Don’t Have to Die to Go to Paradise

 

Persian Gardens

By Mohsen Ghanbari

 

For the ancient Persians the symbol of eternal life was a tree with a stream at its roots. The sacred miracle tree contained the seeds of all within itself.Tree planting was a sacred occupation and this reverence was deeply seated in the souls of the Persians.Historical accounts tell us about gardens named Paradise filled with all things fair and good that the earth can bring forth.

 

Zoroastrians have a reputation for creating lush gardens or baghs (also see our Overview page's section on Lush Gardens - Paradise / Bagh - Pairidaeza). By one legend, Zarathushtra too is said to have tended and developed a paradise-like community garden from an otherwise barren landscape.

The word paradise comes from the Old Iranian word for exceptional gardens, pairi-daeza, which in later years was shortened to parideiza and then to paridiz. Pairi means all around, thoroughly and ultimate, while the precise meaning of daeza is uncertain. However, as a compound word, pairidaeza came to mean a celestial garden, a heavenly paradise on earth. The description of the Garden of Eden as paradise is derived from the Persian Avestan pairi-daeza, and some would say, was located in the northern Iranian Zagros mountains (see Gardens of Ancient Tabriz below).

Classical Hellenic writers called Persian gardens paradeisos / paradeisoi.

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, described below, then one of the seven wonders of the world, were built based on the Median (western Iranian) gardens in the Zagros mountains.

The chahar-bagh gardens of the Taj Mahal (see photographs below) are a descendant of the formal chahar-bagh gardens at King Cyrus' palace in Pasargadae.

With the correct selection of trees, herbs and plants, the pairidaeza baghs were places that could include amongst the vegetation grown within, essential health giving plants of the haoma / barsom family.

When all the elements of the pairidaeza baghs are considered together, they form an integrated composition of shade, micro-climate, vegetation, refuge, and healing.

A street of walled baghs in Tehran

 

To understand the true significance of the Persian gardens, the baghs, both informal and formal, it is necessary to put them in the context of the surrounding countryside of Iran and Central Asia - lands given to extremes in climate, from severe winters with blizzards, to burning summers with blinding dust storms. The mountains are for the main part barren and rocky, and the ever present deserts are covered with dust or a yellow slime where the water does not drain away. Within the desolation are verdant valleys and hidden forests. Elsewhere, the land can be dangerous and hostile to the unprepared visitor. The Aryans, however, saw an inner latent beauty - like that of a gem encased in rock. They left the countryside for the main part pristine, admiring it for what it was, as nature intended, and sacred as God's creation. Where land was required for human habitation, rather than scaring the earth, they helped make it blossom, a refuge not just for themselves, but for animals and rare plants as well. That was the ancient ethic.

Sadly, in the last thousand years, the thinking and situation in Iran has changed, a change that has accelerated in the past hundred years.

Capturing visions of the old Iran at the threshold of the modern age, Vita Sackville-West wrote in Passenger to Tehran (1926), "A savage, desolating country! But one that filled me with extraordinary elation. I have never seen anything that pleased me so well as these Persian uplands, with their enormous views, clear light, and rocky grandeur." He went on to say, "Persia has been left as it was before man's advent."

When the author of this web-page (Eduljee) lived in Tehran, Iran, he had the opportunity to visit some privately owned gardens or baghs located on the outskirts of the city. The gardens were walled compounds and a change in climate was evident immediately on entering through the garden's doors. Cool fragrant air welcomed the visitor. In summer, while the surrounding land was desert-like, barren and very hot, the baghs were lush with vegetation and cool. Water (often drawn from a well) played in significant role in the design and in the creation of the bagh's micro climate as well as its calming environment. They were oases with a spiritual quality. Places for restoration of spiritual, physical and community health.

Rejuvenation of the Spirit

 

The pairidaeza gardens are ideal places to rejuvenate the spirit. They are a meeting place for all elements of the spiritual and material creation. They are a place for personal reflection as well as strengthening family, friendship and community bonds. They are places, if a person so chooses, to reconnect with one's spiritual self and to take a hiatus from active life to continue a spiritual quest. Even the Achaemenian kings are reported to have personally and physically worked in building and taking care of their gardens (see below).

The pools or channels of water that are invariably an integral part of the garden's design, are places for self-reflection. The entire setting is tranquil and serene, a manifestation of the amesha spenta armaiti. Complimenting self-reflection is meditation, especially when accompanied with the recitation of a mantra (manthra). The very act of tending to the garden and nurturing the plants is a religious act.

