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Relatively small space of ground, usually out of doors, distinguished from the surrounding terrain by some boundary or by its internal organization or by both. The garden has always played an important role in the Islamic lands, not only for agriculture and relaxation, but also as a visual metaphor in poetry and prose.

I. Introduction. II. Central Islamic lands and North Africa. III. Spain. IV. Iran and Central Asia. V. Anatolia and the Balkans. VI. India.

I. Introduction

As the traditional Islamic lands stretch from the Atlantic to the Indian oceans and from the steppes of Central Asia to the deserts of Arabia and Africa, a variety of climates—ranging from the Mediterranean and desert types prevalent in the central and western regions to the humid tropical and subtropical climates of the east—dictate the kinds of plants that can be cultivated, leading to distinct regional traditions of garden design. Gardens have always been an essential feature of settlement throughout the region. The Mediterranean lands inherited the Classical tradition of the hortus, whereas the eastern Islamic lands were heir to the ancient Iranian tradition of the firdaws (Gr. paradeisos), a walled garden quartered by irrigation channels. The Koran (25:15) describes paradise as the garden of eternity (Arab. jannat al-khuld) with four rivers of water, milk, wine and honey (47:15) and a fountain named Salsabil (76:18). The garden became the dominant image of paradise in Islamic thought and art, and later philosophers and poets elaborated and specified this metaphor. The memory of other gardens, such as the Garden of Eden and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, was also revived at specific times or places.

The amount of effort necessary to make plants flourish in the Islamic lands has led gardeners to carefully delimit the area under cultivation. Most gardens in this region, whether in the palaces of the rich or the modest houses of villagers, were one of two types: a courtyard garden in which buildings completely enclosed the garden, or an exterior garden in which buildings were set in a walled space. As the arid climate in much of the region meant that little would grow without irrigation, water has always played a major part in garden design, whether as still pools or flowing channels, and water was a major element used to link interior and exterior garden spaces, whether at the Ziza Palace (c.1164–6) in Palermo, the Court of the Lions in the Alhambra of Granada or the Hasht Bihisht in Isfahan (see §§II, III and IV below). The culmination of garden design in the Islamic lands was reached in their furthest extremities: in Spain and in India (see §VI below).

There has traditionally been little distinction drawn between the economic and aesthetic benefits of gardens. Cherry and orange trees, for example, were appreciated as much for the beauty and fragrance of their blossoms as for their fruit. Trees, shrubs, flowers and even vegetables were cultivated together and the resultant produce, even from the sultan's garden, was used to feed the palace or was sold on the open market. Gardeners in the Islamic lands were responsible for the introduction of many fruits—such as Seville oranges, lemons, peaches and apricots—to Europe, primarily through Sicily and Spain. Sometimes the relationship was more complicated. The tulip, the name of which derives from the Turkish tūlband and Persian dūl band (“turban”), grows wild in eastern Anatolia and the Iranian Plateau. It was introduced to Europe by Ogier Ghiselain de Busbecq (1522–92), ambassador of the Habsburg Ferdinand I (r. 1522–64) to the court of the Ottoman sultan Süleyman, who brought bulbs to Austria. Its cultivation in Europe was developed through the efforts of Charles de l’Ecluse, chair of botany at the University of Leiden, and the predilection for tulips spread rapidly, culminating in the great tulip mania of 1636–7 in Holland. In the Islamic lands the taste for this plant reached its most extravagant height during the Tulip Period (Turk. lāle devri) under the Ottoman sultan Ahmed III (r. 1703–30), when the cultivation of and decoration with the tulip affected many of the arts. The introduction of many new plant species, particularly from the Americas in the 16th century, transformed the traditional flora of the Islamic garden, and the development of the Renaissance garden changed traditional garden design, particularly in Spain.

The evanescent nature of the garden, where a season can effect major changes and the need for human intervention is constant, means that no gardens have remained from the earlier periods, although garden structures and layout are known from archaeological remains and descriptions—often hyperbolic—preserved in texts and poetry. In addition, the metaphoric importance of gardens meant that they and their constituent parts—flowers, trees, birds etc.—were represented in the other arts of Islam, such as book illustrations, tile revetments and textiles. Perhaps the most explicit depictions of gardens in Islamic art are to be found in the Garden carpets of 17th-century Iran and later, where the rectangular field depicts a walled garden divided by water-channels into parterres with pavilions, flowers and trees (see color pl. see also Carpets and flatweaves, §III, C). This idea was already known in pre-Islamic times, for the audience hall of the Sasanian palace at Ctesiphon had, when conquered by the Arabs in 637, a magnificent carpet (destr.) known as the Spring of Khusraw; it depicted paths and streams between garden plots that were planted with trees and flowers and was enriched with gold, silver, silk and gemstones.


  • Enc. Islam/2: “Būstān” [Garden]; “Filāḥa” [Agriculture]
  • E. B. MacDougall and R. Ettinghausen, eds.: The Islamic Garden (Washington, DC, 1976)
  • J. Lehrman: Earthly Paradise: Garden and Courtyard in Islam (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1980)
  • J. Brooks: Gardens of Paradise: The History and Design of the Great Islamic Gardens (London, 1987)
  • Images of Paradise in Islamic Art (exh. cat., ed. S. S. Blair and J. M. Bloom; Hannover, NH, Dartmouth Coll., Hood Mus. A; New York, Asia Soc. Gals; Brunswick, ME, Bowdoin Coll. Mus. A.; and elsewhere; 1991–2)
  • H. Forkl, J. Kalter, T. Leisten and M. Pavaloi, eds.: Die Gärten des Islam (Stuttgart, 1993)
  • A. Petruccioli, ed.: Il giardino islamico: Architecttura, natura, paesaggio (Milan, 1993)
  • A. Petruccioli, ed.: Gardens in the Time of the Great Muslim Empires: Theory and Design (Leiden, 1997)
  • N. Ardalan: The Paradise Garden Paradigm (Leiden, 2000)
  • N. Ardalan: “The Paradise Garden Paradigm,” Consciousness and Reality: Studies in Memory of Toshihiko Izutsu, ed. Sayyid Jalāl al-Dīn Āshtiyānī and others, Islamic Philosophy, Theology and Science: Texts and Studies, 38 (Leiden, 2000), pp. 97–127
  • N. Ardalan: “‘Simultaneous Perplexity’: The Paradise Garden as the Quintessential Visual Paradigm of Islamic Architecture and Beyond,” Understanding Islamic Architecture, ed. A. Petruccioli and K. K. Pirani (London, 2002), pp. 9–18
  • U. Kiby: “Der Pavillon auf Säulen: Kunst zwischen Tradition und Religion,” Gartenkunst, xiv/1 (2002), pp. 56–64
  • M. Conan, ed.: Middle East Garden Traditions: Unity and Diversity Questions, Methods, and Resources in a Multicultural Perspective, Dumbarton Oaks Colloquium on the History of Landscape Architecture, 31 (Cambridge, MA, 2007)
  • D. F. Ruggles: Islamic Gardens and Landscapes (Philadelphia, 2008)

II. Central Islamic lands and North Africa

Two kinds of gardens were used in the region from Iraq to Syria, Egypt and North Africa: an extra-urban park or zoological garden used for sport and agriculture (Arab. ḥā῾ir, ḥayr) and the courtyard garden (rawḍa, pl. riyāḍ). The first type, always large and monumental in scale with free-standing structures within its precincts, was the prerogative of kings and princes, whereas the second type, entirely enclosed by a single building or wall, was constructed and enjoyed by men of all means. Both styles had been known to the ancient Persians.

