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Palm-Carrying (ritual)

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Palm-carrying or Nakhlgardānī (Persian: نَخْل‌ْگَردانی, literally: carrying a palm) is a ceremony held by the Shi'as in some areas as a symbolic funeral of Imam al-Husayn (a) on the Day of 'Ashura. In this ceremony, a huge structure consisting of interwoven carved woods in the shape of a very large leaf or the cypress tree (which is called Nakhl) covered with a black cloth and decorated with colorful scarfs and a mirror is carried by people in husayniyyas, tekyehs and other places in which the mourning of Imam al-Husayn (a) is held. Nakhlgardani is very popular in cities and villages around the central desert of Iran, including south of Khorasan, Semnan, Damghan, Khomeyn, some areas in Qom, Kashan, Abyaneh, Khur and Biabanak, Zavareh, Ardestan, and Nain. The greatest number and the most outstanding "Nakhls" of Iran are centered in Yazd.

The "Nakhl" in black has no similarity whatsoever to the palm tree, and there are different accounts for why it came to be called "palm" (Nakhl). According to historical documents, the ritual in Iran traces back to the Safavid period.


Historical Background

The use of the word, "Nakhl" (palm) and the appellation of the symbolic funeral of Imam al-Husayn (a) as "Nakhlgardani" (Palm-Carring) goes back to the Safavid period. The ceremony was popular in the Safavid period in central deserts of Iran in a more or less similar way to how it is practiced today. Thus, many scholars take the ritual of Nakhlgardani to have been invented by the Safavid dynasty.

The Shape and the Structure of the Funeral Palm