Sep 18, 2018, 10:00 AM
News Code: 83036917
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Nakhl-gardani: Traditional Iranian mourning ritual

Tehran, Sept 18, IRNA - Nakhl-gardani is an ancient mourning ritual commemorating the suffering and martyrdom of Imam Hussein (PBUH), the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the third Shia Imam, which is held annually in towns and villages in central Iran, with Yazd as the main host.

Nakhl is a huge wooden structure representing Imam’s coffin in the procession of the date of the martyrdom known as Ashura, 10th of Muharram (the first month of the lunar Islamic calendar) .

Hamid Vafaei-Shahi, a researcher on Yazd’s popular culture, said nakhl is date palm tree in Persian which has a tall, slender, straight trunk.

In this context it connotates ‘stature’ and is often referred to as naql meaning either ‘carrying’ or ‘saying’, since it is moved from one place to another and the people standing by the structure invocate some Ashura stories.

Rooted in national and mythological rituals, Nakhl-gardani is a continuum of the Persian hero Siavash’s annual funeral who was killed on false accusation.

According to the historical records, ancient Iranians used to attend Siavash’s funeral by constructing a body like him and carrying it in a coffin on the heads of women, said the researcher.

Vafaei-Shahi added the nakhl is firstly dressed from top to bottom.

The predominant colors of the fabric covering the skeleton are black symbolizing mourning, and green representing the Imam’s clothes. Then it is decorated with colorful silk shawls, precious fabric, mirrors, flowers and green branches.

Some swords, daggers, shields, candles or lanterns, and flags are added for ornamentation. The person decorating the nakhl is referred to as nakhl-band and the process takes from one to some days depending on the size of the structure.

He further said the nakhl is carried in some squares and localities of the towns and villages with a number of people depending on the size and weight of the structure; sometimes it is so heavy that it requires several hundred men to lift it.

The ritual draws many tourists, both Iranians and foreigners, to the place each year and is still so popular in Yazd’s mosques and tekyehs, a place where Shia gather for mourning of Muharram, that was added as an Intangible Cultural Heritage to the National Register list in 2016.

The Mourning of Muharram (or Remembrance of Muharram) is a set of rituals associated with both Shia and Sunni Islam. The event marks the anniversary of the Battle of Karbala, when Imam Hussein ibn Ali (PBUH), was martyred by the forces of the enemy. Family members accompanying him laid down their lives or were subject to humiliation.

The commemoration of this event during the yearly mourning season, with the Day of Ashura as the focal date, serves to define Shia communal identity. Muharram observances are carried out in countries with a sizable Shia population.

Source: Iran Daily

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