The ḥayr is first encountered in Islamic times in a series of palaces constructed by the Umayyad caliphs (r. 661–750) in the Syrian desert (see Architecture, §III, C). Many of these comprised walled enclosures containing vast areas of arable land irrigated by aqueducts and drained by means of sluice-gates. One of the most elaborate of these palaces, the site of Khirba al-mafjar near Jericho, contained various practical installations within the 60 ha enclosure. A domed pavilion with an ornamental fountain in the forecourt was perhaps surrounded by a small garden.

The Umayyad desert palaces and their enclosures are totally dwarfed by the splendor of the many palaces and gardens at Samarra, the 9th-century capital of the Abbasid caliphs in Iraq. The gardens are known through hyperbolic descriptions in contemporary court poetry, and excavations by Viollet, Herzfeld and Susa. These sources make it possible to draw an impressionistic picture of the gardens of Samarra, which fall into the two categories. The largest of the ḥayr-type gardens was the game reserve, (ḥayr al-wuḥūsh) built by al-Mutawakkil (r. 847–61) south of Samarra. This was a vast rectangular enclosure (about 30 km in diameter) traversed from north to south by a large canal. One of its branches fed the legendary Birkat al-Mutawakkil, a square pool about 200 m to a side which once had animal- and bird-shaped fountains made of precious materials. A substantial palace with an arcaded terrace overlooked the pool and the park from a southern, shaded vantage point. South of the palace itself extended a smaller garden that contained an artificial mound in the middle.

The palaces of Samarra, such as the Dar al-Khilafa (Jawsaq al-Khaqani) and the Balkuwara, also enclosed vast courtyards divided into quadrangular parterres by axial water-channels crossed at regular intervals by subsidiary channels and flanked by paths. These are the earliest Islamic examples of the Persian type of four-plot garden (Pers. chahārbāgh). The parterres were probably depressed below the level of the channels and paths, a Persian custom continued later, particularly in North Africa and Spain (see §III below).

The palaces and gardens of Samarra provided a model for those built by many medieval Islamic dynasties, particularly in Egypt, North Africa and also Spain. Few of these dynasties possessed the Abbasids’ wealth, which perhaps explains the smaller size of their gardens and the simplified plan. In some courtyards only a single watercourse was used, but it was often elaborated with a new type of fountain (Arab. salsabīl, shādirwān) that became popular from the 11th century throughout the region. The fountain, set into a wall, consists of an animal-shaped spout under a muqarnas niche; water flows from the spout down an inclined carved marble slab, collects in a little pool, and runs in a narrow channel which in turn empties into a pool in the center of the courtyard. This device introduced a dynamic element to courtyard and garden design, a quality that was henceforth incorporated into many gardens in the Islamic lands. Although used primarily in palaces, such as those in the citadels of Diyarbekır and Aleppo, the type was also used in madrasas and other pious institutions, such as Firdaws Madrasa in Aleppo (1235–7), the hospital of Nur al-Din in Damascus (1154–5) and the hospital of Qala῾un in Cairo (1284–5), as well as in private houses.

Another variation of four-plot garden was used in the courtyard houses and palaces of Morocco as early as the first half of the 12th century. Combining the Roman peristyle courtyard with an Oriental garden type, the riyāḍ evolved into variations, often consisting of an orthogonally divided rectangular garden with a central pool, flanked at its narrow sides by two-story pavilions with arcaded porches. More elaborate gardens may contain a central fountain flanked by two or even four subsidiary fountains axially connected by a narrow channel.

The ḥayr-type garden also provided a model for later gardens in North Africa, although these too were reduced in size and elaborated. The palaces of the Hammadid rulers (r. 1015–1152), such as those at Qal῾at bani hammad (the Qasr al-Bahr) and Bejaïa (Bougie; now Annaba, Algeria), had squarish pavilions overlooking large pools. A similar arrangement in the Ziza Palace (c.1164–6) outside Palermo was probably inspired by the North African examples. Here, however, water flows from a shādirwān fountain through the palace and empties into the facing cistern, itself containing an island supporting a little pavilion.

Medieval literary references and extant gardens and courtyards can provide a general idea of the horticulture of these gardens. Some trees—elm, plane, maple, spruce and pine—were grown to provide shade; others, such as fig, pomegranate, apricot, peach, cherry and the citrus family, were grown for their flowers and fruits. Shrubs such as box, hawthorn, myrtle and lavender were used mostly for edging, reinforcing the geometric character of the garden, and vines, including bougainvillea, grapes and especially jasmine, were either trained on a trellis or allowed to cascade freely over a wall. Flowering plants such as rose, daffodil, carnation and lily were never massed together in a herbaceous border but planted independently and randomly in island beds in the grass. Shade- and moisture-loving plants such as hostas and ferns were planted in pots and clustered informally in corners and around the pool, while calla lilies and waterlilies grew out of the pool itself.


  • Enc. Islam/2: “Bidjaya” [Annaba]; “Būstān” [Garden]; “Ḥa῾ir” [Park]
  • H. Viollet: “Description du palais de al-Moutasim fils d’Haroun al-Raschid à Samarra et de quelques monuments peu connus à la Mesopotamie,” Mém. Acad. Inscr. & B.-Lett., xii (1909), pp. 567–94
  • L. Gallotti: Le Jardin et la maison arabes au Maroc, 2 vols. (Paris, 1926)
  • E. Herzfeld: Geschichte der Stadt Samarra (Hamburg, 1948), vi of Die Ausgrabungen von Samarra (1923–48)
  • A. Sūsa: Anzima al-riyy fī samarrā῾ hawla hukm al-῾abbāsiyyīn [The irrigation system of Samarra during the Abbasid caliphate], 2 vols. (Baghdad, 1948–9)
  • R. W. Hamilton: Khirbat al-Mafjar: An Arabian Mansion in the Jordan Valley (Oxford, 1959)
  • Y. Tabbaa: “Toward an Interpretation of the Use of Water in Islamic Courtyards and Courtyard Gardens,” J. Gdn Hist., vii (1987), pp. 197–220
  • D. F. Ruggles: “The Mirador in Abbasid and Umayyad Garden Typology,” Muqarnas, vii (1990), pp. 73–82
  • Y. Tabbaa: “The Medieval Islamic Garden: Typology and Hydraulics,” Garden History: Issues, Approaches, Methods, ed. J. D. Hunt (Washington, DC, 1992), pp. 303–29
  • D. F. Ruggles: “Vision and Power at the Qala Bani Hammad in Islamic North Africa,” J. Gdn Hist., xiv (1994), pp. 28–41
  • I. Hehmeyer: “Mosque, Bath and Garden: Symbiosis in the Urban Landscape of Ṣan῾ā῾, Yemen,” Proc. Semin. Arab. Stud., xxviii (1999), pp. 105–15

III. Spain

A. Introduction. B. Before c.1031. C. c.1031–1492.

A. Introduction.

Unlike its counterparts in Iran and India, the Hispano-Islamic garden, has to be reconstructed not from pictorial documentation but from surviving and excavated examples, supplemented by contemporary descriptions. The destruction of Arabic manuscripts following the Christian reconquest of Spain ensured that surviving literary sources would be scanty, and the Garden carpets of 18th-century Iran (see Carpets and flatweaves, §III, C) have no equivalent in Christian Spain. Writers on gardens rely too heavily on the present appearance of their subject, thereby ignoring the garden's inherent mutability. In Spain the issue is further complicated by the coincidental discovery of America in the late 15th century, which altered the cultivated flora of Europe as New World plants were introduced into gardens. No less serious was the italianization of Spanish palaces and gardens following Renaissance tenets in the 16th century, a process that erased the indigenous Islamic tradition in less than a century. Of the classical parterres in the Alcázar of Seville, the Romantic garden hanging on the Generalife terraces and the trimmed box-edging at the Alhambra and Generalife, not one represents or even approximates what was there before c.1500.

