Being attendant in Ashura Ceremony in Iran is
an unforgettable experience. In Muharram all attractions are closed and some
people forbid you to travel to Iran during Muharram, Ashura and Arbaeen, at the
same time visiting Iran in this duration, allows you to take part in the
largest Shia Muslim ceremonies. A great ceremony that you can hardly see
something like it elsewhere in the world.
Explaining Ashura and
Muharram in Iran
Muharram is the first month of the Arabic
calendar, since Iran is a majority Muslim country, Muharram in Iran is
considered as important month.
Muharram is a month of mourning. Imam
Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), and 72 of his companions were
martyred in the Battle of Karbala, in southern Iraq, in 680 AD after fighting
courageously for justice against the much larger army of the Umayyad caliph,
Yazid I, which some historians estimate to have been 100,000-strong.
Many of children and women who accompanied Imam
Hossein were killed as well or humiliated, they were forbidden to drink water from
days before the battle and these tragic events and respect to Imam Hossein's ideals made
the Muharram and Ashura alive from ages ago.
The Karbala model is almost based on
resisting evil, praising freedom, and standing up for justice. It has become an
inspiration for resisting cruelty in every way.
The mourning begins on the first day of
Muharram and reaches its emotional peak on the tenth day called Ashura. This is the day of battle. Then
things slow down to 40 days after the testimony. On the fortieth day, it was
also known as "Arba'in".
During these days, mosques and even some
private houses and Hosseiniehs, which were built specifically to mourn Imam
Hussein (AS), hold ceremonies. At the
end of the ceremony, the men and women who mourn the death of Imam Hussein (AS)
wear sad face. They sometimes go down the street with the beating of drums and
Ta'zieh in Iran – A UNESCO
Intangible Cultural Heritage
On some streets, the play or
"Ta'zieh" is performed by re-enacting the Battle of Karbala and the
suffering of Imam Hussein and his companions. Yazid and his troops are dressed
in red and the children of the Prophet are presented in green.
Many people distribute food, milk, tea and so
on as a donation to Imam Hussein's Mourners.
It is believed that Imam Hussein hosts the
ceremony and people prepare and distribute food in his name. They feel that by
mourning for the martyred Imam, feeding mourners in his name, or slaking their
thirst, they receive blessings and divine reward.
Sham-e Ghariban (The night
of the deserted(
The night of Ashura is known as the night of
the deserted. On this night people light candles and gather to end the ordeal
of orphans abandoned in Karbala after the end of the battle.
What is forbidden in
It is forbidden to shed blood during the
month. During the month of Muharram, people refuse to hold parties or weddings
in connection with Imam Hussein. Many even refuse to listen to happy music or
avoid entertainment for the first 10 days. Doing work on Ashura day in Iran is
considered disrespectful. Then all the shops and attractions are closed.
What to wear on Ashura Day?
The whole country turns black especially on
Ashura. If you are attending an event, even if you only respect it, be careful
to wear black or dark clothing.
Where to go to experience
Ashura in Iran?
Each province and city will have its own
rituals when it comes to Muharram. There’s even a big ceremony the first Friday
of Muharram, when mothers gather with their infants dressed like Ali Asghar,
the 6-month old son of Imam Hossain who was killed on that day.
Yazd is known as Hosseinieh of Iran, since
many unique ceremonies attended there in Muharram. If you were in Yazd during the
first decade of Muharram you can take part in mourning in every afternoon in
Bazare khan, a place is decorated in the bazaar during Muharram with a special separated area for tourists.
In Ashura, Nakhl Gardani is held in different
parts of Yazd. The most crowded and beautiful ones is held in Taft city.
You have to be attended in Taft hours before
the ceremony get started to find a good place on the roof of residents' houses
to have good view to the people who do the ceremony.
Nakhl Gardani is the name of a popular ritual
among Muslims in some areas held as a symbolic funeral of Imam Hussein on
Ashura. Amir chakhmaq Square is another
place that people gather to do the Nakhl Gardani Festival.
In this ceremony, they carry a coffin-like
room to the mourning grounds, and pass it through a huge crowd of black dressed
people. The room is covered in black and adorned with a variety of colorful
fabrics and mirrors.
Yazd's Nakhl and their magnificent ceremony
are famous in Iran. This ritual is so deeply rooted in the culture of the
people of Yazd that it has been registered as one of the national cultures in
the list of spiritual works of the Cultural Heritage Organization through this