The Garden Art of the Timurids Epoch in the Literary Sources and Miniatures of the XV Century

Issue #4 • 627

Sitora-Bonu Sadykova,

In hot climate, the dense buildings of the cities of Khorasan and Mawarannahr were one of the reasons for the departure of the citizens to the large suburban areas in summer time. The historian, Hafiz Abru wrote: “The population of Herat from the lower orders to the nobility, according to their means, made efforts to build the palaces, villas, gardens”(1,p.182).At the beginning of the second half of the XV century, many gardens of Herat were owned by the court of the Padishah and his entourage. In the county (bulyuk) of Injil, there were a great number of the countryside gardens, including those arranged long before the period of Amir Timur. Among them is “Baghi-Baland” (“Elevated Garden”), “Baghi-Zagan”, “Baghi-Safid” (“White Garden”) later on reconstructed by Shahrukh – the son of Amir Timur (Tamerlane).Abu-Said had laid the garden of “Baghi-Zubeyda”, while Sultan Hussein has created the garden of “Baghi-Djehan-Ara” (“The Jewel of the World”) at the place of the former small garden – “Bahi-Murad”. The Prince (Khanzade) Badi-az-Zaman had owned the garden – “Baghi-Nau” (“New Garden”). According to the records made by the chronicler – Handemir, the Shah’s court owned the gardens “Baghi-Chaman-Ara” (“The Jewel of the Lawns”), “Bayt-al-Aman” (“The Garden of the Safe House”), “Tahti-Ostana” (“The Throne of the Capital”), “Tahti-Safar” (“The Throne of the Travel”) (2, p. 172).
The scenic gardens of “Baghi-Margani”, “Baghi-Puli-Sangkashon” (“Garden near the bridge of the rock carriers”), “Bagchai-Shaukia” (“Attractive garden”), “Bagcha” (“Smaller garden”) in Guzargah suburb used to belong to Alisher Navoi. To the north of Guzargah the parks of “Baba-Sukhte” and “Azizon” had been arranged. The nobleman – Majmeddin, the rival of Alisher Navoi, had built the gardens “Baghi-Nazar-Gokh” (“The Beautiful View Garden”), “Baghi-Mukhtar” (“Privileged Garden”), “Baghi-Khiaban” (“Khiaban Garden”)(2, p. 175).
At the foothills of Chupan-Ata in Samarqand in the XIV – XV centuries, the gardens of “Nakhshi-Jehan-Numo” (“The World’s Decoration”) and “Baghi-Baland” (“Elevated Garden”) have been planted. The following gardens planted beyond the Darghom River were functioning in 1339 – “Dawlet-Abad” (“The Place of Power”),in 1378 – “Baghi-Bakhisht” (“The Heaveanly Garden”),in 1394 – “Baghi-Amirzade-Shahruh” (“The Garden of the Prince Shahruh”), in 1397, in the western part of the city “Baghi-Shamal” garden (“The Garden of the Northern Breeze”) was flourishing, while in the south-western part of the city – “Baghi-Chinar” (“Sycamore Garden”) was blooming.In 1397 – 1399, in the south-west the garden of “Baghi-Dilkusha” (“The Heart Captivating Garden”) and “Baghi-Buldi” (“The Garden of Contentment”) had been laid. In the center of the city, in 1404, near the citadel’s walls “Baghi-Nau” (“New Garden”) had been arranged (2, p. 174).
The time has not spared these famous gardens of the Timurid dynasty, they have not survived, but some literary sources and miniatures of that period can provide information about them. So, in the detailed description of “Baghi-Dilkusha”, Sharaf ad-Din points out: “the area of the garden, according to the order, was planned in geometric figures – squares – lined with alleys, hexagonal – with flower beds; the poplars were planted along the roadside avenues, while the hexagons and triangles were decorated at the edges by different varieties of the blossoming and fruit trees” (2, p. 175).
