The view along the water channel at the heart of the central axis of Babur’s Gardens, Kabul.

AKDN / Christian Richters

The presence of running water, therefore, has always been closely associated with Gardens of Paradise. That the concept of such gardens was already wide-spread in the classic world, is evident from the patios with water features of Roman luxury villas, built more than 2000 years ago. Gardens of Paradise have historically always been seen as somewhat exclusive, offering at best only limited access to the public at large.

The Chihilsitoon Garden, at 12.5 hectares Kabul’s largest historic public garden, was also restored by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.

Apart from the change of concept that came with the transliteration from the Persian into the Greek, the association that these walled, secluded gardens have with our notion of paradise is also a direct result of the rise of Islam from the 7th century onward. There are numerous verses in the Qur’an referring to paradise as a collection of gardens with fruit-bearing trees and rivers running with water, milk, wine and honey. The four gardens and rivers mentioned in the Qur’an gave rise to the Persian concept of Chahar Bagh, or Four Gardens, which spread further eastward during the Mughal empire. The gardens of the Taj Mahal and Humayun’s Tomb in India, Babur’s Gardens in Kabul and the major Mughal monuments of Lahore are prime examples of this.