Ashura – Ritual Mud

Majid Farahani

Khorramabad, Iran. 2012 – 2014

Shi’a Muslims throughout Iran commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, a grandson of Prophet Mohammad, during the first 10 days of month of Muharram. The last two days of the holy period are called Tasua and Ashura. In Khorramabad, the capital of Lorestan province, about 490 km southwest of Tehran, the Chehel Menbari is a special Ashura tradition that has been performed for centuries.

Beginning around 4 a.m., before morning prayers, the faithful create muddy ponds of soil and water and gather wood to form bonfires. Before dawn, men brave the winter cold and immerse themselves in the mud, rubbing it all over their bodies. They move from the pools to stand before the fire to dry, then gather in small groups to walk to the place of mourning, where they beat their chest and head until it is time for noon prayers.