The concept of the Paradise Garden goes far back into history and is an enduring feature of Persian art and architecture. Linked with a love of trees and flowers, gardens reflect the harmony between man and nature.

Reproduction of a Paradise Garden carpet from Persia (17th-18th century).
Reproduction of a Paradise Garden carpet from Persia (17th-18th century).: It depicts the four rivers of life meeting in the centre, with a cartouche in place of the central pavilion. Cypresses and fruit trees symbolise immortality and rebirth. © Colour recreation by Ashish Parikh

The Paradise Garden is not a uniquely Persian idea; however, it developed more fully there than anywhere else. In fact, the very word “paradise” is derived from pairidaeza which means “enclosure” or “park” in Avestan (the old language predating Persian). The Greeks adapted paradeisos from the Persian, and the word eventually referred not only to the sublimity of the Persian garden but also to the supreme bliss of Eden.

The gardens established throughout the Islamic world had a threefold attraction: the idea of paradise as a reward for the faithful, based on references in the Quran; the secular tradition of the royal pleasure garden, which predated the Islamic era, and the response to the dryness and heat of the desert.

In the char-bagh garden, the main axis is a water course (symbolically and physically, water is the source of life), crossed at right angles by one or more secondary axes. The four water channels symbolise the four water rivers of life. Furthermore, for a Muslim, their interaction also represents the meeting of man and God.