The courtyard house, which compressed and formalized the idea of a garden, had been the standard post-Roman Iberian type that the Arabs found congenial when they conquered the peninsula in the 8th century. Roman tradition included both the domus urbana and the villa rustica, an informally planned house set amid gardens and orchards. Formal gardens functioned within palaces not only as courtyard space but also as connectors between palatial elements, which were conceived as units within an overall horticultural scheme. Such palaces existed inside and outside city walls; suburban palaces, when small, approximated villas and, when large, palatine cities (e.g. Hadrian's Villa at Tivoli in Italy). The continuation of these traditions can be seen, for example, in the 14th-century palace surrounding the Court of the Lions (Patio de los Leones) at the Alhambra (see Granada, §III, B), which exemplifies the small urban villa; the 10th-century site of Madinat al-zahra, which exemplifies the palatine city; and the Generalife (see Granada, §III, B) of the Nasrid dynasty (r. 1230–1492), which is a villa rustica. Generally the Muslim ruler dwelt in a fortress (Arab. al-qaṣr; Sp. alcazar), with a system of interlocking courtyards supplemented by garden space for relaxation.

The public park was another Roman feature inherited by the Muslims of Spain. The private domain of a landholder was sometimes bequeathed in trust (waqf) for public use in accordance with Islamic law (see Islam, §III). Such parks were often found in the suburbs to avoid the congestion of the walled city. Cemeteries, similarly following Roman precedent, were suburban. Public cemeteries, although not formally landscaped, were certainly planted, and private cemeteries and dynastic mausolea were attached to palaces. The royal necropolis, figuratively known as rawḍa (“garden”), was so in actuality because ancillary garden space accommodated the less important burials.

A special terminology developed in Spain for gardens. In Almería the term for villa was burj (“tower”); in Córdoba it was munya (“object of desire”). In Granada the standard term was manjara (“orchard”), although royal properties tended to boast poetic or hyperbolic appellations, such as the name of a constellation. The term carmen (from karma, “vine”) is still used there as well, the vine being the only productive plant whose culture was economically feasible under such restricted climatic conditions.

Basic components of the Hispano-Islamic garden are a raised grid, irrigation under gravitational pressure, central collecting pool or distribution point, and formal walkways incorporating channels by which the irrigation is accomplished. The walks define the zone formally, leaving room for a less formal approach within the areas so defined. A quadripartite arrangement was standard, but not de rigeur. Quite apart from any Jungian or eschatological significance it might have, the four-plot plan is the easiest way to irrigate a rectangular area.

B. Before c. 1031.

Evidence for gardens constructed by the Umayyads (r. 756–1031) after they assumed the caliphate in 936 comes from the excavated examples at Madinat al-Zahra and a contemporary account of a pleasure garden at Córdoba. The gardens at the three-terraced site of Madinat al-Zahra included a zoological park, a cultivated zone around the palace (ḥayr) and an aqueduct (for plan, see Ruggles 1992). The canals at al-Zahra were described as serpentine watercourses, and, according to the poet Ibn Zaydun (1003–70), the pools there had shaded margins and were so deep as to appear blue. Pools corresponding to this description were excavated at the site: a large pool between the Salón Rico (situated on the lowest of the three terraces, and the focus of the site's reception complex) and the pavilion opposite would have reflected both buildings. The pavilion stands at the intersection of the axes of a huge quadripartite garden; the outlines of its beds are clearly visible, as are the remains of smaller pools on the three other sides of the pavilion. These pools supplied narrow channels which flanked the garden beds. Apertures closed by means of wooden bungs allowed the beds to be flooded periodically.

The anthologist al-Fath ibn Khaqan (d. 1134) described a Córdoban garden of the early 11th century known as the Hayr al-Zajjali, after its owner, the vizier Abu Marwan al-Zajjali. It had files of trees arranged symmetrically, a courtyard, a serpentine watercourse, a central basin into which all the waters flowed and a pavilion exquisitely decorated in gold and azure. The garden was so dense that the sun's rays could not penetrate, and any breeze was instantly impregnated with perfume. Although the poet Ibn Shuhayd was buried there in 1035, the garden was not of the rawḍa type but a Roman hortus, a combination of flower garden and orchard.

C. c. 1031–1492.

The collapse of the Umayyad caliphate in 1031 led to a diffusion of talent and the emergence of multiple cultural centers in the Iberian peninsula. For example, an arrangement of basins linked by serpentine channels similar to that known from the Hayr al-Zajjali was found at the Sumadihiyya, the palace of al-Mu῾tasim (r. 1052–91) at Almería, and the Alcazaba at Málaga preserves a waterspout with a serpentine channel fashioned out of a Visigothic monolith. At the Aljafería at Saragossa, seat of the Banu Hud (r. 1039–1146), a courtyard and garden have come to light. Pools at opposite ends of the court, obviously intended to reflect the delicate tracery of the porticoed sides, are linked by a straight watercourse; there is no transverse axis.

The heir to Córdoba as cultural capital was Seville, where the remains of the famed al-Mubarak Palace of the poet–king al-Mu῾tamid (r. 1069–91) have been discovered in the Alcázar. Several deeply sunken flowerbeds, the sides painted in imitation of arches, have been discovered in a courtyard garden; this may be identified as the garden designed for al-Mu῾tamid c.1080 by the Toledan agronomist Ibn Bassal. The arrangement of three beds on either side of a presumed central tank resembles that at Saragossa. An impressive new palace and garden, built by the Almoravids (r. 1056–1147) in the 12th century, all but obliterated the earlier one. The sides of the very deep beds are decorated with blind brick arches, and crossed axes incorporate channels lined with tiles radiating from a central pool. Dwarf orange trees once grew in each corner, four to a bed. Another Almoravid garden partially excavated in the Alcázares had even deeper beds for orange trees. Seen by the local 17th-century historian Rodrigo Caro before its destruction in the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, it had crossed axes formed by aqueducts supported on high arches from which water descended through clay pipes embedded in the brickwork to the level of the beds. To pass from one side of the garden to the other, one walked beneath the arches. A third garden of the Almoravid period, discovered in 1924 in the Castillejo fortress of Monteagudo near Murcia, is attributed to a local chieftain Ibn Mardanish (d. 1172). The palace, precariously perched atop a pinnacle of rock rising dramatically out of the level valley, must have presented the builders with enormous hydraulic problems. The rectangular court was bisected by longitudinal and transverse axes, the long axis emphasized by square pools at either end in front of a triple arcade and a reception-room.

The gardens of the Nasrid period in Granada are the most famous and extensive to survive. Numerous royal demesnes in and around the capital were all of the hortus type, as were the country houses that noblemen had on their estates outside the city. The largest of all was the royal estate of the Generalife (Arab. jinān al-῾arīf: “gardens of the overseer”), some ten to twelve times the size of the Alhambra; its extensive lands afforded pasturage for the royal herds, ovine and bovine. Often misleadingly referred to as a summer palace, the relationship between the Alhambra and the Generalife is properly understood as that between manor and home farm.

The Alhambra Palace comprised a palatine city built in successive phases as the state prospered or languished. The urban setting accounts for the presence of the Comares Palace in the shape of a domus urbana. The palace is an independent entity, and as the seat of government has an audience hall located in the tower that gives the palace its name. A large pool on the axes, flanked by shrubbery, not only reflects the two porticoed sides but cools the surrounding apartments during the summer.

