The term Persian Gardens refers to formal palace or pleasure gardens of the Middle Ages and modern times in Iran and neighboring regions. There are also mostly irrigated vegetable gardens and orchards in Persia, but these do not fall under this term. Garden design is a basic part of Persian culture. This had such an effect that the old Persian term for garden Paradise was borrowed in many European languages as well as in Hebrew, where the term Pardes is still used today. In June 2011, nine Persian Gardens in Iran have declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The denomination of the Persian garden refers to the tradition and style of garden design that originated in Persia (present-day Iran). Traditionally, these gardens were “enclosed spaces”.
The purpose of these gardens was to seek tranquility, both spiritual and recreational (meeting point for friends), in order to be, essentially, a paradise on earth. The way in which these gardens were built could be very formal (making the structure prevail) or very informal (focusing on plants), respecting, nevertheless, some simple rules of design, such as the intention to maximize, in terms of function and emotion, everything that the garden could offer.
It is estimated that the origin of Persian gardens dates back to 4000 BC. In the ceramics of that time, the cross designs, typical of Persian gardens, are discovered. The Persian concept of an ideal garden (similar to a paradise), has its best representation in the Taj Mahal. It was Babur who introduced the concept of Persian gardens to India, and the Aram Bagh garden in Agra (now abandoned) was the first of the numerous gardens he created. The Taj Mahal is one of the largest Persian gardens in the world.
UNESCO inscribed the Persian Garden as a World Heritage Site for “exemplifying the diversity of Persian garden designs that involve and adapt different climatic conditions while maintaining principles that come from the time of Cyrus the Great in the 6th century BC, with buildings, pavilions, and walls as well as a sophisticated irrigation system “.
The elements of the Persian garden
In Persian gardens, inner court gardens are often connected to external gardens by structures such as arches. The inner gardens are intended to act as a symbol of the domestic, while the outer gardens reflect the surrounding world. Such a garden is primarily used for recreation and relaxation. Furthermore, a garden is used as a place for spirituality, social activities, and previously also as a place for a feast, etc.
An important factor in the structural design in Persian gardens are sunlight and light effects. Architects tame sunlight by creating patterns and shapes from the rays of light.
Due to the hot climate in Iran, shady areas are desirable in the gardens. Trees and bushes provide natural shade, and pavilions and walls are often used to protect against strong sun. Experienced architects create special effects through shadow play.
Since there are very dry areas in addition to the many forests in Iran, water is particularly important. Qanats or springs water the entire garden. It is believed that the technology of the qanats, whose tunnels run below the water table, is several thousand years old. The garden itself is also often crisscrossed by water channels. Such can be found in the garden type Tschahār Bāgh. Trees are often planted in water-filled trenches, called “Joob”, which prevent evaporation and provide the tree roots with sufficient water.
In addition to arches, masonry, and magnificent buildings, there are pavilions in many gardens. Their original Persian name Kooshk has found its way into European languages as a “kiosque”.
There are 13 Persian Gardens registered as World Heritage, spread over many provinces of Iran and abroad:
- Pasargadae World Heritage Site in Shiraz
- Chehel Sotoon Palace in Isfahan
- Eram Garden in Shiraz
- Fin Garden in Kashan
- Dolat Abad Garden in Yazd
- Shahzadeh Garden in Kerman
- Pahlavanpur Garden in Yazd
- Akbarieh Historical Mansion & Garden in Birjand
- Abbas Abad Garden in Behshahr
- Taj Mahal in Agra, India
- Humayun’s Tomb in New Delhi, India
- Shalimar Bagh in Lahore, Pakistan
- Gardens of Babur in Kabul, Afghanistan