We noticed you're blocking ads.

Keep supporting great journalism by turning off your ad blocker.

Questions about why you are seeing this? Contact us

Font Size

- Aa +

Thu 8 Jan 2009 10:10 AM

Font Size

- Aa +

The annual Ashura

The annual Ashura
More than two million Shiite Muslims from across the Middle East swarmed the shrine city of Karbala in central Iraq on Wednesday for the climax of the annual Ashura ceremonies amid tight security.\n

Weeping men and even young boys in flowing white robes marched with blood streaming down their faces after slashing their scalps open with knifes in a ritual that commemorates an imam slain 13 centuries ago. (Getty Images)
The annual Ashura
Accompanied by drummers and horn players, other pilgrims pounded on their chests and whipped their backs with metal chains as part of the devotional self-flagellation that characterises the dramatic annual rite. (Getty Images)
The annual Ashura
The focus of the pilgrims in the desert city of Karbala, 100 kilometres (62 miles) south of Baghdad, were two gold-domed holy shrines - one to Imam Hussein and the other to his half-brother Imam Abbas.\n

More than two million pilgrims from across Iraq as well as from Iran, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Pakistan and Tanzania have streamed into Karbala, said Sheikh Nameh al-Salman, a city official.\n

(Getty Images)
The annual Ashura
The rituals, which began 10 days ago and reached a frenzied pinnacle on Wednesday, mark the holiest days for Shiites in a commemoration of the death of Imam Hussein, who was killed by the armies of the Sunni caliph Yazid in 680. (Getty Images)
The annual Ashura
Tradition holds that Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Mohammed and the third of 12 imams in Shiite Islam, was decapitated and his body mutilated by Yazid's armies in Karbala - revenge for refusing to pay homage to the caliph.\n

To show remorse for not saving Hussein, Shiite volunteers whip themselves with metals chains while some cut their scalps with knives as they chant his name on the way to the two shrines. (Getty Images)
The annual Ashura
Second only in importance to the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia for Shiites, observance of Ashura has drawn millions since the fall of Saddam Hussein in the aftermath of the 2003 US-led invasion. (Getty Images)

Read next