A multiplicity of rituals to commemorate the martyrdom anniversary of the third Shia Imam is held in Iran as well as all around the world during the Islamic lunar month of Muharram.
In remembrance of this significant historical event, some rituals to mark the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein (AS) in Iran are below:
1. Chest beating
People in different groups wear black outfits and walk around a neighborhood while holding up the Alam (the battle standard) with the beat of drums accompanied by the chant of elegiac poetry.
UNESCO’s inscribed Ta’zieh is a type of Persian passion play merged with the religious ceremonies of Muharram. Just like an open-air theater, the performance features how the Imam and his 72 faithful followers were martyred at the Battle of Karbala.
Nowadays, people perform Ta’zieh in all cities and villages of Iran.
Food and drink distribution among people is another ritual held for Muharram in Iran. Everywhere you step in, there are some people who give Nazri food and drink as a pledge to the Imam. Gheymeh, a thick stew of cooked lamb, is one of the most common this time of year in Iran.
4. Nakhl Gardani (carrying the palm)
Nakhl Gardani is a tradition in which people hold and carry a large glorious wooden structure on their shoulders every year in Ashura that falls on the 10th of Muharram. It’s the symbol of Imam Hussein’s beheaded body carried on a stretcher made of palm leaves in Ashura.
5. Sham-e Ghariban
Sham-e Ghariban is themed around evening and night of Ashura, also known as “the night of the forsaken.” People hold a candlelight vigil to honor the orphan children whose tents went on fire by the enemies of the Imam.
6. Gel Mali (rubbing mud on the body)
Rubbing mud on the head and shoulders signifies grief for the death of a loved one as a tradition that runs in Iran, particularly in Lorestan Province. Such tradition is practiced in Ashura. The ritual goes on three days when men rub mud on their heads and shoulders.
7. Mash’al Gardani (carrying the torches)
The act of turning around a torch in a circular pattern is known as “Mash’al Gardani”.This ritual announces the beginning of Muharram and is repeated a few days later in the month, including in Ashura.
8. Tasht-Gozari (Lining up the Basin of Water)
Tasht-Gozari means the placing of a tub and filling it with perfumed water or sherbet for the mourners. The ritual begins a few days before the final Islamic lunar month of Zu al-Hijjah, It is a symbol for the difficulties Imam Hussein (AS) and his followers had gone through while they were deprived of water. This religious ritual includes chanting of elegies and chest-beating as well.
A note of caution is that for this year's mourning ceremonies many of these rituals have been canceled or held under strict health protocols due to the coronavirus pandemic.