The palace incorporating the Court of the Lions (Patio de los Leones) represents a villa urbana. The tanks at Monteagudo have contracted into fountains sheltered by pavilions, and the courtyard has been transformed from an atrium into a peristyle structure. The fountain at the convergence of the axes in the center of the court is innovative, replacing the depressed basin found at Seville. The fountain's lion supports are reused from the 11th-century palace of the Jewish Banu Nagrallah, which explains their archaic style. Orange trees in the corners are recorded by the historian Ibn al-Khatīb (1313–75).

The Generalife, on the opposite side of the gorge, was one of the three fortified villas (munya) that protected the Alhambra from the rear, the other two being the Alixares (destr. 19th century) and the House of the Bride (dār al-῾arūsa) on the Cerro del Perdiz. Under its 19th-century Romantic disguise, it is difficult to visualize the Generalife as the fortress it once was, fortified from before and behind, yet the fortifications are still there. All three palaces are examples of the villa rustica, manjara (orchard) and hortus type, and stood embowered amidst orchards, as did the Generalife until the 19th century. The location of the House of the Bride is a tribute to the formidable hydraulic skills of the engineers; to raise water to such a height it was necessary to tap the Darro and then hollow out the center of the hill so that water could be raised by a system of interlocking paternosters. Endless chains of working buckets, or perhaps skins, brought the water halfway up, where it was decanted into a cistern whence it was raised to the summit by a second chain of buckets. The Alcázar Genil, built over in the 20th century, was another hortus, with a huge pool (121×28 m) for the irrigation of a very large area as well as the performance of aquatic spectacles. This palace lay on the opposite side of the Genil River and bore no relation to the Alhambra.

Ibn Luyun (1282–1349) gave rules for the design and management of such estates in his poem on agriculture, a metric treatise dealing with such practical matters as the natural situation of the villa, its soil and climate, tools, fertilizers, different operations, the crops that form the object of such operations and the seasons at which these operations are to be performed. Of the 157 sections into which the poem is divided, no fewer than 70 deal with horticulture. Various former and extant features of the Generalife, such as the cistern and the water staircase, can be identified from Ibn Luyun. This productive garden was far removed in appearance from the Romantic garden that occupies the site. The courtyard of the Generalife, the Patio de la Acequia (see fig. 1) is organized along the same quadripartite lines as the Court of the Lions (Patio de los Leones), which it antedates by almost a century, but emphasizes perspective. According to Ibn Luyun, the length should exceed the breadth so that the gaze may roam freely in its contemplation. The sequence of courtyards in the Generalife, arranged on different axes to produce an L-shaped figure, is precisely that of the Palacio de Comares in the Alhambra.


1. Patio de la Acequia, Generalife, Granada, 13th century and later; photo credit: Sheila S. Blair and Jonathan M. Bloom

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  • Ibn Bassal (c. 1080): Kitāb al῾qaṣd wa῾l-bayān [The book of thrift and clarity], ed. and Sp. trans. by J. M. Millás- Vallicrosa and M. Aziman as Libro de agricultura (Tetouan, 1955)
  • al-Fatḥ ibn Khāqān al-Ishbīlī (d. 1134): Qalā῾id al-῾iqyān fī maḥāsin al-a῾yān [Anthology], ed. M. al-῾Innābī (Tunis, 1966)
  • Ibn Luyūn (1282–1349): Treatise on Agriculture, ed. and Sp. trans. by J. Eguarras Ibáñez as Ibn Luyūn: Tratado de agricultura (Granada, 1975)
  • E. García Gómez: “Sobre agricultura arábigo-andaluza,” Al-Andalus, x (1945), pp. 127–46
  • L. Torrés Balbás: “Dār al-῾Arusa y las ruinas de palacios y albercas granadinos situados por encima del Generalife,” Al-Andalus, xiii (1949), pp. 185–97
  • L. Torrés Balbás: “Patios de Crucero,” Al-Andalus, xxiii (1958), pp. 171–92
  • J. Dickie: “Notas sobre la jardinería árabe en la España musulmana,” Misc. Estud. Arab. & Heb., xiv–xv (1965–6), pp. 75–87; Eng. trans. as “The Hispano-Arab Garden: Its Philosophy and Function,” Bull. SOAS, xxxi (1968), pp. 237–48
  • J. Harvey: “Gardening and Plant Lists of Moorish Spain,” J. Gdn Hist., iii (1975), pp. 10–22
  • J. Dickie: “The Islamic Garden in Spain,” The Islamic Garden, ed. R. Ettinghausen and E. MacDougall (Washington, DC, 1976), pp. 87–105
  • P. Cressier: “Un Jardin d’agrément ‘chrétien’ dans une campagne de tradition moresque: Le cortijo to Guarros (Almería, Espagne),” Flaran, ix (1987), pp. 231–7
  • D. F. Ruggles: “The Mirador in Abbasid and Hispano-Umayyad Garden Typology,” Muqarnas, vii (1990), pp. 73–82
  • J. Dickie: “The Hispano-Arab Garden: Notes Toward a Typology,” The Legacy of Muslim Spain, ed. S. K. Jayyusi (Leiden, 1992), pp. 1016–35
  • D. F. Ruggles: “The Gardens of the Alhambra and the Concept of the Garden in Islamic Spain,” Al-Andalus: The Art of Islamic Spain (exh. cat., ed. J. D. Dodds; Granada, Alhambra; New York, Met; 1992), pp. 163–71
  • A. Quiot: “Jardines árabes en Granada y Marruecos: Similitude y variaciones,” Cuad. Alhambra, xxviii (1993), pp. 61–89
  • D. F. Ruggles: Gardens, Landscape and Vision in the Palaces of Islamic Spain (University Park, PA, 2000)

IV. Iran and Central Asia

The idea of a garden (Pers. bāgh, būstān, gulistān) and its association with paradise have deep antecedents in pre-Islamic Iran. The four-plot garden (chahārbāgh), an enclosed space with intersecting watercourses forming four plots, was used throughout the Islamic period, and the method of planting one is described by Fazil Haravi in his treatise Irshād al-zarā῾a (“Instructions for agriculture”; 1515). The garden was to be surrounded with walls along which a row of poplars, together with two water-channels bordered with flowers and walks, constituted the element of enclosure. In the middle, a straight grand canal, flanked by paved walks and flowers, brought water to a tank in front of a pavilion. On either side of this axis quinces, peaches, pomegranates and pears were planted in regular rows within four plots of clover. Beyond these, nine flowerbeds planted with various species were the culmination of the vista from the pavilion. This type of layout is represented in other media, most notably in Garden carpets (see Carpets and flatweaves, §III, C), but no early gardens survive, and the history of the Iranian garden in the Islamic period must be reconstructed from literary sources. For example, al-Mafarrukhi's contemporary account of the gardens that were laid out for the Saljuq sultan Malikshah (r. 1072–92) in Isfahan mentions pavilions, fruit and shade trees, scented flowers and pools.

Most of the evidence for Iranian gardens dates from the period after c.1400, when the literary accounts—both local and foreign—are supplemented by manuscript illustrations. According to Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo (d. 1412), ambassador of Henry III of Castile and León to the court of Timur in 1404, gardens were used as royal encampments. Numerous gardens were laid out beyond the walls of Samarkand along the Zerafshan River and its tributary. They had probably been made by Shihab al-Din Ahmad Zardakashi, listed in Timur's entourage as a planter of trees. The Bagh-i Dilgusha (“Exhilarating garden”), ordered by Timur in 1396, had a high gateway and was planted with fruit and shade trees. Avenues and raised paths, bordered by palings, led to a central palace with a cross-axial plan. Clavijo related that throughout the garden many tents had been pitched with pavilions of colored tapestries, structures typical of Timurid gardens. In addition to the Bagh-i Chinar (“Plane-tree garden”), there was the Bagh-i Naw (“New garden”), where a large tank had been dug before a central palace. In the nearby village of Misr, where the embassy was encamped, the Bagh-i Khalvat (“Garden of solitude”) had six water tanks connected by a large stream passing from end to end. In the center stood an artificial mound on which the palace stood, like a fortress apart. Clavijo mentioned that streets with open squares passed between the orchards and the vineyards surrounding Samarkand, but the formal relation between these gardens and the city is not clear, except for the stately avenue planted with poplars that linked the Bagh-i Dilgusha to the Firuz Gate of the city.

