Muharram Festival

Muharram is a sacred festival for Muslims all over the world which is held as a remembrance of the sacrifices made by Hazrat Iman Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad. This is a special day in the Islamic calendar that is based on the lunar calendar. This sacred day is when the Shai community oozes out their emotions and feelings for the lives of the Hussein, his family, and his followers.

The first month of the Islamic calendar is reserved for Muharram. During this month, the religious injunctions forbade Muslims from indulging in verbal or physical duels, as it is against the rule and would be considered a blasphemy. Being a lunar calendar, this festival keeps on moving ahead as the years pass by.

This sacred day is observed over a period of one month. The last day which is the tenth day is more important. It is also known the day of Ashura, which is a synonym for the word "Tenth" in Arabic.

Significance of Muharram

This day has a historical significance which is rooted in the story of martyrdom of Hazrat Iman Hussein. This day is actually the saddest day for the Shias and is held to mourn over the death of Hussien. The story about standing firm for the cause of humanity and staunch belief in God goes back to October 680 according to the Islamic calendar.

In the month of October of this year, Hazrat Iman Hussain along with his family members and followers were on a pilgrimage. The caravan was about 72 people that include family members, followers and a six-month-old baby. On their way, this caravan was surrounded by the army of Yazid, who was the ruler of Karbala, a city in Iraq. He wanted the tribe to accept his philosophies. Since Hussain was the leader, it was necessary to convince him first. However, Hussain did not accept the proposal and Yazid ordered his army to start slaughtering the whole group.

Yazid was a powerful ruler and his 1000 strong army totally outnumbered Hussain's entourage. Nevertheless, Hussain and his followers fought with all intensity and power against the mighty army. Seeing the bravery of Hussain and his followers, a commander of the army on whom Yazid has landed the responsibility of leading the force, finally quits and joins the outnumbered group.

When Yazid could not gain the victory, he cuts down the supply of food and water to Hussain's camp. In spite of being deprived of food and water, Hussain's followers still stood their ground. However, under the scorching heat of the temperature, and with nothing to eat and drink, they start losing the battle on the tenth day. Gaining the advantage, Yazid's army starts inflicting havoc in Hussain' camp by one and all with extreme barbarity. The army capture Hussein and the surviving member of his family. They make women and children to march under the unbearable heat bounded by chains fastened around hands and ankles without any food and water for miles and miles. Many succumb to death on the way. They did not spare the innocent six-month-old son of Hussain. All those who survived were made to parade in the town of Damascus where stones, abuse and garbage were thrown toward them.

Muharram Celebration

During the ten days of this festival, devotees gather in mosques and listen to the reading of sacred literature. The story of sacrifice and the barbarity of the army inflicted on innocent people is narrated by the priest. Assemblies and interaction among people are continuous process for the first nine days. On the tenth day of Muharram, people prepare a replica of Hussain's tomb and decorate it with flowers and drawings of the battle of Karbala. Thousands join the processions carrying hoarding and banners depicting the atrocities incurred on the martyrs. People dress in black to symbolize mourning and cry loudly inflicting lots of pain and wounds on themselves with sharp metal objects. This is for repaying and feeling all the pain Hussain and his followers had gone through for the cause of humanity. People joining the procession shout and chants loudly 'Ya Hussain.' People beat their chest with all force and strength. As the sound and beating on the drums increase, the devotees get more possessed and start chanting, yelling and beating themselves. Many get injured and blood starts flowing out from their bodies. The power and intensity of mourning is so vigor that in spite of bathing in blood, there is no ache or pain. The procession also includes a white horse adorned with garland and a seat for the rider. However, nobody sits on the horse as it is kept empty to symbolize Hazrat Iman Hussain's mount.

In India, Muharram is celebrated by all the Muslim communities. This sacred festival is organized and enjoyed in all the states of India. The procession and the social activities held in Lucknow, Agra, Delhi and Jaipur are spectacular and thousands of people gather on the street to feel the fervour and devotion of the people at the forefront of the procession.