The diary of Babur – “Babur-Name” contains the basic requirements for selection of a site intended for garden planting. It is “the presence of tree plantations, a beautiful landscape, pronounced topography that allows the creation of various water effects using the running water. The tree planting used to be preceded by a preparation of the terrain in terms of the terracing and creation of the necessary slopes for connection of the irrigation network. On the sites with stable vegetation the work consisted of cleaning or reconstructing the existing irrigation network, planting the trees, construction of pavilions and facilities according to specifics of a certain location and a new layout”.
Detailed description of the Dawlet-Abad Garden is given in the diary of de Clavijo, the Ambassador of the King of Castile at the court of Amir Timur: “It was surrounded by the earthen wall and its circumference was a good league (4 km)…It accommodated six pools, there was a lane from one pool to another parked by the large and shady trees, in the midst of these lanes were the passages to the platform, which were arranged around the gardens. In the middle of it stood a beautiful palace, there was the entrance from the garden to a large vineyard, that was also surrounded by a clay wall, as big as the garden, along the wall and around the vineyard there was a row of high trees, which seemed very beautiful”(3, p. 224-245).
In “Babur-Name” there is also a description of one of the famous parks of the XV century of Samarqand – the garden of “Dervish Mohammed Tarkhan”: “A meadow is stretched in front of this garden. It has the stepped yards of regular shape, the beautiful elm trees, cypresses and white poplar are planted there. This is an excellent place. Its only disadvantage is that there is no large creek with flowing water. There are not so many gardens where there is such a pure and pleasant air and panoramic views” (3,p.14-15). According to M. E. Masson, this garden could be built in place of the “Baghi-Baland” (4,pp.134-135).
The quintessence of the experience of the landscape designers of Samarqand and Herat on arrangement of parks and gardens is given in “The Chapter on Planting Seedlings, Flowers, Trees, Herbs, and on Arrangement of the “Char-Bagh” and the Sequence of its Construction” in the agricultural treatise “Irshad-az Zira”, written in Herat in1515 – 1516 (5). The treatise pays special attention to the cultivation of the upland garden “Char-Chaman”: “On the first plot the grapes should be planted, on the second one – the quince, on the third one – the peach, on the fourth plot – the pear. After dividing the char-chaman to the garden plots, at first, the blue violets had to be planted, as well as the irises, crocuses, daffodils, special and common varieties of roses, and on another plot – the garden tulips, durdigush, common and white kokul, wild irises, anemones, blue jasmine, yellow peonies and four-o’clocks had to be grown. Further, at the third plot – the yellow jasmine, gumshash-mohi, zenbuk, water lily, blooming pepper, lemon iris, hatmi-hiton, white jasmine, jamani-afruz, Chinese tulips, marigolds and other flowers were blooming all the time, one after the other. Along the edge of the garden from its eastern and western parts and at the northern side of the pool, the hedge roses had to be planted. Cultivation of char-chamans to ensure the symmetry on both sides of the central axis are repeated in a mirrored order.”(2, p. 177).
Traditional garden “Chor-Bagh” is interpreted as a hidden and mysterious “Garden of Eden”, called “Janat al Firdaws” mentioned in the Quran (VII c. AD), which was used as symbolic example for the gardeners of the middle ages.
The drawings for the plan of reconstruction of the “Chor-Bagh” garden, according to the book “Irshad az Zira”, were compiled by the academician G. A. Pugachenkova (pic. 1), Qasem Bey Yusof and M. E. Subtenly (pic.3).In the drawings it is seen that the bagh (garden) has historically been divided into sections – char-chaman with lining of the main lanes by the accurate rows of the Lombardy poplars and the carefully selected varieties of shrubs, regulating the planting of fruit and ornamental trees and flowers in the char-chamans. At the core of the garden planting there was a principle of continuity of flowering, fruit ripening and achievement of aesthetic harmony between them throughout the entire vegetation period. Along with Samarqand poplars there was a practice of planting the sycamore, almond and mulberry tree with beautiful foliage and sweet dark red berries, globule elm, arborvitae, silver poplar, saura, fir, and willow. The aesthetic qualities of fruit trees have led to combining them with the snow-white, purple and pink flowers in spring and orange fruits in the green foliage in summer and autumn, including different varieties of apricot, peach, pear, pomegranate, quince, sour cherry, sweet cherry, persimmon, apple and almond trees, and vine. Their cultivation was carefully thought out and they were beautifully placed and planted within the garden plots of the regular shapes. In order to achieve the color harmony of the garden, the sequence of flowering and fruit ripening used to be taken into consideration. Arrangement of flowers, including the fragrant ones, was based on the principle of continuity of flowering – while some flowers wither, the other ones blossom. The vases of roses and daffodils used to be created. Of great interest are the gardens depicted in the visual art of that period. One of the miniatures shows the axonometric view of the “Chor-Bagh” garden in Herat of the XV century, where it is clearly identified how the garden was architecturally organized with respect to the two-storied palace that stands in the center near the pool (6).