The type of garden described by Clavijo is illustrated in the double-page frontispiece to a manuscript (Baltimore, MD, Johns Hopkins U., Garrett Lib.) of Sharaf al-Din ῾Ali Yazdi's Ẓafarnāma (“Book of victory”) copied in 1467–8 for the Timurid ruler Husayn Bayqara, which shows Timur receiving courtiers in front of a tent set up in a royal garden. Indeed many of these same types of gardens were laid out in the suburbs of Herat, particularly when it became his capital. This development was stimulated by the new canal that had been dug to the north of the city, and the sultan's own residence was a huge estate known as the Bagh-i Jahanara (“Garden of the world-adorning”) on the slopes near Gazurgah. The tradition of royal gardens outside the city was adopted by the Safavids (r. 1501–1732) in their capitals in northwest Iran, to judge from representations of Safavid court life in contemporary illustrated manuscripts, but the relationship between the city and the system of royal gardens is particularly clear in Isfahan, the city in central Iran that the Safavid ruler ῾Abbas I designated capital in 1598 (see Isfahan, §I).

The new development of Isfahan was conceived as a great garden on an urban scale. According to the contemporary historian Iskandar Munshi, the architects Ustad ῾Ali Akbar and Muhammad Riza Isfahani based the town design on a promenade that crossed the Zaindeh River and quartered the city: to the northeast was the old center with the bazaars and the royal maidan; to the northwest was ῾Abbasabad, the new quarter inhabited by people from Tabriz; to the southeast was Sa῾adatabad, the quarter of the Zoroastrian community; and to the southwest was New Julfa, the settlement inhabited by Armenians. The Italian traveler Pietro della Valle (1586–1652) des-cribed the promenade, known as Chahar Bagh, as a beautiful allée lined with cypress and plane trees. Water ran in stone channels down the middle through varied basins with water jets and cascades. Two paved paths bordered by flowerbeds ran the length of the promenade. Starting at the Dawlat Gate, from which there was a fine vista, the promenade crossed the river by the bridge with 33 arches erected by Allahvardi Khan (d. 1662) and ended in a vast public garden known as Hazar Jarib (“Thousand acres”). Straight walls of the same height separated the promenade from the gardens on either side, which belonged to the king and his courtiers and had belvederes (bālā-khāna) at the entrances. Many of the 30 gardens were described in detail by Engelbert Kaempfer (1651–1716), who gave information on the layout, pavilions, plants, flowers and hydraulics. He also mentioned topiary work, which may have been introduced as a result of the Shah's close relations with Europe.

A noteworthy system of gardens was also created by ῾Abbas at his winter residences at Farahabad and Ashraf (now Behshahr) on the Caspian coast. Al-though the woody slopes provided a completely different setting from the arid plains of Isfahan, the gardens followed similar organization. At Farahabad there was a vast walled enclosure divided into two sections for official receptions and private residence. The constructions at Ashraf were even more extensive, with at least eight walled gardens containing pavilions, pools and watercourses. The development at Shiraz by Karim Khan (r. 1750–79), Zand regent for the nominal Safavid rulers, followed the model of the Chahar Bagh in Isfahan. An avenue lined with cypresses and set with a watercourse led from the Koran Gate through a dense system of orchards across the Kushk River to the city center. The gardens included the Bagh-i Naw, depicted in the 19th century by Eugène Flandin (1809–76), and the Bagh-i Jahan-nama (“Garden of the world-revealing”), comprising a palace and a garden arranged with four allées of cypress trees separating beds planted with orange trees and a magnificent pavilion with a tank in the center. The palace, the entrance portal of which had a beautiful belvedere, had tanks on its four sides.

The same tradition of Iranian gardens contin- ued into the period of Qajar rule (r. 1779–1924). The summer residence that Agha Muhammad (r. 1779–97) erected to the north of his capital, Tehran, was built on a sloping site, which was improved through a series of terraces. From afar the successive elevation of the terraces appeared as a grandiose palace with many stories. The survey and description of this garden by Pascal-Xavier Coste reveal the close connection between the palace and the lower orchard through an elaborate system of open and semi-closed spaces: from the courtyard of the palace through a vaulted entrance to four descending terraces through a belvedere to an orchard with lake and pavilion. This was one of the last royal gardens in traditional style, for by the mid-19th century the English style of picturesque garden had been introduced, to judge from two parks belonging to the courtiers Zil al-Sultan and Amin al-Dawla represented on an 1891 plan of Tehran.

The persistence of the geometric layout and of the central role of water and pavilions for shade shows the close relationship between garden design and the natural setting of Iran. On the arid Iranian plateau the very existence of settlement depends on the presence of water and the creation of an oasis rich with trees and plantings. Natural oases at the foot of the Zagros and Elburz mountains were irrigated by rivers or perennial springs; subterranean aqueducts (qanāt) were also dug into the water-table to bring the water to the surface, where it was distributed in open channels throughout the oasis and stored in cisterns and tanks. Orchards and gardens surround villages and towns, and most buildings—including houses, mosques, madrasas, palaces and caravanserais—are arranged around one or more internal courtyards with a tank and plants.

The presence of a natural spring was occasion for the creation of the gardens, such as the Bagh-i Takht at Shiraz, the Shah Goli at Tabriz and the Chashma ῾Ali near Damghan. Spring-water was collected in a small lake, which was the most striking feature of these gardens. Sometimes a qanāt was dug expressly to water a particular garden. For example, the Safavid ruler Isma῾il I ordered one in 1504 to supply the Bagh-i Fin near Kashan—the finest surviving example of a formal Iranian garden (see fig. 2)—and the Qajar Nasir al-Din (r. 1848–96) ordered one to supply his hunting grounds, the Bagh-i Dilgusha at Dushan Tepe near Tehran. Garden design was deeply dependent on water: irrigation canals run along the slope and define the layout, often articulating the main axis with stone channels, small cascades and geometric basins. In Iran the mere presence of water causes pleasure. Dozens of different flowers, including narcissi, tulips, lilies, saffron crocuses, irises, violets, primroses, hollyhocks, poppies, pinks and evening primroses, were planted along with such trees and shrubs as lilacs, oranges and jasmines in a seemingly natural arrangement, for the artifice in the Iranian garden lies in creating an environment where plants will grow in the midst of arid nature.


