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Dawlatkhanah of Ashraf

Safavid Gardens
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 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 from Georgia. Iskandar Munshi mentions, among the works in Ashraf, the beautiful houses and gardens with a spring and a hawz̤khānah with a silver basin on the upper floors, fed by water brought cunningly from a point higher on the slopes of the mountains. The gardens included columned porches, loggias, a lake (daryācha), water jets, a hammām, and a paradise-like small garden (bāghcha). Munshi writes that the works for the fine buildings at Ashraf started in 1021 AH/1612, after which porches (tālār), a bath (hammām), and service buildings (buyūtāt) were added.

Since Ashraf had become the shah's favorite retreat in Mazandaran, most of his intimates and court officials built their residences there, and it became a celebrated city. It was considered as the second capital of Shah ‘Abbas, where he would also receive guests and ambassadors. Pietro della Valle shows in a drawing the royal garden in which he was given audience on 4 March 1618. His drawing is the only graphical document that shows the features of the audience palace (divān khānah), in front of which was a great pond, called a lake, before it was destroyed by the Afghans and rebuilt by Nadir Shah in 1144 AH/1731. By 1743, the palace had already fallen into neglect and was again rebuilt in the twentieth century.

The gardens were situated southwest of the city, at the foot of Sut Klum Mountain. The gardens were accessed through a gate in a maydān where facilities for public use were provided. Pietro della Valle mentions a bath in 1618, and a cistern still existed when de Morgan surveyed the remains published by Sarre in 1910. Henry Viollet produced detailed surveys in 1913. The first garden was Bagh-i Chihil Sutun or Divankhanah, with the great pond (daryācha). To the east of this garden was Bagh-i Tappe or Andarun with a gatehouse. South of this was Bagh-i Zaytun, to the southeast was Bagh-i Chishma or Hawzkhanah, and to the west was Bagh-i Shumal. This last was accessed by a walk leading to a pavilion at a higher level, with four loggias known as Safi Abad from which, according to Hommaire de Hell, a beautiful view of the Caspian Sea could be enjoyed. There was an enclosure in which were a bath and stables, south of which was Bagh-i Khalvat and Bagh-i Sahib-i Zaman. The restored plan of these gardens, overlaid on a modern map, shows their perfect adherence to the topolines and the nature of site, characterized by the mountains covered with woods and the spring, where the pavilion called Imarat-i Chashma was built. The paintings at Ashraf were copied by Sarkis Katchadourian and exhibited in 1934. Traces of this garden-city still survive.



  • Travel Account, 1860
  • Travel Account, 1614