Tazieh, primarily known from the Persian tradition, is a Shi'ite Muslim ritual that reenacts the martyrdom of Imam Hossein(AS) and his male children and companions in a brutal massacre on the plains of Karbala, Iraq in the year 680 A.D. His death was the result of a power struggle in the decision of control of the Muslim community (called the caliph) after the death of the Prophet Muhammad.

Today, we know of 250 Tazieh pieces. They were collected by an Italian ambassador to Iran, Cherulli, and added to a collection that can be found in the Vatican Library. Various other scripts can be found scattered throughout Iran.

The Origins of Tazieh

Tazieh is a kind of Passion play that is a kind of comprehensive indigenous form considered as being the national form of Iranian theatre which has a pervasive influence in the Iranian works of drama and play.

The Ta'zieh tradition is performed by Shi'i Muslims during the first month of the Muslim calendar, Muharram, one of the four sacred months of the Islam calendar.

The Tazieh is performed each year on the 10th day of Muharram, a historically significant day for the Shi'i Muslims because that was the day of martyrdom Imam Hossein. Each year the same story is told, so the spectators know the story very well and know what to expect.

Tazieh in Persian Culture

In Persian culture, it refers to Condolence Theater and Naqqali which are traditional Persian theatrical genres in which the drama is conveyed wholly or predominantly through music and singing. It dates from before the Islamic era and the tragedy of Saiawush in Shahnameh is one of the best examples.

In Persian tradition, Tazieh and Parde-Khani, inspired by historical and religious events, symbolize epic spirit and resistance. The common themes are heroic tales of love and sacrifice and of resistance against the evil.

While in the West the two major genres of drama have been comedy and tragedy, in Persia, Ta'zieh seems to be the dominant genre. Considered as Persian opera, Tazieh resembles European opera in many respects.

Persian cinema and Persian symphonic music have been influenced by the long tradition of Tazieh in Iran. Abbas Kiarostami, a famous Iranian filmmaker, made a documentary movie titled "A Look to Tazieh" in which he explores the relationship of the audience to this theatrical form. Nasser Taghvaee also made a documentary on Tazieh titled "Tamrin e Akhar".

The appearance of the characteristic dramatic form of Persia known as the ta'zïye Mu'izz ad-Dawla, the king of Buyid dynasty, in 963. As soon as the Safavid Dynasty was established in Persia in 1501 and the Shiism of the Twelvers adopted as the official sect, the state took interest in theater as a tool of propagating Shiism.

Tazieh in South Asia

Shia Muslims take out a Tazīya (locally spelled Tazia, Tabut, or Taboot) procession on the day of Ashura in South Asia. The artwork is a colorfully painted bamboo and paper mausoleum. This ritual procession is also observed by south Asian Muslims throughout present-day India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh as well as in countries with large historical South Asian diaspora communities established during the 19th century by indentured laborers to British, Dutch, and French colonies. Notable regions outside of South Asia where such processions are performed include: British Guiana and Dutch Surinam (now Guyana and Suriname), Fiji,Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica,

In the Caribbean, it is known as Tadjik and was brought by Shia Muslims who arrived there as indentured laborers from the Indian subcontinent.

Tabuik made from bamboo, rattan, and paper is a local manifestation of the Remembrance of Muharram among the Minangkabau people in the coastal regions of West Sumatra, Indonesia, particularly in the city of Pariaman culminates with the practice of throwing a tabuik into the sea has taken place every year in Pariaman on the 10th of Muharram since 1831 when it was introduced to the region by Shia Muslim sepoy troops from India who was stationed and later settled there during the British Raj.

During the colonial era in British India, the ta'zīya tradition was not only practiced by Shia Muslims and other Muslims but joined by Hindus. Along with occasions for Shia Muslims and Hindus to participate in the procession together, the Tazia procession has also been historic occasions for communal conflicts between Sunni and Shia Muslims and between Hindu and Muslim communities since the 18th century, most notably the Muharram Rebellion which took place in Sylhet and was the first-ever anti-British rebellion in the Indian subcontinent. Also in the Sylhet region, a riot took place between the Muslim and Hindu communities, even though Sylhet's Faujdar Ganar Khan tried to prevent it from forming, due to Tazia coinciding with a Hindu chariot procession. These Tazia processions have traditionally walked through streets of a town, with mourning, flagellation, and waili.

By Abtian Javid