Torch-carrying (ritual)

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Mash'algardani in Qom, Iran.

Torch-carrying or Mashʿalgardānī (Persian: مَشعَل‌گردانی, literally: carrying the torches) is a mourning ritual of the month of Muharram in Iran and Iraq. The ritual is usually practiced on the First Ten Days of Muharram in Iraq as well as central and southern parts of Iran. In this ritual, fireboxes are moved around streets, squares, and holy places.

History

There is no precise information about how old the ritual of mash'algardani is. Some people trace it back to about 500 years ago. In some historical periods, including the period of Reza Shah Pahlavi, mash'algardani was forbidden. In some regions, the ritual is referred to differently. For example, in Ardakan near Yazd, it is referred to as "Taklīf" (تکلیف, literally: obligation).

The Procedure

The ritual of mash'algardani is practiced differently in different areas. In Najaf, a structure is made up of small wooden or metal fireboxes which are called "Masha'il" (torches). During mourning ceremonies, the fireboxes are lighted and the torches are carried in public places, the main squares of the city, and the courtyards of holy sites. Since the torches are very heavy, it takes a considerable physical power to carry them. The torches are different in size and shape.

In some areas, such as Karbala and Ardakan, In Iran, separate torches and fireboxes with long handles (like 'Alam) are carried, instead of a structure made up of many torches. The torches are carried in public passages by mourners, and in some areas, only by Sadat, who recite particular poems. Mash'algardani is usually practiced together with drumming and playing cymbals.

Geographical Span

The ritual is practiced in some cities of Iran and Iraq. In Iraq, mash'algardani is usually practiced in Najaf, Kadhimiya, and Karbala. In Iran, mash'algardani is usually practiced in central and southern areas, and cities such as Qom, Rey and Ardakan. It is mostly practiced by Iranian Arabs.

Time

In different areas, mash'algardani is held on different days of the First Ten Days of Muharram. The ceremony is usually practiced on the eve of 'Ashura. People of Najaf hold it on Muharram 8, Muharram 9, and Muharram 10. In some areas, such as Ardakan (near Yazd), mash'algardani is practiced on Muharram 1 as an announcement of the beginning of Muharram and an invitation of people to mourn Imam al-Husayn (a). In some other areas, mash'algardani is practiced from the eve of Tasu'a until the morning of 'Ashura. And in others, the ceremony is also practiced in Sham-i Ghariban (Evening of the Strangers).

References