term that was adopted by Christianity to describe the garden of Eden or Paradise on earth.[2]

The garden's construction may be formal (with an emphasis on structure) or casual (with an emphasis on nature), following several simple design rules. This allows a maximization, in terms of function and emotion, of what may be done in the garden.

History[edit]

Persian gardens may originate as early as 4000 BCE. Decorated pottery of that time displays the typical cross plan of the Persian garden. The outline of the Pasargad Garden, built around 500 BCE, is viewable today.

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

During the Arab occupation, the aesthetic aspect of the garden increased in importance, overtaking utility. During this time, aesthetic rules that govern the garden grew in importance. An example of this is the chahār bāgh (چهارباغ), a form of garden that attempts to emulate Eden, with four rivers and four quadrants that represent the world. The design sometimes extends one axis longer than the cross-axis, and may feature water channels that run through each of the four gardens and connect to a central pool.

The invasion of Persia by the Mongols in the thirteenth century led to a new emphasis on highly ornate structure in the garden. Examples of this include tree peonies and chrysanthemums.[clarification needed] 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 Taj Mahal embodies the Persian concept of an ideal, paradise-like garden.

The Safavid Dynasty (seventeenth to eighteenth century) built and developed grand and epic layouts that went beyond 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 designs 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.

Traditional forms and style are still applied in modern Iranian gardens. They also appear in historic sites, museums and affixed to the houses of the rich.

Elements of the Persian garden[edit]

Elements of the Persian garden, such as the shade, the jub, and the courtyard style hayāt in a public garden in Shiraz.

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.[clarification needed]

Iran's dry heat makes shade important in gardens, which would be nearly unusable without it. Trees and trellises largely feature as biotic shade; pavilions and walls are also structurally prominent in blocking the sun.

The heat also makes water important, both in the design and maintenance of the garden. Irrigation may be required, and may be provided via a form of underground tunnel called a qanat, that transports water from a local aquifer. Well-like structures then connect to the qanat, enabling the drawing of water. Alternatively, an animal-driven Persian well would draw water to the surface. Such wheel systems also moved water around surface water systems, such as those in the chahar bāgh style. Trees were often planted in a ditch called a juy, 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.

Descriptions[edit]

The oldest representational descriptions and illustrations of Persian gardens come from travelers who reached Iran from 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 made only passing references to gardens and did not describe their design, but Kaempfer made careful drawings and converted them into detailed engravings after his return to Europe. They show chahar bāgh type gardens that featured 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 can be identified.

Styles[edit]

The garden in the Golestan Palace of Tehran.

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.

Classical Formal Casual
Public Hayāt Meidān Park
Private Hayāt Chahār Bāgh Bāgh

Hayāt[edit]

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. There are few plants, often due to the limited water available in urban areas.

Meidān[edit]

Naghsh-i Jahan square, the charbagh Royal Square (Maidan) in Isfahan, constructed between 1598 and 1629
Main article: Meidan

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[edit]

Main article: Charbagh

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

Park[edit]

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.

Bāgh[edit]

Main article: Bagh (garden)

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.

World Heritage Sites[edit]

  1. The Persian Gardens:
    1. Pasargad Persian Garden at Pasargadae, Iran
    2. Chehel Sotoun, Isfahan,Iran
    3. Fin Garden, Kashan, Iran
    4. Eram Garden, Shiraz, Iran
    5. Shazdeh Garden, Mahan, Kerman, Iran
    6. Dolatabad Garden, Yazd, Iran
    7. Abbasabad Garden, Abbasabad, Mazandaran, Iran
    8. Akbarieh Garden. South Khorasan Province, Iran
    9. Pahlevanpour Garden Iran[3]
  2. Taj Mahal, Agra, India
  3. Humayun's Tomb, New Delhi, India
  4. Shalimar Gardens, Lahore, Pakistan
  5. Generalife, Granada, Spain
View of the garden at the Taj Mahal, Agra, India.


See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Although the genuine Old Persian form must have been *paridaida-, Modern Persian palīz 'garden' from Middle Persian palēz presupposes a variant *pardaiza- (with syncope of -i-), which seems to be the cognate of *paridaida- from a different Iranian language (Avestan, Median or Parthian) borrowed into Persian still in an early period.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Fakour M., Achaemenid Gardens [1]; CAIS-Online - accessed Jan 15, 2007
  2. ^ Persians: Masters of Empire, p 62, ISBN 0-8094-9104-4
  3. ^ UNESCO official website

Further reading[edit]

  • Rostami, Raheleh., Hasanuddin, Lamit., Khoshnava, S. Meysam., Rostami, Rasoul (2014). "The Role of Historical Persian Gardens on the Health Status of Contemporary Urban Residents". Ecohealth, DOI: 10.1007/s10393-014-0939-6.
  • Rostami, Raheleh., Hasanuddin, Lamit., Khoshnava, S. Meysam., Rostami, Rasoul (2011). "Contribution of Historical Persian Gardens for Sustainable Urban and Environment: Lessons from Hot Arid Region of IRAN". American Transaction on Engineering and Applied Sciences 1(3), 281-294.
  • Khonsari, Mehdi; Moghtader, M. Reza; Yavari, Minouch (1998). The Persian Garden: Echoes of Paradise. Mage Publishers. ISBN 0-934211-46-9.
  • Multiple authors (2010). "Garden". [[Encyclopædia Iranica]].  Wikilink embedded in URL title (help)
  • Newton Wilber, D (1979). Persian Gardens and Garden Pavilions. Washington.
  • Michel Conan, Dumbarton Oaks (2007). Middle East Garden Traditions: Unity and Diversity.

External links[edit]

  • Audio slideshow: [2] (5 min 58 sec).
  • Audio slideshow: [3] (6 min 16 sec).