Jurjen van der Tas describes the history of Islamic gardens, how they are being adapted for modern use, and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture’s 20-year journey of creating and restoring paradise gardens across the Islamic world.
By Jurjen van der Tas, Deputy Director of the Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme
Gardens of Paradise take their name from the old Persian pairi dez, meaning “surrounded by a wall”. Transliterated into the Greek as paradeisos and henceforth known to us as Gardens of Paradise, they are in essence self-contained refuges for flora and fauna, with humans as their keepers and end users. The dry conditions that are prevalent in the Middle East and southern Europe make it essential for such gardens to have access to a permanent source of water.
The use of water features in AKDN's rehabilitation of green spaces
For many Muslims, gardens reflect the bounty of God and the blessings of life. Through the long history of Islam, there has been an outpouring of poetry and art that engages with spiritual topics, among them gardens as an embodiment of paradise, both earthly and heavenly. So too, extensive poetry, art and literature have been created that presents gardens as secular realms of social intercourse, pleasure, romance, and diplomacy, as well as a retreat from the hardships of work, conflict and a harsh environment.
One nearly universal element that finds multiple expressions is water. Water is an essential ingredient found in virtually all of the gardens of the Islamic world.
The statement that “Water is the gift of God to man and the earth” can be found in the Qur'an. In Islamic culture, originally an agricultural society, a significant amount of technology and law was devoted to water. Not surprisingly its use and deployment has been explored extensively in gardens of the Islamic world, and artistic devices produced to exploit its many changeable characteristics of movement, sound, reflection, and refraction through channels, runnels, falls, cascades, sheets, sprays, basins, tanks, pools, ponds and lakes are among the glories of this rich and diverse heritage.
Screening exclusively on The Ismaili TV, this three-part documentary series features the transformational work of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in the cities of Kabul, Lahore, and Delhi. Watch the first part premiere at the.ismaili/tv on Sunday 26 April.
The third issue of AT HOME, a new digital magazine presenting the programmes and projects of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC). This issue will shine a spotlight on the Aga Khan Award for Architecture and also feature the Aga Khan Music Programme, the Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme, Aga Khan Museum, and a presentation on the notion of culture and pluralism.
The Heritage Keeper: Meet Ratish Nanda who was instrumental in restoring Humayun Tomb and Sunder Nursery in Delhi Restoring monuments and parks are all in day’s work for Ratish Nanda, CEO, Aga Khan Trust for culture. He is responsible for some of the most fascinating restorations in the country and abroad
Restoring monuments and parks are all in day’s work for Ratish Nanda, CEO, Aga Khan Trust for culture. He is responsible for some of the most fascinating restorations in the country and abroad
In a city as populated as Delhi, there is a certain charm in rediscovering open spaces as it is a sensorial treat. One of the newest hot spots in Delhi, the Sunder Nursery, a 16th-century heritage park, spread over 90 acres and dotted with water bodies, splendid monuments, and greenery, promises to be just that. It is popular place for people from all walks of life and has already found a place in Time Magazine’s widely recommended, ‘The World's 100 Greatest Places to Visit list.’
The man instrumental in reviving Sunder Nursery and monuments such as the Humayun Tomb, is Ratish Nanda, CEO Aga Khan Trust for Culture. In conversation with YS Weekender, Ratish speaks about his passion for heritage buildings and his ongoing work in the field of architecture.
The fourth and final issue of AT HOME, a digital magazine presenting the programmes and projects of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC), will shine a spotlight on parks and gardens in the AKTC portfolio.
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