Dawlatkhanah of Sari

Safavid Gardens
1612 1904
Mahvash Alemi


Mazandaran gained importance during the reign of the Safavid Shah ‘Abbas, who had a predilection for hunting and wintering (qishlāq) in this region, where he created various gardens in Miyan Kala, Astarabad, Farahabad, Ashraf, Sari, Amol, Baghat, and Barforush. These varied from porches and pavilions, located in natural sites, to garden complexes placed close to existing urban centers or to new settlements populated by people who had been deported from Georgia. The royal complexes were composed of a continuous fabric of gardens (bāghistān), accessed through a maydān, where certain public facilities such as cisterns, schools, mosques, and bazaars were provided. Iskandar Munshi mentions, among the works of Shah ‘Abbas in Mazandaran, the fine buildings and gardens in Sari: “imārāt va bāghāt-e marghūb dar sārī” (Tārīkh-i ‘Ālam-i Ārā-yi ‘Abbāsī, 1111).

A 1904 plan attached to the report of works to be undertaken in the Dawlatkhanah of Sari shows what had remained by that time of these gardens and buildings. These were composed of two great domains situated around the Sabz-i Maydan. To the south of the maydān was a great rectangular garden measuring 700 by 150 meters, in which stood four buildings. To the north and west of the maydān was the dawlatkhānah, or governmental house, of Sari that was in part established during the Safavid period. Rabino, who traveled to Mazandaran in 1908–1909, relates that the governor's palace at Sari was built by Aqa Muhammad Khan Qajar on the site of a former palace of Shah ‘Abbas.

To the north of Sari was the old bāgh-i shāh laid out by Shah ‘Abbas. The garden north of the maydān was for audiences (divān khānah), to which one had access through its magnificent gate, known as naqara khānah, in front of which were two perpendicular basins forming a T. The walls were covered with paintings and muqarnas. Jules Laurens drew a view that shows the architectural features of the divān khānah with its tālār and the T-shaped basin. European travelers of the nineteenth century speak of state apartments decorated with paintings showing the victories of Shah Ismail (1500–1524) and Nadir Shah (1736–1747), and as the century drew toward its close these accounts reflect the neglect and gradual decay of the structure. Repairs to the government buildings were ordered by Nasiriddin Shah Qajar in 1296 AH/1879.



  • Architectural Plans/Sketches, 1904