According to schematic analysis of a number of the miniatures of XV – XVI centuries depicting the scenes from the life of Babur, several important conclusions were made. Thus, on the landscaping scheme one can see that daffodils, irises, immortelles, and clover were predominantly planted along the irrigation ditches. The hedge roses were planted along the alleys, while the pink peonies were growing in the flower beds in front of the terrace (aywan) of the palace. A colorful spring bouquet used to be created by planting in the eight varieties of roses in the rose gardens, in combination with the blossoming peach trees and poppies. Blooming peach and apricot trees accompanied by the flowering shrubs symbolized the renovation. Planting cypress trees in the center of the alleys or on the corners of the court emphasized the geometry and rhythm. The miniatures often depicted animals, birds with decorative colorful plumage: peacocks, parrots, pheasants, and the ducks and colorful fish swimming in the ponds.
The miniatures of the “Antology” (1399), “Khayrat Al Abrar”, “Diwan”, “The Court of Babur” (Burlington magazine, Jan. 1945, pl.VI), “The Orangery” from Babur-Name use landscape as the background for the painted story with geometrically defined channels, ponds, different trees, shrubs and flowers, which gives information about the botanical content of the gardens(pic 2.).
In construction of the gardens, supplying them with water was a top priority. Symmetry and a strict orderliness distinguish the main canals: they either dropdown in cascades, or their course is being interrupted by pools. Everything is subordinated to a strictly regular layout of the garden. According to archaeological excavations made by I. A. Sukharev, “Dawlet Abad”garden used to be crossed by a broad canal with six ponds (7, p. 2), while Sharaf-ad-Din reports that a large number of extraordinarily diverse water devices were applied in the “Baghi-Nau” garden(8), and Clavijo also mentions a fountain spurting out in “Baghi-Dilkusha” (3,pp.224 – 225).
Babur also mentioned the arrangement of channels, pools, ponds with fountains that were built strictly according to the regular plan. His description contains polygonal (eight – and decahedral) and rectangular pools, near which the festivals and games were held. Babur is depicted on numerous miniatures of that time; he is portrayed taking part in the discussions and music festivals (pic. 6). It is evident, based on a number of miniatures of the XV and XVI centuries, that the height of the jetting water of the fountains is low, approximately 1.0 m – 1.5 m high. The fountains and waterfalls with the high springing water were quite rare. For example, the miniature “The Court of Babur” shows such fountain spurting from the middle of the pool. He has two or three tiers of low jets.
Archeological investigations established the geometric shape of the square pools (“Dawlat-Abad”), which were of round and octagonal shapes (“Bagcha of Ulughbek”). Abundant miniatures show the pools, seemingly decorated with festoons (9). Sharaf-ad-Din reported about a large number of water devices in the garden of “Baghi-Nau” with the cascading down and sprouting upwards water jets.“When the Spanish Ambassador, Clavijo, entered the garden of Amir Timur “Baghi-Dilkusha”, he saw him sitting on the ottoman near the pool in front of the palace’s terrace”(3) (pic.4).In Bukhara of Sultan Abdul Aziz Khan (1540 – 1550), under the leadership of Miraq, custodian of the library, the miniatures to the collection of mystical poems under the name of “Rau-dat-ul-Muhibbin” (“The Garden of Lovers”) were produced for the Sultan. At present this collection is stored in the Salar Jang Museum in Hyderabad. It has a great value since it is representing the horticulture in the Central Asia in the mid-XVI century.