The pairidaeza is a sacred space where an inner voice can be heard. They are places for sacred contemplation and spiritual nourishment.

 

In a garden, renew your Zoroastrian faith.

Yes, in the sanctury of the magi they honour us,

For the fire that never dies burns strong within our hearts.

Hafez

 

Formal and Informal Gardens

The style or Persian gardens can be both formal and informal. The formal gardens are the type found in front of palaces, and are geometric in their layout. Cyrus' garden, the chahar bagh (see below, also spelt chahr bagh), meaning four gardens, consisted of four squares within a square - a quadripartite ground-plan. In addition to the various formal gardens in Iran, the gardens of the Taj Mahal in India are also an example of a formal garden. A example of informal gardens are the family baghs found on the outskirts of major Iranian cities such as Tehran.

Ferdows Garden _Tajrish- Tehran

 

Not only were palaces and temples enclosed within gardens, but every city had private and sometimes public gardens which were opened to all during Persian New Year celebrations.

Persian gardens were places where shade and cool water could be privately enjoyed. They were places of spiritual solace, meeting places for friends and formal adjuncts to the houses or palaces they surrounded.

For more than three thousand years, the Persian garden has been the focus of Iranian imagination, influencing the country's art as well as literature.

The lavish use of flowers in such gardens inspired the weaving of floral designs into what are known as garden-carpets.

Persian gardens influenced garden design around the world and became the foundation of Islamic and later European garden traditions, an example of which can be seen in the Mughal gardens of India namely the Taj Mahal in Agra.

The paved and tiled Andalusian courtyards with arcades, pools and fountains testify to their Persian roots.

It is reputed that the main design for the Versailles Gardens has replicated the outlines of the paradise gardens of Pasargadae and provided inspiration for the gardens of the Louvre.

fin Garden – Kashan

 

According to historical accounts, paradise gardens were primarily hunting-parks with fruit-trees grown for food. The bronze works datable to 1000 BCE unearthed in Luristan province are adorned with trees next to streams.

The first excavations at the ruins of the palaces in Persepolis ignored the question of gardens and neglected Garden Archaeology, the scientific study of the physical evidence of gardens recovered through excavation.

However, palaces scattered according to no rule and raised above three terraces with large open stairways brought to the mind of Garden archaeologists the simplest form of Persian garden; a rectangle of water, with enough of a flow to give it life and movement, and a raised platform to view it from.

Further excavation in Pasargadae led to the discovery of the first monumental garden, at least in western Asia, securing a place for Persian gardens in the history of garden design.

Archaeologists discovered that the four-fold garden accords with the traditional Persian garden plan known today as Chahar Bagh.

Ghadamgah garden-Neishabour

 

Considering the fact that the Achaemenid monarch Cyrus was known as the "King of the Four Quarters", it can be asserted that later-day Persian gardens owed their origins to the novel garden plan of Cyrus.

The Chahar Bagh plan is a quadrangular/rectangular canal pattern in which waterways or pathways are used to quarter the garden, a layout intended to bring to mind the four rivers of the Garden of Eden.

All Persian gardens have vertical lines in their design, a central structure built on the highest point of the garden, a main waterway, a large pool in front of the structure to reflect the building, and a close relationship with nature.

Earth, water, vegetation and atmosphere are the most important elements in paradise gardens. Underground water canals called Qanat irrigated the gardens which were often built on slopes to facilitate the natural flow of water or create artificial waterfalls.

Trees and flowers are planted in gardens based on their usefulness; therefore, a Persian garden has more fruit trees, then shade trees and finally flowers.

Delgosha Garden-Shiraz

 

Achaemenid inscriptions bear witness to the importance of symmetrical designs in Persian gardens. The Chahar Bagh School stresses the necessity of planting trees and flowers in regular rows.

Fruit trees bring to mind rebirth and spring; strictly aligned sycamore trees, the symbol of eternal life, provide shade while roses, jasmines and other flowers intoxicate with their heavenly scent.

The most basic feature of a Persian garden is the enclosure of the cultivated area, which excludes the wildness of nature, includes the tended greenery of the garden and makes elaborate use of water in canals, ponds, rills and sometimes fountains.

A recurring theme in many paradise gardens is the contrast between the formal garden layout and the informality provided by free-growing plants.

Persians placed great importance on having their tombs surrounded by woodlands and gardens. According to historical accounts, the tomb of Cyrus the Great was enclosed by four gardens and a grove.

This tradition has continued to the present time and can be seen at the graves of prominent Iranian figures such as the poets Hafez and Sa'di in Shiraz.