2. Bagh-i Fin, near Kashan, Iran, 16th century and later; photo credit: Sheila S. Blair and Jonathan M. Bloom

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  • al-Mafārrukhi: Risāla maḥāsin Iṣfahān [Epistles on the beauties of Isfahan] (c. 1072–92), ed. J. Tihrani (Tehran, 1933); Pers. trans. as Tarjuma-yi maḥāsin-i Iṣfahān, ed. ῾A. Iqbal (Tehran, 1949); Eng. trans., abridged, by E. G. Browne as “Account of a Rare Manuscript History of Isfahan,” J. Royal Asiat. Soc. GB & Ireland, liii (1902), pp. 411–46, 661–704
  • R. Gonzalez de Clavijo: (d. 1412): Vida y hazañas del gran Tamorlan con la descriptión de las tierras de su imperia y señoria (St. Petersburg, 1881/R 1971); Eng. trans. by G. Le Strange as Embassy to Tamerlane (1403–1406) (London, 1928)
  • Fāżil Haravī: Irshād al-zarā῾a [Instructions for agriculture] (1515), ed. I. Afshār (Tehran, 1966)
  • Iskandar Munshī: Tārīkh-i ῾ālamārā-yi ῾Abbāsī [History of the world-conquering ῾Abbas] (1629); Eng. trans. by R. Savory as History of Shah ῾Abbas the Great (Boulder, 1978)
  • Pietro della Valle: Viaggi di Pietro della Valle il Pellegrino … divisi in tre parti cioe’ la Turchia, la Persia e l’India (Rome, 1650/R 1972)
  • E. Kaempfer: Amoenitatum exoticarum politico-physico-medicarum, fasc. v (Lemgo, 1712)
  • E. Flandin and P. Coste: Voyage en Perse, 8 vols. (Paris, 1843–54)
  • P. Coste: Monuments modernes de la Perse (Paris, 1867)
  • D. N. Wilber: “Bāgh-e Fīn near Kashan,” A. Orient., ii (1957), pp. 506–8
  • R. Pinder-Wilson: “The Persian Garden,” The Islamic Garden, ed. E. B. MacDougall and R. Ettinghausen (Washington, DC, 1976), pp. 89–105
  • E. B. Moynihan: Paradise as a Garden in Persia and Mughal India (London, 1979)
  • N. M. Titley: Plants and Gardens in Persian, Mughal and Turkish Art (London, 1979)
  • D. N. Wilber: Persian Gardens and Garden Pavilions (Washington, DC, 1979)
  • D. N. Wilber: “The Timurid Court: Life in Gardens and Tents,” Iran, xvii (1979), pp. 127–33
  • T. Allen: Timurid Herat (Wiesbaden, 1983)
  • L. Golombek: “The Gardens of Timur: New Perspectives,” Muqarnas, xii (1995), pp. 137–47
  • M. Subtelny: “Mirak-I Sayyid Ghiyās and the Timurid Tradition of Landscape Architecture,” Stud. Iranica, xxiv (1995), pp. 19–60
  • T. Lentz: “Memory and Ideology in the Timurid Garden,” Mughal Gardens: Sources, Places, Representations, and Prospects, eds. J. L. Wescoat and J. Wolschke-Bulmahn (Washington, DC, 1997), pp. 31–58
  • M. E. Subtelny: “Agriculture and the Timurid chahārbāgh: The Evidence from a Medieval Persian Agricultural Manual,” Gardens in the Time of the Great Muslim Empires: Theory and Design, ed. A. Petruccioli (Leiden, 1997), pp. 110–28
  • M. Khansari, M. R. Moghtader and M. Yavari: The Persian Garden: Echoes of Paradise (Washington, DC, 1998)
  • H. Sultäānzādah and F. Khodābandeloo : “From Chāhār Tāgh to Chāhār Bāgh (Allegorization in the Form of Iranian Architecture),” Anthology of Iranian Studies/Majmū῾ah-i Maqālāt-i Muṭāla῾āt-i Īrānī, 5 (2001), pp. 29–44
  • M. E. Subtelny: Le Monde est un Jardin: Aspects de l’Histoire Culturelle de l’Iran Médiéval (Paris, 2002)
  • Y. Porter and A. Thvenart: Palaces and Gardens of Persia (Paris, 2003)
  • Gardens of Iran: Ancient Wisdom, New Visions (exh. cat.; Tehran, Mus. Contemp. A., 2004)

V. Anatolia and the Balkans

Gardens under the Ottoman dynasty (r. 1281–1924) developed following both Byzantine and Islamic precedents. The climate of Anatolia being more continental than that of other Islamic lands, the courtyard and hence the courtyard garden played a smaller role than elsewhere. The polarity between the courtyard garden within a structure and the wooded park already existed under the early Ottomans and Beyliks. For example, the Moroccan traveler Ibn Battuta (1304–c.1370) was received by the shaykh of the madrasa at Birgi in a garden court with a marble pool into which water spouted from the mouths of four large lion-shaped fountains. By contrast, the traveler was received by the ruler seated in front of his tent in a walnut grove beside a stream. Palaces and houses were often set in walled gardens, and towns were surrounded by garden suburbs, which often contained large park-like cemeteries. Often set on hillsides to take advantage of the view, cemeteries were planted with cypresses and had graves with little plots for flowerbeds. Walled gardens were planted with rows of fruit trees, which were enjoyed as much for their blossom and scent as for their produce. Gardens were designed for both economic considerations and pleasure, and there was no strict division between kitchen and flower gardens. According to Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689–1762), who visited Turkey in 1717, the gardens and vineyards alongside the rivers of Edirne supplied the city with fruit and vegetables, and orderly orchards were laid out for miles around the city. The city residents would go out to the gardens where they would spread their carpets and drink coffee; the gardeners and their families had little houses there. In central Anatolia the townsfolk cultivated gardens outside the city walls wherever there was water and would spend the summer months at their cool retreats.

The history of gardens under the Ottomans can be reconstructed from a variety of sources, including horticultural treatises, travelers’ accounts and contemporary representations in manuscripts, poetry and tiles, in addition to surviving examples. The Rawnaq-i būstān (“Splendor of the garden”) by al-Hajj Ibrahim ibn Mehmed is a horticultural treatise concerned with the growing of fruit trees and contains chapters on soils, planting, pruning, grafting and diseases of trees, as well as a final section on the gathering and keeping of fruit. Contemporary manuscript representations include the depiction of the gardens of Topkapı Palace in the Beyān-i menāzil-i sefer-i ῾Irāḳeyn-i Sulṭan Süleymān Khān (“Description of the stages of Sultan Süleyman's campaign to the two Iraqs”; 1537–8; Istanbul, U. Lib., 5964) by Nasuh matrakçı. The garden was idealized in Ottoman poetry as a sanctuary removed from worldly troubles and a setting for the leisurely life of pleasure and contemplation (see fig. 3). The interior walls of mosques and palaces were revetted with underglaze-painted tiles that depict garden-like settings, and model gardens of spun sugar were carried on parade during festivals.

Topkapı Palace, the sprawling residence of the Ottoman sultans in Istanbul until the 19th century, had several types of gardens within its walls. The outer courts were walled and terraced and planted like miniature parks with cypress and other trees, which were protected by walls against the gazelles and other animals that roamed at liberty there. Formal gardens were restricted to the Fourth Court, where the terrace was paved and set with formal beds; these were destroyed in the 17th century when the Revan and Baghdad kiosks and the reflecting pool were constructed. Murad III (r. 1574–95) constructed a pool and terrace garden (destr.) beneath his apartments in the Harem.

Although none of these gardens was large, the palace ordered prodigious quantities of bulbs and trees. For example, in May 1759 Murad III ordered 50,000 tulips (or possibly hyacinths) from the province of Aleppo and in May 1593 he ordered 50,000 white and 50,000 blue hyacinth bulbs from Maraş. The following September 40 tons of rose trees were ordered for the gardens of the summer palace at Edirne. It is likely that the great quantities were used to turn indoors into out with banks of flowers in the inner courtyards, corridors and chambers of the palace. The practice seems to have set the precedent for the festivals of flowers that took place in the Tulip Period under Ahmed III (r. 1703–30). The parks were constantly and carefully replanted: in the 17th century 4000 young trees were ordered for Topkapı Palace and 5000 for the palace in Edirne. The size of the orders implies that the trees were supplied from nurseries, and the importance of flowers and trees is underscored by clauses in treaties that required their dispatch for indemnities. The palace gardens were under the control of the Lord of the Garden, who was effectively the Lord Chamberlain. The gardens supplied not only the palace kitchens but also the market, for fruit, vegetables and flowers were sold to the public, the profits going to the sultan's private purse.