The palace served as an important compositional dominant of the garden – a large residential or monumental structure oriented strictly to the north – south, with the terrace facing the northern side. This technique, motivated by the desire to create optimal living conditions in the hot season, is still preserved in the residential construction of Samarqand, Bukhara, Herat and other cities till present. Two basic types of the palace gardens can be distinguished: the palaces with the arched and columned terraces (aywan), while a harmonious combination of architecture and gardens was ensured by the deep facade of the buildings, and division of the walls surface by the windows, painted niches and pilasters. The palaces used to be divided according to their functional purpose to the following buildings:
Official ceremonies palaces (Kuk-Saray in Samarqand, Ak-Saray in Shahrisabz), which architectural design is distinguished by its confinement, in contrary to their environment, standing out by their monumental dimensions and richly decorated facades. The formal palace is located in the center of the ga rden – at the intersection of the main alleys (for example, a three-storey Palace of Dilkusha with a cross-like hall covered by a dome, with three portals (peshtak) that were opening into the garden. In front of the main portal there was a fountain, near which the throne of Tamerlane was situated (3, p. 224-245). Another example of the palace with a deep arched terrace and lateral double-deck balconies located in the middle of “Baghi-Jehan-Ara” in Herat, one can see in the miniature of the second half of the XV century.
Small residential palace could be of one floor only (for example, the Palace of Chil-Sutun in the garden of Baghi-Maidan in Samarqand, first half of XVI century).The palace pavilion could be of two floors (for example, Palace Pavilion of Tarab Khan – “The Pavilion of Joy” and Jehan-Ara in Herat) with a symmetrical layout, a central hall covered by a dome with four loggias on the second floor, facing the four cardinal directions.
Speaking about the peculiarities of architectural pavilions, it should be noted that the architecture of the garden buildings were both the light openwork pavilions, and a monumental palaces (koshk).They used to be lined with ceramics, carved terracotta with the colored glazed specks or the Chinese porcelain. The miniatures often show the Takht – easily portable, in often cases, carved wooden seat for the owners of the garden. Takht was placed mostly in the shadow of a flowering tree. The marble grates often served as a garden fence, the floor was paved in marble and onyx. Another element of the garden, which is often depicted in the miniatures of XV – XVI centuries, is the tent, which had a decorative character through vivid appliques and gold embroidery, the floors in the tents used to be covered with carpets.
An example of innovative design in the landscaping and gardening art of the Central Asia of XV century is the group of buildings in Herat, created by Alisher Navoi on the banks of the irrigation canal – Injil. The edifices set among the beautiful lawns of the park, for the first time had a social character: this is the mosque Qudsia, the mausoleum–madrasah of Ihlasia, Halasia hanaka, the Safaya baths, and the Shafaya hospital. According to the historian – Hondemir – “the travellers, who wandered through entire world, could not name other buildings similar in their decorations and thoroughness of construction”(2). Unfortunately, this complex has not survived till our days, and it lacks a more detailed description.
Thus, the analysis of the Central Asian architectural gardens depicted in some miniatures of the fifteenth century demonstrate that the XV century was the epoch of the highest development of the landscape art in the Central Asia, when the architectural type of the regular garden was formed, which included two or more axes originating from a single center – the palace. This magnificent garden was characterized by planting spectacular variety of flowers and fruit trees within the boundaries of the char-chamans. The green vegetation, water and architecture were perfectly complementing one another, forming a single compositional group. The wall protecting the garden, as well as the rows of high trees, not only played the role of preventing the dust, but were creating a favorable atmosphere in the garden, while the corner towers and pavilions, built at the end of the alleys and water canals, served as the concluding architectural element of the entire composition of the garden (pic.5).
According to the chroniclers, the population of medieval Transoxiana, which dates back to the ethno genesis of the Uzbek people, possessed a developed farming skills, and their gardens and parks were the masterpieces of the garden architecture. Therefore, the study of the fundamental concepts of design and landscaping of traditional gardens, its revival and its implementation in the modern landscaping techniques will be a significant contribution to the architectural culture of the park design of the Republic of Uzbekistan and the Central Asia.

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