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ASHREF, a town of Persia in the province of Mazandaran,
about 50 m. W. of Astarabad and 5 m. inland from the Caspian
Sea, in 36° 42′ N. and 53° 32′ E. The population is about 6000,
comprising descendants of some Georgians introduced by Shah
Abbas I. (1587-1629) and a number of Gudars, a peculiar pariah
race, probably of Indian origin. The place was without importance
until 1612, when Shah Abbas began building and laying
out the palaces and gardens in the neighbourhood now
collectively known as Bagh i Shah (the garden of the shah). The
palaces, completed in 1627, are now in ruins, but the gardens with
their luxuriant vegetation and gigantic cypress and orange trees
ate well worth a visit. There were originally six separate gardens,
all contained within one large wall but separated one from
another by high walls. The principal palace was the Chehel
Situn (forty pillars), destroyed by the Afghans in 1723, and,
although rebuilt by Nadir Shah in 1731, already in ruins in 1743.
About ¾ m. north of the town is the Safi-abad garden, with a
palace built by Shah Safi (1629-1642) for his daughter. It is
situated on a lovely wooded hill, and was repaired and in part
renovated about 1870 by Náṣiru’d-Din Shah.
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