UNESCO has inscribed 9 Persian gardens as the tangible cultural heritage of Iranians in 2011 that have influenced garden planning from India to Spain. According to the written documents left from Greek historians, the tradition of planning and creating gardens of all sizes around buildings and inside the courtyard of houses go back to 3000 years ago.
Such green areas are known as “Para daesa” (around the fort). The word Daes means structure and Pardis is Paradise. In other European languages, “Parades” refers to a surrounded and walled garden. These gardens follow an order and plan inspired by the universe and are in proportion to various climate conditions. They invite every passerby to stop and ponder in such earthly paradises.
Persian Gardens, from Bass-Reliefs to Garden-Cities
The hunting scene of Khosrow Parviz, the Sassanian king, in form of a “hunting-garden”, at Taq-e Bostan rock reliefs, are the most ancient pictorial evidence of Persian gardens. Of course, well-devised gardens planned based on geometric principles are even older than that and date back to Achaemenian era. Pasargadae is an example of such Persian gardens.
The planning of such well-planned gardens developed further during Sassanian era, 4th to 7th centuries. Some more examples can be found at palace-gardens like Firooz Abad and Takht-e Soleyman. However, many believe that the flourishing time of garden planning goes back to Safavid era, 16th to 18th centuries. Under this dynasty, Qazvin was the first capital city to follow this trend and it continued to Esfahan where the garden-city idea was developed and later expanded in Shiraz.
Features of Persian Gardens
In Iranian gardens, there are some common features that one can thoroughly observe:
- Attention to the principle of symmetry,
- The existence of a pool in front of the structure,
- The correlation and harmony among water, garden, and architecture,
- Surrounding the garden by tall walls,
- Choosing the garden location in way of running water or in the vicinity of a Qanat line,
- Constructing a large building with exclusive architecture in the middle of the garden, and
- Variety in the geometric structure in form of a central, axial or quadric plan.
Persian Gardens Inscribed in UNESCO List
Such tangible cultural heritage properties of Iranians in UNESCO List are found at:
1. Pasargadae Gardens in Far Province:
The garden of Pasargadae with thousands of years of history is considered the oldest and first garden planned in the history of human beings. Cyrus the great had ordered the creation of this garden. It’s the initial prototype of Persian gardens created at the North of Shiraz in an area of 249 hectares. From the planning point of view, the architect had planned it in four sections and “water” had been the effective element in architectural arrays and projection. In fact, there exist the four major elements of Zoroastrian faith in this garden, namely the air, the water, the earth and the light.
2. Eram Garden in Fars Province
The architecture in Eram garden follows the style of Qajar era and imitates the Zand era’s trends. This world heritage site is a unique masterpiece due to its architecture, tile works, plasterworks, and eye-catching paintings. In the building of the columns of the upper floors, Persepolis is the inspiring source. There are two crescent-like sections on either side of the top of the façade and a large one in the middle with images from Shahnameh, which are stunning.
3. Chehelsotun Garden in Esfahan Province:
This historic site is called 40-column palace in Persian. In fact, there are 20 columns in its portico. Together with the reflection of these 20 in the water of its pool, there are 40 columns there. It was built by Shah Abbas II in an area of 67 thousand square meters. The mansion in the middle of it is the central core of the garden plan.
This mansion includes a mirror hall, an outdoor 20-column hall, two large northern and southern halls, two eyvans (it’s similar to a portico) in either side, a large pool in front of the building and a smaller one in the back. The ceilings and the walls inside are decorated with beautiful paintings reflecting the royal lifestyle, events, and life of the people.
4. Fin Garden in Kashan, Esfahan Province:
This garden was created by Shah Abbas I when he came from Esfahan, his capital city, for hunting on Karkas Mountains and needed a resort. Later, under Qajar kings, it was further developed and expanded.
It has occupied an area of 23 thousand square meters and includes a central yard and surrounding walls with watchtowers that belong to the Safavid era. The running water in this garden originates from Soleymaniyeh spring and flows in its pools and channels.
5. Pahlevan Poor Garden in Yazd Province:
This world heritage site is at Mehriz town, south of Yazd. It owes its reputation to the stream of water passing through it. This water originates from “Hasan Abad” qanat system.
Apart from its building, the rest of the garden seems so natural that it gets hard to find out human beings have planned a Persian Garden at this place. It looks very natural.
6. Dowlat Abad Garden in Yazd Province:
This garden in one of the oldest gardens of the city that is of a reputation close to Fin Garden and Shahzadeh Garden. The “Hashty” building is at the heart of the garden and facilitates the air ventilation and water passage through it. For this reason, it’s also called “Tabestaneh”, deriving from “Tabestan” meaning the Summer.
The long pool between the entrance and the mansion in it creates an awesome setting for the building, particularly due to the tallest windcatcher of Yazd raising from the rooftop of this structure.
7. Akbarieh Garden in South Khorasan Province:
With an area of 45000 square meters, it’s located on the mountainside and dates back to Zand and Qajar dynasties. There are a few buildings in it the oldest of which is known as “Heshmat Ol-Molk” building.
The architect has decorated this two-story structure with word-carved embellishment (Monabat), wood latticework (Gereh Chini), and stained glass decorations. Also one can see beautiful Eslimi (arabesque) and geometric stucco patterns at this building.
8. Abbas Abad Garden in Mazandaran Province:
At a distance of 9 km away from Behshahr, It’s extended between the forest and hillsides of the Alborz Mountains. The Abas Abad Garden complex belongs to a water dam, the lake and water reservoir behind it. The flower garden, watermill, mansion, and the two brick-made watchtowers were built at the order of Shah Abbas I.
9. Mahan Garden in Kerman Province:
This garden is as vast as 5.5 Hectares. It’s located on the hillsides of the “Tigran” Mountains and created at the time of the Qajars.
What differentiates it from other Persian Gardens is the water-cascade planning extended all the way from the mansion to the entrance providing a breathtaking setting for the visitors as soon as they arrive in it.
Reflection of Garden Planning in Iranian Arts
You can see the influence of this art and its reflections manifested in other arts like:
- In paintings of Sohrab Sepehri and Mehdi Akhavan Sales
- In architectural works of Hushang Seyhoon,
- In music,
- In Miniature painting,
- In literature,
- In carpet weaving,
- In tile working, and
The Persian Gardens, are Human World Heritage and leave their magical impression on everyone who looks at them. Iranians are proud of this legacy and enthusiastically keep the tradition of creating some beautiful little green gardens wherever they live or have a separate one close to their residence to enjoy life while leaving on this earth.
As world travelers, when you visit Iran, it’s highly recommended to make sure you visit at least a few of them. Without such items at your itineraries, your visit isn’t complete. This is for sure.
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