Mashad-e Ardehal Carpet Washing Ceremony | Iran’s World Heritage Site at UNESCO

Let’s look into one of the most important rituals of Iran which is rooted in this land, and is held more glorious every year than last year. It is a UNESCO World intangible Heritage and is known to many culture lovers around the world. This article invites you to get acquainted with the Qalisuyan rituals of Mashad-e Ardehal. Carpet washing ritual in this site is one of the most important rituals in Iran which is on the UNESCO World intangible Heritage List. This ceremony is several thousand years old and is known as one of the most important religious rituals in Iran.

Qalisuyan rituals of Mashad-e Ardehal intangible unesco heritage
Qalisuyan rituals of Mashad-e Ardehal intangible unesco heritage

Carpet Washing Ceremony | The ancient religion of Iran

Every year, as the second Friday of October approaches, there is a struggle between the people of Fin in Kashan and the residents of the village of Khaveh Ardehal which announces the arrival of one of the most important religious ceremonies called carpet washing (Qalisuye) held in Sultan Ali ibn Muhammad Baqir sepulcher in Mashhad Ardehal.

Qalisuyan rituals of Mashad-e Ardehal also known as the Friday Carpet is the only religious ceremony in the Islamic world to be held on a solar date, and after many years, it still displays a special splendor.

Qalisuyan rituals of Mashad-e Ardehal or Carpet washing ceremony is one of the ancient rituals of Iran with a history of more than a thousand years which is still preserved and strengthened by the people of this land. According to experts, the longevity and historicity of the event and its cultural and social aspects deserve to be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List which is why it has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since December 2012.

Qalisuyan ritual
Qalisuyan ritual

The reason for holding the ceremony

Carpet washing ceremonies are held to keep alive the memory of Imamzadeh Sultan Ali Ibn Mohammad Baqir, and to mourn his martyrdom. It is said that the people and residents of Fin in Kashan, who were supporters of the Imam, invited him to this land. When he was about to leave Kashan for Mashhad Ardehal, he was martyred during prayers, and the enemies separated his head from his body.

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Two days after the martyrdom, the Fin people were informed and marched to Ardahal with shovels, sticks and clubs, and after fighting the infidel army, they were able to reach his holy body on the third day of the martyrdom. To bury the body, the people of the city wrapped him in a rug and placed it on their shoulder.

The corpse needed to be bathed, so some of the soldiers of God fought the infidels with their weapons, and others tried to disperse the enemy and keep the corpse by turning around so that others could wash it. Then, with great effort, they were able to purify their pure body and bury him. Since then, in memory of this incident and the events that took place in his burial, they have been holding a ceremony to keep alive the memory of that noble man and his fellow martyrs; A ceremony known today is known as carpet washing or Qalisuyan rituals of Mashad-e Ardehal.

Qalisuyan rituals
Qalisuyan rituals

How Qalisuyan rituals of Mashad-e Ardehal is held

To get acquainted with this ceremony, it is better to go with it moment by moment and understand its glory:

Fin people Gathering

On the morning of the Qalisuyan rituals, people gather in different courtyards of the Imamzadeh of Sultan Ali Ibn Muhammad Baqir and around it. The distribution of people’s vows will begin in the early hours of the ceremony and will continue for hours after the ceremony.

People from Fin gather inside a courtyard called Prince Hussein to announce their readiness to begin the ceremony. At the rally, everyone wears a black dress as a sign of mourning, and according to this ancient ritual, they hold their own shaved sticks and shovels. These sticks are a symbol of old weapons of war which in the past looked quite ordinary.

Before the ceremony of Qalisuyan rituals of Mashad-e Ardehal is officially held, some donations from the people of Fin Kashan are collected and handed over to them by a white or trusted cleric. Then, they start walking towards the holy shrine of Imamzadeh Sultan Ali and turn their sticks in the air. They pass through a gate, and enter one of the southern courtyards of Imamzadeh called Papak courtyard and continue their way by walking the stairs of this courtyard to the main courtyard of Imamzadeh called Safa courtyard to start mourning and crying.

