Following a trip to Europe, the Iranian monarch, Nassereddin Shah, planned to redesign the capital and create new public spaces.
Sadat Akhavi Tekyeh was established 200 years ago in Tehran as the first place for performing religious ceremonies.
In fact, the performances were restricted to presenting different forms of ta’ziyeh, which is a passion play staged annually during the month of Muharram to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussein (AS)--the third Imam of Shiites.
The religious center draws many visitors annually. There are separate entrance doors for women and men. Women are required to wear a full-body veil.
Mourners are served Nan-Qandi (sweet bread), as well as coffee and tea in traditional cups every day when ta’ziyeh is performed. The tradition of serving coffee has endured since the Qajar Era.
Numerous sermons are scheduled in Sadat Akhavi Tekyeh between the 1st and 13th Muharram from sunrise until the noon call for prayers.
Black flags and banners with names of martyrs are installed on the walls of Sadat Akhavi Tekyeh.
The large courtyard’s ceiling is covered with fabric and its floor with carpets.
There is an old pulpit in the middle of the courtyard. It is shaped like a small tower with a pointed roof and stairs leading up to it. The preacher sits on the first step.
Saeed Roshan, an anthropologist and Tehranologist, said some of them date back to 140 years ago.
Roshan said since Qajar King Fath-Ali Shah referred to the first owner of tekyeh as Akhavi, it has been named Sadat Akhavi Tekyeh.
The Tehranologist considers it as one of the oldest religious centers of Tehran, which has preserved the traditional mourning style. Ladies sit in the middle of the courtyard while men sit at corners.
Custodian of Sadat Akhavi Tekyeh Haj Sadat Akhavi was one of the high-ranking officials of Qajar Era. Currently, the center is run by his grandsons.
In fact, Sadat Akhavi’s family and descendants had endowed all their assets for numerous causes. This religious venue is the inheritance of three brothers. One of them purchased the share of the other brothers and endowed it as Husseinieh (a center for holding religious ceremonies).
However, Sadat Akhavi Tekyeh has not been registered on the National Heritage List yet.
Secretary of the Committee of Tehran Historical Houses Sajjad Asgari said, “We have proposed Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization register this religious center as spiritual heritage.”
Asgari noted that Sadat Akhavi has preserved its initial shape and structure even after a lapse of 200 years. The method of mourning is special in this religious center. The custodians and participants believe that Islamic tenets and principles should be observed during these ceremonies.
At present, Sadat Akhavi Tekyeh is cherished by Iranians. If this precious heritage is not preserved well, it will go into oblivion and only its name will remain.
Abbasabad, Sadat Akhavi, Esmaeil Bazzaz, Sartakht, Oladjan and Tekyeh Dowlat are considered the most important religious centers of Tehran.
Tekyeh Dowlat was built in 1867-73 for performing religious ceremonies. It was constructed in the southern part of Golestan Palace by the architect, Husseinali Mehrin. During the Pahlavid rule, the tekyeh was demolished to make way for Bank Melli Iran.
The preservation of tekyehs, which hold religious ceremonies such as ta’ziyeh, can help strengthen religious beliefs and enrich the traditional culture of people.
Muharram in Yazd
In Yazd province, people pay tribute to Imam Hussein (AS), the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his loyal followers in the first lunar month of Muharram in a special way.
All neighborhoods hold memorial services in Husseiniehs. The people dressed in black recite elegies and hit their hands on their chests to show their deep sorrow and grief.
Preachers and clerics remind people of the tragedy faced by Imam Hussein (AS) and his followers. This usually begins on the first day of Muharram and lasting from 10 days to a whole month.
Not only do Muslims attend these ceremonies, but the Zoroastrians also take part in mourning for Imam Hussein (AS).
As the days pass, the people become more and more sad, as they approach Tasua and Ashoura (the 9th and 10th of Muharram) when they reach the climax of mourning.
In Yazd, some people, in fulfilling a vow, cook a special wheat potage called Ash-e-Gandom and distribute it among people for free.
