(Persia Digest) – One of the oldest rituals for the Moharram month of mourning in Ardabil, northwestern Iran, which takes place in the final days of the month of Dhu al-Hijjah on the Arabic calendar is called ‘Tashtgozari’ or lining up the basins.
This is an ancient tradition in Iran when a large number of Azeri speaking Iranians greet the coming of Moharram. In this ceremony, water basins representing a sample of water from the Euphrates are brought to mosques and other religious venues. This ritual comes from the martyrdom of Imam Hossein (AS) and his bravery facing the Hor army, when he is said to have emptied the water from their waterskins into the basins on 27 Dhu al-Hijjah (8 Sept) to water the Hor army and their horses.
There are many narrations of this event. Some believe that by observing this ritual, the Karbala events and importance of water, or lack of it, is magnified.
Taking into account the path taken by the caravan of Imam Hossein, son of Ali (AS) from Mecca to Karbala, some historians write: “Based on historical facts, on the path of the Karbala caravan, the soldiers of Al-Hurr ibn Yazid al Tamimi, the general of the Ummayad army, blocked their way in a region called “Zobaleh” just before reaching the Neinava plains. At this point, despite a shortage of water, Imam Hossein orders the emptying of waterskins into basins to be used by his companions, the Hor army, and horses and animals in both caravans.
Although this ritual has taken place in Ardabil since the Safavid times, it has become more popular over the last three decades in other provinces and cities such as East and West Azerbaijan, Zanjan, Bonab, Talesh, etc.
Once the basins are placed on special platforms and prayers are recited by the mourners, the water is distributed as a consecration.
The basins used in the ceremony are round, and made of bronze or copper. Afterwards, the elders carry the basins in the city and take them to the mosques. Those in the mosques rise to their feet and beat their chests as a sign of respect and honor.
The elders take the basins around the mosque and put them in their special place. Then, they fill these with the water they have carried on the backs in pots.
The oldest basin in Ardabil mosques belongs to the “Chaghusazan Mosque” which dates back to the time of Shah Abbas I. This is decorated with carvings of fish and plants, and inscribed “Devoted to Hazrat Abbas in 1038 Ah [1629 CE]”.
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Photos: Bahram Ac Shirinpur/Tasnim Reza Zar’e/IRNA