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Ta'zieh ( ) means Condolence Theater and Naqqali are traditional Persianmarker theatrical genres in which the drama is conveyed wholly or predominantly through music and singing. Tazieh 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 hero 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.

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'zieh and Shiism

The appearance of the characteristic dramatic form of Persia known as the Ta'zieh, in essence an expiation ritual, coincided with the emergence of Shiism. According to Ibn Kathir, it appeared in the reign of Mu'izz ad-Dawla, the king of Buyid dynasty, in 963. As soon as the Safavid Dynasty was established in Persiamarker 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.

Ta'zīya in India

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

In South Asia where dramatic commemmorations are less significant, ta'zīya came to refer as specifically to the miniature mausoleums used in processions held in Muharram. It all started from the fact that the great distance of India from Karbala prevented Indian Shi'is wish to buried near tomb of Imam Husayn or frequent pilgrimages(ziyarat) to tomb. This is the reason why Indian Shi'is established local karbalas on the subcontinent by bringing soil from Karbala and sprinkling it on lots designated as future cemetries. Once the karbalas were established on the subcontinent, next step was to bring Husayn's tomb-shrine to India. This was established by building replicas of Husayn's mausolem called ta'zīya to be carried in Muharram processions. Thosands of ta'zīyas in various shapes and sizes are fashioned every year for months of mourning of Muharram and Safar; and are carried in processions and may be buried at the end of Ashoura day or Arbain day.

Ta'zīya as a most spectacular performance were being held in the presence of the Nawabs in Awadh of Lucknow in India in 13/19th century.

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'zīyasare of kind of 'disposable sacred art'. Such desposable structures predominate on the popular level today. Materilas used to build ta'zīyas include wood and bamboo for the frame and paper, tin foil, mica and glass for the ornamental exterior.


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 takias 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.

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, the Royal Theater's sumptuous magnificence surpassed that of Europe's greatest opera houses in the opinion of many Western visitors. This takia was later destroyed by Reza Shah.


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