Eram Botanical Garden

 

The Eram Garden is one of the most beautiful and monumental gardens of Iran. Apparently, its history goes back to the period of the Saljuq Dynasty (A.D.1038-1194). Since its construction and until the late 18th century, it was predominantly used by the local rulers and Persian monarchs. At the end of the Zand dynasty (A.D.1750-1794), the Qashqaie tribal chieftains tookover the garden and the one of them called Jani Khan and his son constructed a building within it. At the time of Nasir ud-Din Shah Qajar (A.D.1848-1896), a Shirazi nobleman, Haj Nassir ul-Mulk, bought the garden from the Qashqaie overlords and constructed the present charming building. After passing through a chain of owners, the garden was finally handed over to shiraz University in 1963. It is now being used as a botanical garden by plant science researchers and general public.

Jahan Nama (Orrery) garden 

 

Jahan nama (Orrery) garden is one of the oldest gardens in Shiraz and has been a little distance with Hafez Tomb. This garden was in extremity of prosperity in Al-e-Mozzafar and Al-e-Injou epoch (eighth century AH). Ibn Arabshahi (Timurid historian) called this garden as Ornament Of the World in Ajayeb-Al-Maqdour (Possible wonders) book.

During residence of Timur Qurakani in Shiraz The Jahan nama (Orrery) garden, was considered like another famous gardens of that period so he was constructed a garden like that in his motherland ,Samarkand and called that Jahan nama (Orrery). The Jahan nama (Orrery) garden was importance and cultivated in Safavids too.

Saadi mausoleum-Shiraz

 

The resting place of Hafiz, a famous tourism hub, pleases the eyes of visitors with its cypresses, poplars, cedars, flowering shrubs and rose bushes.

Persian gardens are pleasances of water, meadow, trees and flowers in which buildings take a subordinate position. To this day, the size and beauty of these gardens continues to amaze visitors sitting under the shade of cypress trees to enjoy looking at the sky reflected in the central pool while taking in the sweet aroma of beautiful flowers.

Akbarieh garden and complex

 

Akbarieh Garden is a beautiful Iranian style gardens remained from Qajar dynasty and since 2011 is one of the nine Iranian gardens on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List. There are also wildlife, archeology and anthropology museums in the comple

Dowlatabad Garden

 

Dowlatabad Garden located in Yazd, central  Iran, is a Persian architecture jewels.

The Garden is an authentic Iranian garden that annually attracts thousands of domestic and foreign tourists.

This is a complex built according to the original Iranian architectural style and consists of a large garden and some buildings.

Looking at the garden and the main entrance of the garden, you will see the long pool in the shade of the tall cypress trees leading to the main entrance. On the way to the mansion, there are beautiful grapes and pomegranates trees behind those tall trees.

Before you see the garden or even the walls of the house, from hundreds of meters away and some streets away from that spot, you can see the tallest Windcatchers of the mansion inside the garden.

Afif-Abad Garden

 

Afif-Abad Garden ,originally the Golshan Garden , is a museum complex in Shiraz , Iran.

Located in the affluent Afif-Abad district of Shiraz, the complex was constructed in 1863. It contains a former royal mansion, a historical weapons museum, and a Persian garden, all open to the public. The Golshan Garden is one of the oldest gardens in Shiraz.

During the Safavid dynasty, it was used as a palace by the Safavid Kings.

The current main building was constructed by Mirza Ali Mohammad Khan Qawam II in 1863. He bought a nearby qanat to water his garden. After his death, the garden was eventually inherited by Afife, thus being called "Afif-Abad".

In 1962, it was restored by the army. It is now functioning as a weapons museum.

Shazdeh Garden

 

Shazdeh Garden  (Persian: باغ شازده‎ Bāgh-e Shāzdeh) meaning Prince’s Garden is a historical Persian garden located near (6km away from) Mahan in Kerman province, Iran.

The garden is 5.5 hectares, with a rectangular shape and a wall around it. It consists of an entrance structure and gate at the lower end and a two-floor residential structure at the upper end. The distance between these two is ornamented with water fountains that are engined by the natural incline of the land. The garden is a fine example of Persian gardens that take advantage of suitable natural climate.

The garden was built originally for Mohammad Hasan Khan Qajar Sardari Iravani ca.1850 and was extended ca.1870 by Abdolhamid Mirza Naserodollehand during the eleven years of his governorship in the Qajar dynasty. The construction was left unfinished, due to the death of Abdolhamid Mirza in the early 1890s.