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Bagh-e Fin Garden: Natural Beauty, Sacred Symbolism, and a Gruesome Story

Bagh-e Fin Garden: Natural Beauty, Sacred Symbolism, and a Gruesome Story

An oasis of lush vegetation can be found in an arid region of Iran. The Fin Garden is regarded as one of the most beautiful gardens of its type, and it has been reported that this is the oldest surviving Persian garden in Iran. Reflecting its location and sacred symbolism, the Fin Garden is a masterpiece combining natural and man-made elements.

Creation of the Fin Garden

The Fin Garden (known also in Persian as ‘Bagh-e Fin’) is a traditional Persian garden located in Kashan, in the central Iranian province of Isfahan. Today, the Fin Garden is one of the nine gardens that form the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the ‘Persian Garden’. This garden is believed to have been created during the early part of the Safavid Dynasty, around the first half of the 16th century.

Fin Garden, Kashan, Iran.

Fin Garden, Kashan, Iran. (ali reza / CC BY 2.0 )

The current design, however, may be traced to the reign of Shah Abbas I, the 5th Safavid Shah of Iran, who reigned from 1588 to 1629. Nonetheless, the Fin Garden continued to be developed over time. One significant period of restoration and enlargement occurred during the reign of the 2nd Qajar Shah of Iran, Fath-Ali Shah Qajar, who ruled from 1797 to 1834.

1840 depiction by Pascal Coste of the Kiosque Bagh Shah Fin.

1840 depiction by Pascal Coste of the Kiosque Bagh Shah Fin. ( Public Domain )

Features of a Persian Garden

As mentioned earlier, the Fin Garden is a Persian Garden. These gardens are distinguished by certain common features that date back to the time of the Cyrus the Great, who ruled the Achaemenid Empire during the 6th century BC. One of the most important principles shared by the Persian gardens is the chahar bagh (meaning ‘four gardens’) layout.

According to this design, a Persian garden, which is quadrilateral in shape, would be divided into four parts by waterways. These channels are supplied with water from a source, a fountain, for instance, located in the middle of the garden.

Fin Garden, Kashan, Iran.

Fin Garden, Kashan, Iran. (Erwin Bolwidt/ CC BY NC SA 2.0 )

Persian gardens are meant to symbolize the harmony between the four Zoroastrian elements – sky, earth, water, and plants. With the advent of Islam, these gardens also came to represent the Garden of Eden, or the four gardens of Paradise, as mentioned in the Qur’an. Whilst a common layout may be found in all Persian gardens, the overall design has been adapted to the different climates they were being created in.

Natural Elements and Man-made Structures in the Garden

In the case of the Fin Garden, this Persian garden is located in a part of the country where the climate is arid. This contrast between the lush foliage within the garden and the barren landscape surrounding it is perhaps one of the factors contributing to the Fin Garden’s beauty. This is further enhanced by the natural and man-made elements in the garden. The orange trees in the garden, for example, exude a fragrant aroma when they are in blossom. Other plants in the Fin Garden include fruit trees such as apple trees and cherry trees, as well as flowers, including jasmine, tulips, lilies, and violets.

Fin Garden, Kashan, Iran

Fin Garden, Kashan, Iran. (Diego Delso/ CC BY SA )

As for man-made structures, the garden is surrounded by a high curtain wall with circular towers, which separates this oasis from the surrounding landscape. Within the Fin Garden are numerous structures that were erected at various points of time in the garden’s history. For instance, the spring that supplies water to the garden had a pavilion built around it during the reign of Suleiman I, the 8th Safavid Shah. Hence, the spring had been renamed as the Suleimanieh Spring. By comparison, the National Museum of Kashan, which has a collection of ceramics, textiles, and calligraphy, was established in more recent times.

Soleimaniye spring, Fin Garden.

Soleimaniye spring, Fin Garden. (Farzad Yousefian/ CC BY SA 4.0 )

Mystery Surrounding a Bathhouse in the Garden

Another well-known structure in the Fin Garden is its hamman (translated as ‘bathhouse’). There are two bathhouses in the Fin Garden, a large one, which was built during the Qajar period, and a small one that dates to the Safavid period. It was in the small bathhouse that the murder of Amir Kabir took place in 1852. Amir Kabir served as the prime minister of Nasar al-din Shah, a ruler of the Qajar Dynasty from 1848 to 1851.

Bagh-e Fin Garden, hamman/bathhouse.

Bagh-e Fin Garden, hamman/bathhouse. (s1ingshot/ CC BY 2.0 )

During his time in office, Amir Kabir instituted significant reforms, especially in the fields of education and administration. Whilst these actions made the prime minister popular, he earned the ire of the royal family. Eventually, the Shah was persuaded to dismiss Amir Kabir, who was then imprisoned in the Fin Garden. The former prime minister was murdered in 1852, though some have claimed that he committed suicide by slashing his own wrists.

Top image: Bagh-e Fin Garden, Iran. Source: Jome Gasht Tour & Travel

By Wu Mingren

References

Asian Historical Architecture, 2017. Bagh-e Fin Garden, Kashan, Iran. [Online]
Available at: http://www.orientalarchitecture.com/sid/807/iran/kashan/bagh-e-fin-garden

Flint, J., 2016. Story of Fin Garden in Kashan (UNESCO Site). [Online]
Available at: https://sfiran.com/travel/iran-destinations/story-of-fin-garden-in-kashan-unesco-site

Friendly Iran Travel Agency, 2017. Fin Garden. [Online]
Available at: http://friendlyiran.com/attraction/fin-garden/

Gardenvisit, 2017. Bagh-e Fin. [Online]
Available at: http://www.gardenvisit.com/gardens/bagh-e_fin

Lonely Planet, 2017. Bagh-e Fin. [Online]
Available at: https://www.lonelyplanet.com/iran/kashan/attractions/bagh-e-fin/a/poi-sig/491354/361014

Richardson, T., 2008. The world's 50 most beautiful gardens: Asia, Africa, Australasia, and the Americas. [Online]
Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/gardenstovisit/3349964/The-worlds-50-most-beautiful-gardens-Asia-Africa-Australasia-and-the-Americas.html

Tasnim News Agency, 2017. Fin Garden: A UNESCO World Heritage Site in Iran. [Online]
Available at: https://www.tasnimnews.com/en/news/2017/01/25/1307393/fin-garden-a-unesco-world-heritage-site-in-iran

UNESCO, 2017. The Persian Garden. [Online]
Available at: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1372

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