Art of Ashura, symbolic and epic (1)
Time and place are two concepts that seem very interconnected. Sometimes, it is the place that becomes important and sacred due to the presence of a certain person or an event. This is true about time, too. Ashura and Karbala are such concepts. We will discuss the issue in two episodes.
The event of Ashura is one of the most important events in the history of Islam and the history of mankind. Thus, it has a very rich potential for application of ritual and dramatic creativity. Artists have created beautiful works on Ashura in drama, theater, painting, poetry, song and so on. The art of Ashura is a branch of the Islamic art that started in the form of Ta'zieh (elegiac theater) in the early years and decades after the occurrence of Ashura but later on it found its way into other types of art.
In mid-12th century AH, the current form of dramatic art of Ashura was born in the form of drawings on draperies and walls of tea-houses. Then it became more common among ordinary people. Drawings on draperies, stones, glasses, walls and even vehicles became quite common.
Ashura and Moharram is undoubtedly the most effective and lasting event in the history of Shias. Ashura has been commemorated with the usage of a variety of elements in different forms of art.
What is significant in the art of Ashura is the prevalence of black color. Yet, the elements and motifs in the art of Ashura include a variety of white, red, green yellow and other colors which can be seen in decorations, flags and banners. These colors are ornamented so beautifully that they draw the attention of every viewer.
Although the mourning ceremonies of Imam Hussein are usually simple and the faithful try to be more thoughtful of the events of Ashura and Moharram, some tools are common among some age groups especially youths. Boraq is one of these tools. It consists of the head of a human and the body of a winged horse. Boraq was the name of the horse that the Prophet of Islam mounted on it and traveled by it on the night of Me'raj or ascension to the heavens. Some samples of Boraq have a tail of a peacock, too. Another tool is a bird with the head of a human. Some believe that it is a bird which nests on the tree of Tooba in paradise. It can be seen in the paintings of walls in tea-houses.
Another tool is the hand. It symbolizes the severed hand of Hazrat Abul Fazl Abbas, the valiant brother of Imam Hussein whose hands were both cut off from the arms in the heat of the battle of Ashura when he had set off to fetch water for the thirsty folks, especially children in the encampment of Imam Hussein (AS). Thus, it is common to see special metal bowls with metal hands attached to them vertically as a symbol of the sacrifice of Abbas (AS).
Another element is the peacock which can symbolize human spirit and purity of human spirit. There are other elements, as well, such as camels which symbolize the caravan of the Ahl al-Bayt before the martyrdom of Imam Hussein and after his martyrdom when the women and children were taken as captives in chains and fetters to the court of tyrants Ibn Ziyad and Yazid. There are also two cypress trees, symboyzing Tooba and Zaqqum. Tooba is the name of a tree in paradise while Zaqqum is the tree in the hell. Next time we will continue the discussion.