Art depicting two men in a Persian Garden
Persian Gardens refers to a tradition and style of garden design which originated in Persia, modernday Iran. Traditionally, such gardens would have been enclosed - it is of note that the Persian word for "enclosed space" was Pardeiza, which was inherited in Christian mythology as Paradise on earth, the garden of Eden. Its role was, and is, that of relaxation in a variety of manners: spiritual, and leisurely (such as meetings with friends), essentially a paradise on earth. The manner in which the garden is constructed maybe formal (with emphasis on structure) or casual (with emphasis on plant), and complies to various 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 the Persian gardens have been estimated to go back to 4000 B.C. On the decorated pottery of that time are found the typical cross plan of the Persian gardens. The Persian concept of an ideal, paradise-like garden is perfectly embodied in the Taj Mahal. It was Babur who introduced the Persian garden to India, and the now unkempt Aram Bagh garden in Agra was the first of many Persian gardens he created. Taj Mahal is one of the largest Persian gardens of the world.
The style may be traced to ancient times centuries before the common era. For example, the outline of Cyrus I's garden, which ajoined a palace, is still viewable today - it was built around 500 BCE. During the reign of the Sassanids (third to seventh century CE), and under the influence of Zoroastrianism, the presence of water in art grew to importance - this manifested itself as fountains and ponds in gardens. During the occupations by the Arabs 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 chahar bagh (چهارباغ), a form of garden which attempts to emulate Eden - having four rivers and four quadrants, representing the world. The design sometimes involves one axis being longer than the other, water channels often run through the four gardens and connect to a central pool.
The invasion of Persia by the Mongol Empire in the thirteenth century saw an emphasis on highly ornate structure within the Garden, examples of which include peonies and chrysanthemums. The Mongol empire then carried on a Persian Garden tradition in other parts of their empire (notably India). The Safavid Dynasty (seventeenth to eighteenth century) build and developed highly grandeur and epic layouts - which 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. Particular changes which are attributed to the west include the changed use of water and the species' used in bedding.
The traditional forms and style are no longer present among the population of Iran. They may be found in historical sites, museums and affixed to the houses of the rich.
Elements of the Persian garden
Sun light 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 latitudinal position of Iran, shade is also incredibly important in the garden, without which it could not be a feasably useable area - trees and trelisses largely feature as biotic shade; pavilions and walls are also structurally prominant 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 water to, and around, the garden. Well-like structures then connect to the Qanat, enabling the drawing up of water. Alternatively, an animal driven Persian well would be used to draw up 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 bagh style. Trees were often planted in a ditch called a Jub, this prevented water evaporation and allowed the water to quickly access the tree roots.
The Persian style often attempts to integrate that which is "indoors" with the "outdoors" - this is often achieved through the connection of a surrounding garden, with an inner courtyard. Between the out and interior were often architectural elements such as vaulted arches which opened up the divide between.
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. It is important to remember that gardens are not limited to a particular style - they will often integrate different styles, or have different areas with different functions and hence styles.
| ||Classical ||Formal ||Casual |
|Public ||Hayat ||Meidan ||Park |
|Private ||Hayat ||Chahar Bagh ||Bagh |
Publically, it is a classical Persian layout with heavy emphasis on aesthetics over function. Man-made structure in the Garden is particularly important - with arches and pools (which may be used to cleanse). The ground is often covered in gravel or some other hard stone-derived substance. Plantings are typically very simple - such as a line of trees, which also have the function of shade.
Privately, these gardens are often pool-centred and again structural. The pool serves as a focus and to humidify 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 which puts more emphasis on the biotic element than the hayat and 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 up the lawn. When structures are used, they are often to shade such as a pavillion.
Main article: Chahar Bagh
These gardens are private and formal - the basic structure consist of four divided corners. These are often divided by waterways or pathways. Traditionally, such gardens would be used in work-related functions for the rich (such as communicating with 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, the Bagh emphasises the natural and green aspect of the Garden. Unlike the park it is a private area often affixed to houses 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 are familial relaxation.
- Khansari, Mehdi; Moghtader, M. Reza; Yavari, Minouch (1998). The Persian Garden: Echoes of Paradise. Mage Publishers. ISBN 0934211469
- Rochford, Thomas (1999). Isfahan "Persian Garden Design" website (http://isfahan.apu.ac.uk/persgard/index2.htm). Retrieved 3 February, 2005.
- Newton Wilber, D (1979). Persian gardens and garden pavilions. Washington.
- A history of Persian gardens (http://www.gardenvisit.com/got/2/5.htm)