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Title: Ta'zieh  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Tatbir, Iranian folklore, Marsiya, Chup Tazia, Radif (music)
Collection: Cinema of Iran, Husayn Ibn Ali, Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, Iranian Music, Performing Arts, Theatrical Genres
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Dramatic of Ashura in Iran

Ta'zieh or Ta'zïye or Ta'zīya or Tazīa, (Arabic: تعزية‎, Persian: تعزیه‎, Urdu: تعزیہ‎) means comfort, condolence. It comes from roots aza (عزو and عزى) which means mourning.

Depending on region, time, occasion, religion, etc. the word can signify different cultural meanings and practices:

  • In Persian cultural reference it is a kind of Condolence Theater inspired by historical and religious events, symbolize epic spirit and resistance.
  • In reference to Iranian Shiism it is a kind of Passion Play on the tragic fate of Hassan and Hussein.
  • In Indian Subcontinent it refers specifically to the Miniature Mausoleums (imitations of the mausolems of Karbala, generally made of coloured paper and bamboo) used in ritual processions held in the month of Muharram.


  • Ta'zieh in Persian culture 1
  • Ta'zïye in Iranian Shiism 2
  • Ta'zīya in Indian Subcontinent 3
  • Tazia 4
  • References 5
  • Books 6
  • External links 7

Ta'zieh in Persian culture

The ritual dramatic art of Ta‘zīye *
Country Iran
Reference 377
Region ** Asia and Australasia
Inscription history
Inscription 2010
  • Name as inscribed by UNESCO
    ** Region as classified by UNESCO

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 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 theme is the heroic tales of love and sacrifice, and of resistance against the evil.

While in the west the two major genres of dramas have been comedy and tragedy, in Persia (Iran), Tazieh seems to be the dominant genre. Considered as Persian opera, Tazieh resembles the European opera in many respects.[1]

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

Ta'zïye in Iranian Shiism

The appearance of the characteristic dramatic form of Persia known as the ta'zïyeMu'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.[2]

Ta'zīya in Indian Subcontinent

Indian Shia Muslims take out a Ta'zīya procession on day of Ashura in Barabanki, India, Jan, 2009.

In Indian Subcontinent, where dramatic commemorations are less significant, ta'zīya came to refer specifically to the miniature mausoleums used in ritual processions held in the month of Muharram. As Indian Shi'a were not able to travel the long distance to the holy city of Kerbala, whether for burial or pilgrimage, they built replicas of Imam Hussein's mausoleum in India, which they called ta'zīya, and carried them in processions. Thousands of ta'zīyas in various shapes and sizes are fashioned every year for the months of mourning of Muharram and Safar. They are carried in processions and may be buried at the end of Ashoura or Arbain.[3][4]

The ta'zīya displayed by Nawab of Awadh of Lucknow during the mourning of Muharram used to be composed of green-glass, with or-molu (brass moldings). Some were of ivory, sandalwood, cedar or of wrought filligree silver. Those for the poor were used to be of coloured talc.[5][6]

Numerous local traditions of ta'zīya construction have emerged over the centuries. Ta'zīyas vary in shape and size according to region. Although some were originally made of precious materials for royal and wealthy patrons, to be housed permanently, the majority of ta'zīyas are of kind of "disposable sacred art". Such disposable structures predominate on the popular level today. Materials used to build ta'zīyas include wood and bamboo for the frame and paper, tin foil, mica and glass for the ornamental exterior.[7][8]

In India ta'zīya tradition is not only practiced by Shia Muslims and other Muslims but also by Hindus.[9] Even many Hindu zamindars were found to subscribe to ta'zīya tradition.[10]

Tabuiks being lowered into the sea in Pariaman, Indonesia

This art of a bamboo and paper mausoleum has reached,

In the Caribbean it is known as Tadjah and was brought by Shia Muslim indentured labourers and other migrant laborers from India.

