Charbagh or Chahar Bagh (Persian: چهارباغ, chahār bāgh, meaning “Four Bāghs” (“four gardens”)) is a Persian and Islamic quadrilateral garden layout based on the four gardens of Paradise mentioned in the Qur’an. The quadrilateral garden is divided by walkways or flowing water into four smaller parts. In Persian, “Chahar” means four, which corresponds to “Char”, which means four in Urdu, while “bāgh” means ‘garden’ in both Persian and Urdu.

The quadrilateral Charbagh concept is based on the four gardens of Paradise mentioned in Chapter (Surah) 55, Ar-Rahman “The Beneficient”, in the Qur’an:

“And for him, who fears to stand before his Lord, are two gardens.” (Chapter 55: Verse 46)
“And beside them are two other gardens.” (Chapter 55: Verse 62)

One of the hallmarks of Charbagh garden is the four-part garden laid out with axial paths that intersect at the garden’s centre. This highly structured geometrical scheme, called the chahar bagh, became a powerful method for the organization and domestication of the landscape, itself a symbol of political territory.

An attempt was made to trace the Chahar Bāgh into the time of the Achaemenids . This is based solely on the description that Xenophon gives of the garden of the satrap Cyrus in Sardis (Oikonomikos 4.20f.). After that, the trees stood straight in rows, were arranged at right angles and exuded a pleasant smell. This would hardly be enough to reconstruct the garden plan, but was the basis of far-reaching speculation of the Baroque physician Thomas Browne, who were particularly influential in the English-speaking world without their foundations being examined. However, this derivation is largely rejected today.

Dickie sees the Chahar Bāgh as a Timurid creation, which was further developed in India and Persia. Chahar Bāgh was built in the Mughal Empire , such as the Bagh-e Wafa at Jalalabad , which Babur had built. Even before Babur’s tomb, the Bagh-e Babur in Kabul, there is a Chahar Bāgh. Many royal tombs of the Mughal period are located in the center of a Chahar Bāgh , thus taking the place of the central basin.

Even Sikhs built in India Gardens along the lines of Charbagh, but they had no religious significance. An example is the Hazuri Bagh in Lahore , which was built by Ranjit Singh between the Lahore Fort and the Badshahi Mosque , converted by him into a munitions depot.

The construction of gardens was considered a central task of Persian rulers and is thus emphasized in the sources. According to Engelbert Kaempfer , Shah Abbas I (1587-1629) personally planned the Chahar Bāgh-e Abbāsi in Isfahan , thus succeeding the Achaemenid ruler Cyrus , who in the tradition of ancient oriental rulers was entitled ” Ruler of the Four World Regions “Led.

The Lion’s Court of the Alhambra in Spain also follows the pattern of the Chahar Bāgh, here the central basin is designed as a raised shell, which is carried by lions. However, the relationship between Chahar Bāgh and the Maghrebi Agdal Garden has not been much studied.

In classical modernism , the motif of the Tschahär Bāgh was taken up again by Luis Barragán , who was influenced by the Spanish Moorish gardens.

It is often claimed that Islamic gardens modeled after the Chahaar bang were based on the description of Paradise in the Koran .

The word janna can refer to both garden and paradise (compare the change of concept of Persian paradeisos ). It occurs 147 times in the Koran. Furthermore, the terms ‘ adn , firdaws and rawḍah (pers. Rouże ) are used. The term ‘adn corresponds to the biblical Eden .

The whereabouts of the true believers after their death is a garden, “traversed by streams” ( Sura 2:25 ), in which numerous fruits grow. Palms, vines (2, 266, 17, 91, 36, 34) and pomegranates (55, 68) are mentioned in plants. Sura 47 mentions the “parable of the garden promised to the godly” (47, 15). It contains “streams of water that does not become stale, and streams of milk whose taste does not change, and streams of wine that is delicious for those who drink and streams of clarified honey.” Further, the God-fearing ones “of all fruit and forgiveness from their Lord. “After Sura 55the true believers enter a garden with two springs containing two copies of each kind of fruit (55, 52). Islamic theologians often interpret these descriptions as metaphors.

God has also created the earthly gardens, with fruits, date palms (13, 4), corn, “fragrant plants” (55, 11-12), olive trees, vines and pomegranates (6, 99), gardens with trellises and without trellises “(6, 141).

According to the garden historian Penelope Hobhouse , the channels of the Tschahär bāgh represent the four paradise rivers, the garden itself the earthly paradise . This contradicts, however, that the four paradise rivers are known from the Old Testament , but not from the Koran. Here, the Garden of Eden is not readily equated with the whereabouts of the orthodox after their deaths. This also contained, as already stated above, only streams of various kinds.

For Wescoat, the Mughal Gardens are more likely to be associated with traditions of a pre-Islamic kingship than the message of the Koran. Quranic quotations in the Taj Mahal usually refer to water in general, according to the story of the Queen of Sheba . Especially the suras 36 (Yā-sīn) and 48 (al-fāth) are used.

Famous Charbagh gardens
The Chahrbagh-e Abbasi (or Charbagh Avenue) in Isfahan, Iran, built by Shah Abbas the Great in 1596, and the garden of the Taj Mahal in India are the most famous examples of this style. In the Charbagh at the Taj Mahal, each of the four parts contains sixteen flower beds.

In India, the Char Bagh concept in imperial mausoleums is seen in Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi in a monumental scale. Humayan’s father was the Central Asian Conqueror Babur who succeeded in laying the basis for the Mughal dynasty in the Indian Subcontinent and became the first Mughal emperor. The tradition of paradise garden originated among the Mughals, originally from Central Asia, which is found at Babur’s tomb, Bagh-e Babur, in Kabul.

This tradition gave birth to the Mughal gardens design and displayed its high form in the Taj Mahal — built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, the great, great, grandson of the Central Asian Conqueror Babur, as a tomb for his favourite Indian wife Mumtaz Mahal, in Agra, India. Here, unlike most such tombs, the mausoleum is not in the centre of the garden, but on its northern end. The garden features Italian cypress trees (Cupressus sempervirens) that symbolize death. Fruit trees in the garden symbolize life. The garden attracts many birds, which are considered one of the features of the garden.

In Pakistan, the Mughal Shalimar Gardens and the garden in the Tomb of Jehangir in Lahore are based on the Charbagh concept.

A charbagh is located on the roof top of the Ismaili Centre in South Kensington, London. The Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat, located on Sussex Drive in the Canadian capital Ottawa, Ontario contains a charbagh in a modern setting. The Ismaili Center and Aga Khan Museum in Toronto features a modern interpretation of a charbagh between the buildings.

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