Nobles imitated the gardens of the sultans. The garden in the palace of the grand vizier Ibrahim Pasha overlooking the Atmeydan in Istanbul (now the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art) was described by the French officer Jérome Maurand in 1544. The court was planted with double violets, whose scent must have been overpowering, particularly when it wafted into the great hall on the sheltered side. A row of cypresses led from the gate to the suburban hunting lodge of Siyavuş Pasha, which was built over a pool; below its terraces and belvedere the banks slope down to parkland. The much grander kiosk of Davud Pasha stood in a rectangular walled park on the road to Edirne. In one corner was a smaller enclosure with a pool, kiosk and flowerbeds.

The embassy of Mehmed Yirmisekiz Çelebi (d. 1732) to the court of Louis XV in 1720 was ordered to bring back plans of French palaces and gardens. Consequently, an elaborate imitation of the basin and pavilions of the château of Marly was built at the Sweet Waters of Europe outside Istanbul, and cascades and orange trees in tubs were introduced. From this beginning there developed elaborately terraced and parterred gardens, especially along the shores of the Bosporus in the 19th century. These gardens were surrounded with high walls; bridges across lanes carried women unseen from the waterside gardens to the wooded hillsides. The gardens also had grottoes and fountains, comprising taps set in marble. The Ottoman delight in water was expressed in Baroque decoration and large fountains. The traditional salsabīl fountain type was also elaborated, with water sliding or dripping from cup to cup and sometimes designed to play a tune. Some of these miniature cascades descended from considerable, often pyramidal, height. Exterior and interior garden spaces were integrated by pavement carpets of different shades of pebbles and interior grottoes. The lofty salon of the şakir Pasha mansion (Turk. konak) on the island of Büyükada, for example, had a grotto full of plants and ferns covering one wall. Although fake marble caves provided refreshment in summer, they did not provide the views that the Ottomans relished in their gardens.

Flowering trees and shrubs, the leaves and flowers of which provided contrast throughout the seasons, were valued along with evergreens, particularly cypress. Chestnut, plane, hornbeam and lime were mingled in the gardens of the palaces in Istanbul and Edirne, which were filled with beautiful shrubs and trees. Almond and cherry trees held highest place, and their flowering branches are often depicted on fine Iznik tiles. Flowers were grown in inner courts. The most favored included carnations, roses, tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, jonquils, cyclamens and narcissi, but other plants were grown as herbs or to repel insects. Lilies, buttercups, irises, love-in-a-mist, acanthus, primroses, anemone, bellflowers, pinks and violets were also cultivated. The tulip, which the Flemish traveler Ogier Ghiselain de Busbecq (1522–92) brought to Europe from Turkey sparking the craze for this plant, derived from a speckled variety with spiked petals cultivated in eastern Anatolia, Persia and Afghanistan. Wild flowers were also admired and depicted in book illustrations of hunting and country scenes.


  • Ibn Battūta: Riḥla [Travels] (c. 1354), ed. and Eng. trans. by H. A. R. Gibb as The Travels of Ibn Baṭṭūṭa, 3 vols. (Cambridge, 1971)
  • J. Maurand: Itinéraire d’Antibes à Constantinople (1544), ed. and trans. by L. Dorez (Paris, 1901)
  • al-Ḥajj Ibrahim ibn Meḥmed: Rawnaq-i būstān [Splendour of the garden], Turk. ed. by H. Tunçer as Revnak-i Bostan (Ankara, 1961)
  • M. Wortley Montagu: The Complete Letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, ed. R. Halsband (Oxford, 1965)
  • J. H. Harvey: “Turkey as a Source of Garden Plants,” Gdn Hist., iv (1976), pp. 21–42
  • G. Goodwin: “Landscape in Ottoman Art,” Landscape Style in Asia, ed. W. Watson, Percival David Colloquies on Art and Archaeology in Asia, ix (London, 1980), pp. 138–49
  • G. Goodwin: “Gardens of the Dead in Ottoman Times,” Muqarnas, v (1988), pp. 61–9
  • N. Atasoy: “Les jardins impériaux sous le règne de Soliman le Magnifique,” Soliman le Magnifique et Son temps, ed. G. Veinstein (Paris, 1990), pp. 239–63
  • G. Necipoğlu: “The Suburban Landscape of Sixteenth-century Istanbul as a Mirror of Classical Ottoman Garden Culture,” Gardens in the Time of the Great Muslim Empires: Theory and Design, ed. A. Petruccioli (Leiden, 1997), pp. 32–71
  • W. B. Denny: Gardens of Paradise: 16th Century Turkish Ceramic Tile Decoration (Istanbul, 1998)
  • S. Redford and others: Landscape and the State in Medieval Anatolia: Seljuk Gardens and Pavilions of Alanya, Turkey (Oxford, 2000)
  • D. Esemenlı: “Courts, Gardens and Harem,” A. Asia, xxxi/6 (2001), pp. 42–53
  • A. Atasoy and G. Irepoğlu: A Garden for the Sultan: Gardens and Flowers in the Ottoman Culture, trans. A. Roome (Istanbul, 2002)
  • J. Carswell: “The Ottoman Pleasure Garden: How Gardens Became an Art Form,” Cornucopia, v/29 (2003), pp. 40–49
  • N. Ergun and Ö. Iskender: “Gardens of the Topkapı Palace: An Example of Turkish Garden Art,” Stud. Hist. Gdns & Des. Landscapes, xxiii/1 (2003), pp. 57–71
  • Y. C. Seçkin: “Gardens of the Nineteenth-century Imperial Palaces in Istanbul,” Stud. Hist. Gdns & Des. Landscapes, xxiii/1 (2003), pp. 72–86
  • N. Atasoy: “Ottoman Garden Pavilions and Tents,” Muqarnas, xxi (2004), pp. 15–19

VI. India

While the gardens of the Mughals (r. 1526–1858) are well documented in literature and art and many survive and have been restored, gardens dating from the 300 years of Islamic rule prior to the arrival of the Mughals rarely survive and are little studied. One of the earliest references is to a park established by the sultan Mu῾izz al-Din Kaiqubad (r. 1287–90) near his palace at Kilokari in Delhi (see Delhi, §I). It was laid out along the Yamuna River and was probably a traditional hunting park filled with trees, grass, scattered flowers and a pond or stream. The reign of Firuz Shah Tughluq (r. 1351–88) was apparently a high-point in garden design. Firuz Shah is reputed to have laid out 1200 gardens. These produced fruit and flowers, and although some were planted as pleasure gardens, the sheer numbers would suggest that their primary purpose was agricultural revenue. Nevertheless, the layout of fruit trees and flowerbeds in a revenue garden would not necessarily prevent it from also being used as a pleasure garden. Firuz Shah laid out pleasure gardens for himself at his capital of Firuzabad at Delhi. Writing in the early 17th century, the historian Muhammad Abu al-Qasim Firishta said that Firuz Shah, on the death of his favorite son, built a park outside Delhi surrounded by a wall 9–14 km in circumference, inside which were shade trees and animals for hunting.

