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Ritual Dramatic Art of Ta’ziye

Ritual Dramatic Art of Ta’ziye

Ta’ziye literally means mourning, however, what is evoked for Iranians by hearing the name of Ta’ziye is a special religious and ritual drama in which those who are familiar with the drama techniques perform some theatre for the sake of Moharram and the pains of the third Shia Imam, his family and friends in the region of Karbala and during their battle with Yazid. Since reading artistically the poems is more important than the method of performing the events, it has been named “Ta’ziye Khani” in comparison with “Rodha Khani”.

 It usually begins with performing Pish-khani (reading a kind of introduction) of the main part. The person who establish Ta’ziye is named “Bani” (builder), one who directs it called “Ta’ziye Gardn” (runner) and its acters are “Ta’ziye Khan” (reader) OR “Shabih Khan”. The origin of Ta’ziye is not clearly determined, however, some believe that the roots of this ritual dates back to pre-Islamic Period in Iran and especially to the 3000-year-old ritual of Soog-e Siavash, the Iranian hero, which is considered to be the basis of Ta’ziye.

The formal form of 3000-year-old ritual in Iran, however, is attributed to the Shia Dynasty of Buyids; in 352 AH, Moez al-Dole ordered people to shut down the Bazaar, wear black cloths and read Rodha. Therefore, the foundation of Shabih Khani performance was established in that period. After that, under the rule of Shia Safavid government Ta’ziye was highly flourished. However, it is stated that the golden age of Ta’ziye in Iran is Qajar period during the reign of Naser al-Din Shah.

The establishment of Tekyeh Dowlat during his rule was supported as an imitation of Opera Hall Theatre in England. Ta’ziye Khani and Rodha Khani were forbidden by the government of Pahlavi I and they ruined Tekyeh Dowlat. Today Iranians perform Ta’ziye Khani every year in all cities from north to south such as Natanz, Shahrood, Isfahan, Markazi, Qom, Tehran, Kerman, Khuzestan, Fars, Bushehr etc. in addition, Ta’ziye is considered to be a kind of ritual drama attracted the great theater historians and theorists’ attentions around the world. Ta’ziye was inscribed on UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2010.

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