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 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 Shi'ite Muslim sepoy troops from India who were stationed and later settled there during the British Raj.[16]


Ta'ziye in Shiraz Arts Festival,1977

Like Western passion plays, ta'zia dramas were originally performed outdoors at crossroads and other public places where large audiences could gather. Performances later took place in the courtyards of inns and private homes, but eventually unique structures called tazias were constructed for the specific purpose of staging the plays. Community cooperation was encouraged in the building and decoration of the takias, whether the funds for the enterprise were provided by an individual philanthropist or by contributions from the residents of its particular locality. The takias varied in size, from intimate structures which could only accommodate a few dozen spectators to large buildings capable of holding an audience of more than a thousand people. Often the takias were temporary, having been erected specially for the mourning of Muharram. All takias, regardless of their size, are constructed as theaters-in-the-round to intensify the dynamic between actors and audience. the spectators are literally surrounded by the action and often become physical participants in the play. In unwalled takias, it is not unusual for combat scenes to occur behind the audience.[17]

Takia-ye Dawlat, the Royal Theater in Tehran, was the most famous of all the ta'zia performance spaces. Built in the 1870s by Naser al-Din Shah Qajar, the Royal Theater's sumptuous magnificence surpassed that of Europe's greatest opera houses in the opinion of many Western visitors.[17] This takia was later destroyed by Reza Shah.


  1. ^ Iranian performance of Beethoven's 9th Symphony (BBC Persian)
  2. ^ Iranian Theater Propagates Shiism
  3. ^ Islamic Art in the 19th Century By Doris Behrens-Abouseif, Stephen Vernoit
  4. ^ Uttar Pradesh district gazetteers, Volume 34, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh (India), 1959
  5. ^ By Fanny Parkes ParlbyWanderings of a pilgrim in search of the picturesque, Volume 1
  6. ^ Wanderings of a pilgrim in search of the picturesque By Fanny Parkes Parlby, Fanny Parkes, Indira Ghose, Sara Mills
  7. ^ South Asian Folklore By Peter J. Claus, Sarah Diamond, Margaret Ann Mills
  8. ^ "Muharram marked with fervour". Times of India. January 9, 2009. Retrieved January 17, 2013. 
  9. ^ By Peter Gottschalk, Wendy DonigerBeyond Hindu and Muslim: Multiple Identity in Narratives from Village India
  10. ^ By Kālīpada MālākāraToleration through the ages
  11. ^ Specifically, Trinidad Sentinel 6 August 1857. Also, Original Correspondence of the British Colonial Office in London (C.O. 884/4, Hamilton Report into the Carnival Riots, p.18
  12. ^ By Adrian C. MayerPeasants in the Pacific: a study of Fiji Indian rural society
  13. ^ By Daurius FigueiraJihad in Trinidad and Tobago, July 27, 1990
  14. ^ Korom, Frank J. (2003). Hosay Trinidad: Muharram Performances in an Indo-Caribbean Diaspora. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia.  
  15. ^ Shankar, Guha (2003) Imagining India(ns): Cultural Performances and Diaspora Politics in Jamaica. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Texas, Austin pdf
  16. ^ Bachyul Jb, Syofiardi (2006-03-01). Tabuik' festival: From a religious event to tourism"'".  
  17. ^ a b "THE PASSION OF HOSAYN". Encyclopedia of Iranica. Retrieved 2008-01-19. 


  • By Dā'ūd Munšī-ZadahTa'ziya

External links

  • Passion play an article by Encyclopædia Britannica online
  • The passion (ta¿zia) of Husayn ibn 'Ali by Peter Chelkowski, an article of Encyclopædia Iranica.
  • Nasser Taghvaee's documentary: Tamrin e Akhar (BBC Persian)
  • Abbas Kiarostami on Tazieh (BBC Persian)
  • Ta'zieh, the Persian Passion Play
  • Ta'zieh by Peter Chelkowski in Encyclopædia Iranica
  • Combining creed with culture
  • The Legality of making figurine effigy (Taziyah) of the shrine
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