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Mashad-e Ardehal Qalisuyan rituals
Mashad-e Ardehal Qalisuyan rituals

picking up the carpet from the shrine

In the courtyard of Safa, Khatib begins his speech. After his speech, one of the elders or clerics from Kashan, Finn, steps forward to give the collected donations and sweets to the trustee or guardian of Imamzadeh servants as a gift. The servants who are residents of the village of Khaveh, enter the building of the Imamzadeh of Sultan Ali, and dip one of the carpets in it with rose water and take it out of the green cloth in a tubular form. This carpet is an allegory of the holy corpse of Imamzadeh, and the carpet cleaner l that purifies the body during burial.

After mourning and holding the ritual in a place called Ivan Safa, the carpet will be handed over the elders of Fin Kashan, so that they can reach the main and central courtyard of the Imamzadeh called Safa courtyard. With the delivery of the carpet to the elders of Finn, there is a commotion and the youth rush to get it. The piped carpet is placed on the shoulders of the youth, and at this moment other people who have gathered in the courtyard of Prince Hussein join the Finns.

Mashad-e Ardehal rituals
Mashad-e Ardehal rituals

Carrying carpets to the foot of the spring

After receiving the carpet and gathering in Safa courtyard, Fin people set out on a clear path to a spring in 800 meters east of the Imamzadeh to wash it during a symbolic ceremony. The water of this spring passes through the courtyard of Imamzadeh and due to its proximity to the tomb of Prince Hussein, it is known as the stream of Imamzadeh Hussein.

Those who carry the rug must move at a steady pace, sometimes in a hurry, and in a tumultuous manner, so that the soil rises from the ground and a scene like army attack is created. This type of walking is called the step of trying, and its use in this ceremony is an allegory of Hajar’s attempt to bring Ismael to the blue spring in the dry desert of Mecca.

Qalisuyan rituals of Mashade Ardehal
Qalisuyan rituals of Mashade Ardehal

Leaders

In front of Fin people, a man on horseback is seen, a resident of Chehel Hesaran in Kashan, with a prayer mat on his right shoulder. People consider this prayer leader as a symbol of the prayer leader of Imamzadeh Sultan Ali, and this man is one of the descendants of the martyr Imamzadeh.

After the man on horseback, a group of residents of the village of Khaveh in Kashan mourned in front of the carpet and carried a flag covered with green cloth. Following green flag, the carpet carrier group continues on its way.

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Along the way, a group of young people are responsible for opening the passage for group, and they must also clear the space for laying the carpet when it reaches the edge of the spring. These young people are also responsible for coordinating the slaughter and sacrifice of the sheep or calves of the vows.

Following the young people who carry the carpet, there is a group of people, each of whom is holding a long stick in his hand. This moving group shakes their sticks in the air to symbolically reconstruct the scene of the fight against the Imamzadeh killers.

Carpet cleaning

After reaching the spring, they lay the carpet on the edge of the ground, and people of the wood circle around the water with their hands. By shaking their sticks, they add to the passion of the ceremony. At this time, the cursing ceremony begins and poems and phrases with the theme of cursing the enemies are recited. Then, as a sign of cleaning the carpet and bathing the holy body of Imamzadeh, they put their stick in the spring water and sprinkle the drops of water on the carpet so that a corner of it gets wet.

Return to Imamzadeh and carpet delivery

After the purification ceremony, they take the carpet and set off on their way to the Imamzadeh courtyard from another route at the foot of Ardehal Mountain which leads to the east of the Imamzadeh threshold. Along the way, some people mourn in front of the procession and cry while others run after the carpet to shout and shake their sticks, chanting slogans to stop people from shaking hands.

When the carpet wearers enter the courtyard, the people with stick on their hand go around the courtyard, and then the carpet is taken to the top of the porch of the tomb to be handed over to the elders of Fin and Khaveh. The elders come to take over the carpet, but the bearers resist the carpet’s surrender and try to keep the elders away by shaking the stick and starting a fight. Eventually, after much controversy, the elders of Finn, shouted at the crowd, handed over the carpet and handed it over to Khaveh’s representatives to hand it over to Imamzadeh’s servants.