The only detailed description of a Sultanate-period garden comes in reference to a madrasa built by Firuz Shah in 1351 in the vicinity of Delhi: the madrasa was placed in the center of a garden, which was described by the poet Mutahhar of Kara as a place of verdure where hyacinths, basils, roses and tulips were beautifully arranged, and where pomegranates, oranges, guavas, quinces, apples and grapes were also prominent. K. A. Nizami in his translation of the poem says that there were allées and avenues within the garden. This combination of a centrally placed building within a garden of rows of trees and arranged flowerbeds would make it a typical formal Islamic garden.

Gardens were also laid out by the Muslim sultans of the Deccan at Bijapur and other centers and possibly by the sultans of Gujarat and Bengal. Following Timur's devastating invasion of Delhi in 1398 and the ensuing economic and political problems, few new gardens were established in the region and old ones were neglected. When Babur (r. 1526–30), the founder of the Mughal dynasty, gained power he was not impressed with what he saw and in his diary, the Bāburnāma, recorded that the gardens of Agra were so disorderly that they filled him with repulsion. Within his first year in India he laid out a garden in Agra (probably the Ram Bagh) with running water, tamarind trees and symmetrical flowerbeds of roses and narcissus; all perfectly arranged and orderly. He also established gardens at Dholpur and Sikri (later Fatehpur Sikri).

The Mughal garden followed the chār-bāgh (from Pers. chahārbāgh: “four-plot” garden). In Mughal gardens two intersecting water-channels or walkways divided the garden into quarters. The layout was symmetrical with a tomb, pavilion or water tank placed in the center. (The one major exception is the Taj Mahal, where the garden is placed in front of the tomb; see Agra, §II, A.) Water was the most important feature of the garden. Its channels divided up the garden space and provided the framework for its design. Symmetrical flower beds and trees were arranged within the divisions. More complex variations of the chār-bāgh design were developed; for example at Humayun's tomb in Delhi (see Delhi, §III, D), the water-channels divide the garden space into 32 symmetrical plots. Water jets or simple fountains that sprayed water into the air were placed along the length of the water-channels or massed in tanks. Flowing water was used for its visual effect. Ripple patterns were created by carved water-chutes, which directed the water downwards between levels. These features were employed, for example, in the gardens of the Lal Qil῾a (Red Fort) in Delhi (see Delhi, §III, E) and Nishat Bagh, Kashmir. In both the Nishat and Achibal gardens in Kashmir huge cascades of water were used for their visual beauty and sound.

Trees were important for their shade and the beauty and scent of their blossoms. Fruit trees and cypresses were a popular combination, seen sometimes as a symbolic allusion to life and death. Plane trees were the most common shade tree, often planted in rows along water-channels. Flowers were chosen for their beauty and scent and were often used to give the garden a theme. In the Lal Qil῾a in Delhi the Hayat Baksh Bagh (Life-Giving Garden) was planted with flowers chosen for their scent, while the Mahtab Bagh (Moonlight Garden) contained only white or pale-colored flowers.

Though basic elements of design remained the same, some variations occurred in Mughal gardens due to differing climate and terrain. The two major areas for Mughal gardens were the Gangetic Plain (which contained the capital cities of Agra and Delhi) and Kashmir (which the Mughals loved for its climate). On the Gangetic Plain garden planners had to contend with a flat landscape and a monsoon climate, which limited the species of flowers and trees and the quantity of available water. Kashmir, with its temperate climate and mountainous terrain, allowed for a greater variety of flowers and a more intricate use of water based on the terracing of the land.

The Muslim practice of segregating women and men meant that certain gardens or parts of gardens were reserved for women only. The highest terrace in the multi-terraced gardens of Kashmir was reserved for women, as were enclosed courtyard gardens in the royal palaces, such as the Anguri Bagh in Agra Fort (see Agra, §II, C). Gardens were the setting for many activities of everyday court life, as paintings of the Mughal period testify. The painting Prince in a Garden (c.1640–50), for example, shows a prince, sages and musicians seated on a garden terrace for an evening's discussion and entertainments. In the distance a bed is being laid out in a garden pavilion, presumably for the prince.

The reigns of the third and fourth Mughal emperors, Jahangir (r. 1605–27) and Shah Jahan (r. 1627–58), were particularly important for the development of major gardens. During Jahangir's reign gardens were laid out in 1604–13 incorporating the tomb of Akbar (r. 1556–1605; see Sikandra) and in 1622–8 of I῾timad al-Dawla (see Agra, §II, B; see fig. 4). Shalimar Bagh on the bank of Dal Lake at Srinagar, Kashmir, was begun c.1620. The garden has three terraces and is dominated by a central water-channel. Jahangir also was responsible for Achibal, a small water garden, outside Srinagar.

Nishat Bagh (Pers. Bāgh-i Nishāt: “Garden of joy”), a non-imperial garden whose ownership is de-bated, was laid out next to Shalimar Bagh c.1625. (It has been attributed to Asaf Khan, Jahangir's brother-in-law.) The garden is enormous with 12 terraces representing the Signs of the Zodiac around a central water-channel leading down to the lake.

Shah Jahan's gardens are, with few exceptions, associated with his grand building schemes. He made major additions to the main palace-forts at Lahore and Agra and built the Lal Qil῾a for his new city of Shahjahanabad at Delhi. All were filled with gardens. In 1642 he laid out the Shalimar Bagh in Lahore, which, like its Kashmiri counterpart, has three terraces. Again water in the form of channels, pools and jets is the main feature. The gardens of the Taj Mahal, the tomb built for Shah Jahan's wife Mumtaz Mahal, were laid out from 1632 to 1654. These have a large central pool with four water-channels dividing the garden into quarters. Along the main water-channel leading to the front of the tomb are water jets, while the sides are lined with cypress trees placed within a geometrically patterned ground surface.

The gardens of Shah Jahan are the culmination of the Mughal garden style. They make extensive use of water wherever possible and even on the plains the water-channels are noticeably wider than in earlier Mughal gardens. Pavilions are situated in the center of water pools filled with fountains and the sides of the large pools contain carved niches which were filled with vases of flowers during the day and lighted lamps in the evening. The placement of water jets along the major water-channels is also typical of a Shah Jahan-period garden

The Mughal garden style was adopted by the Hindu rulers of the north, most of whom had political and often marital alliances with the Mughal emperor. For example the palace built by the Rajput rulers of Amer (Amber) in the 16th and 17th centuries has two fine gardens. Inside Amer palace is a star-shaped, sunken courtyard garden divided into quarters by a central fountain and four walkways. The quarters are planted with flowers and shrubs. More spectacular is the three-tiered Maunbari garden built on an artificial island in the middle of the lake below the palace. The Maunbari garden was used by the women of the palace at late evening or night. In the center of the upper tier is a fountain with two intersecting water-channels; the main axial channel carries the water down the tiers to the lake. Since the garden was intended for use at night, there was no need for trees. Instead the emphasis was on highly scented, night-blooming flowers which were arranged in geometrical parterres formed by plastered brick, similar to the Anguri Bagh in the Agra Fort. Another outstanding Mughal-style garden was laid out at Dig in the 18th century in Bharatpur District, Rajasthan, by local Jat rulers. The garden is of chār-bāgh design with the usual water-channels, tanks, carved water chutes, flower beds and trees.


4.Chār-bāgh garden, looking back towards gatehouse, Tomb of I῾timad al-Dawla, Agra, 1622–8; photo credit: Sheila S. Blair and Jonathan M. Bloom

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The Mughal garden style persisted as the dominant style in northern India until the end of the 19th century, despite the introduction of new styles by the British. Its endurance is due to its comfort in a hot climate. It provided shade, cooling water and beautiful and pleasant scented flowers and trees in a pleasing arrangement to be enjoyed by people who wished to sit and appreciate the beauties of their garden.


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