(Persia Digest) – As the ‘Ashura mourning ceremonies approach, the ‘alam making blacksmiths shops get busy again in the tradition of their ancestors to make the traditional signs. They use thin sheets of steel to cut out cypress trees that bounce and move back and forth and bow down as a sign of respect in front of the Almighty and the Masoum.
It has always been customary to etch the words “Allah o Akbar” over the top of the cypresses and other verses from the Quran in the beaten silver method, engraving, or acid etching. There are usually eleven cypresses for the eleven Imams, except for the last one who is absent. Other decorations on the ‘alam include pheasant, ostrich, and peacock feathers, termeh shawls, bells, inspiring metal animal statuettes, such as lions and horses, birds, and heavenly doves. Metal cypresses used in ceremonies and mourning rituals of Moharram and Safar, especially for the Imam Hossein (AS) traditional religious delegation, each take a month to make.
Haj Mahdi Hosseini has been in this business for 41 years. He makes signs in a garage near Khorasan Square in Tehran. The business has been handed down from generation to generation in their family. His father Haj Ghasem, and grandfather Master Asghar the Samovar maker were always more active than the rest at the bazaar in Molavi Street. Apart from Iran, Haj Mahdi also makes ‘alams for countries such as Canada, Germany, and the UK.
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