The people also carry a huge wooden structure called Nakhl (meaning palm tree) that is shaped like a leaf and decorated with special emblems. The people gather around the Nakhl, light candles and recite elegies in remembrance of the martyrs of Karbala in Iraq where the martyrdom took place.
The people call it Nakhl perhaps because of its Mesopatamian origin--it resembles cypress and eternity that are reminiscent of Imam Hissein’s (AS) traits.
A few days before the holy month of Muharram approaches, people start covering the massive structure with different items such as flags, tassels, large feathers and emblems handed down from generation to generation.
The huge structure is covered with a black cloth, on which swords are also placed.
A local man who is a descendent of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) sits on the top of the structure to lead the crowd that lifts the structure. When the people lift the massive structure, they seek help by calling “O Hussein”.
When the people move the wooden structure in the large courtyard, others recite verses of Holy Qur’an or the call for prayer to the sound of traditional instruments.
All the people taking part in lifting the huge wooden structure are barefoot and those watching them recite elegies lamenting the martyrdomof Imam Hussein (AS) and his companions.
Light of Love
In the land of the Magi, none like me, can be lost
Pawned my gown in a place, in another, my books, I must.
My heart, mirror of the King, is all covered with dust,
I pray for a clear word, light up the path that I must.
Narcissus may mock your ways, you keep calm,
Insight, blind-in-the-heart, will not trust.
None but candle can speak of this tale,
Why, the moth, in this tale, only goes bust.
My tears run from my eyes, streaming down,
To grow beauty by my side, this is my cost.
Bring me a vessel of life; without my friend,
My eyes, flood like the sea, with heart’s disgust.
I praise my Beloved, speak to me of no other,
For love and Beloved, I fear none I distrust.
Infidel played the reed beside the gates of the Tavern;
What a lovely song, played, in my heart, the morning gust.
If Godliness comes from what Hafez has
Alas, if after today, morrow ain’t lost.
During Muharram, particularly on Tasua and Ashura (the 9th and 10th days of the month respectively), most neighborhoods in Iranian cities offer food to mourners commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Hussein (AS), the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), and his companions.
Sholeh Zard is traditionally the most common food served to the mourners.
Wash rice a few times until the water is clear, then drain. Add six times water and bring to a boil, removing the foam. Add butter and keep stirring so that rice does not stick to the bottom.
When rice softens completely, ensure that it is thick and syrupy. Add sugar, stir and cook on low heat. It should continue to boil.
Dissolve saffron in half a cup of hot water and add to the mix. Add half the almonds and rosewater. Cover and let it boil for at least 5 more minutes.
Remove from heat and let it cool slightly.
Pour hot in small bowls and after it cools, garnish with pistachio, almond and cinnamon on top.
Health Benefits of Rice
More than 40,000 varieties of this cereal are found worldwide. The two main categories are whole grain rice and white rice.
Whole grain rice is not processed much, therefore it is high in nutritional value, whereas white rice is processed so that the bran or outer covering is removed and it has less nutritional value.
Rice is extremely nutritious. Some of the health benefits specified by them are as follows:
Great Source of Energy: As rice is rich in carbohydrates, it acts as fuel for the body and aids in normal functioning of the brain.
Cholesterol Free: Eating rice is extremely beneficial for health, just for the fact that it does not contain harmful fats, cholesterol or sodium. It forms an integral part of balanced diet.
Rich in Vitamins: Rice is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals like niacin, vitamin D, calcium, fiber, iron, thiamine and riboflavin.
Resistant Starch: Rice abounds in resistant starch, which reaches the bowel in undigested form. It aids the growth of useful bacteria for normal bowel movements.
High Blood Pressure: As rice is low in sodium, it is considered best food for those suffering from high blood pressure and hypertension.
Cancer Prevention: Whole grain rice like brown rice is rich in insoluble fiber that can possibly protect against many types of cancers. Many scientists believe that such insoluble fibers are vital for protecting the body against cancerous cells.
Nat’l Mourning Ceremonies
Iranians hold mourning ceremonies commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Hussein (AS) across the nation during Nov. 24-25, which are also public holidays.