Solemnity is the mood in old city with hardly a few days left for Muharram

An air of solemnity is engulfing parts of the old city. With hardly a few days left for Muharram, the first month of Islamic calendar to begin, the numerous Ashoorkhanas here are abuzz with activity. Once the new moon is sighted, it will be black all the way – the mood, the attire and the ambience.

Muharram is mourning time for the Shia community. It is time for ‘tark-e-lazzat' (abstinence) and a halt to culinary delights and celebrations. The Shia dominated areas of Dar-ul-Shifa, Yakutpura, Noor Khan Bazar, Mandi Mir Alam, Irani Galli, Moula Ali present a picture of grief. The three lakh strong Shias come together in ‘matam' like never before. Even a casual visitor can't miss the sorrowful look here.

Touching chapter

Sure, Muharram remains a touching chapter in the Islamic history. The Shias mourn the martyrdom of Hazrath Imam Husain, the grandson of the Prophet, and 72 others in the battle of Karbala waged in Iraq centuries ago.

If Ramzan is celebrated with gusto, poignancy marks Muharram. Right from the Qutb Shahi times, Muharram is observed in Hyderabad in literally heart-rending manner. The Nizams, who married the Shia women, built a number of Ashoorkhanas, the place where the ‘Alam' (copies of battle standards) are installed, all over Hyderabad and Telangana.

The city boasts of 125 Ashoorkhanas, most of which are more than 400 years old. They witness intense religious activity and become centres for expression of grief publicly. Also known as Astana, Bargah and Immbara, they served as hub of socio-cultural activities during the Qutub Shahi period. They were also responsible for evolution of ‘marsiya', a form of poetry, whose leitmotif is the tragedy of Karbala.

The Badshahi Ashook Khana at Patharghatti built by city founder, Mohd Quli Qutub Shah, is the oldest one. The other important Ashoorkhanas include Bibi Ka Alawa, Alawa-e-Khadme Rasool, Aza Khana Zehra.

What exactly happens here? Well, the Shias indulge in ‘azadari' (mourning) and ‘seena-zani' (chest beating) to cries of “Ya Husain”. For 68 days after the commencement of Muharram, Shia homes and Ashoorkhanas reverberate with unbridled emotion. The ‘zakareen' (orators) recall the Karbala events in chilling detail during the ‘Majalis' sessions moving the audience to tears.

“Throughout the year also some activity or the other goes on in the Ashoorkhanas,” says Syed Hamed Hussain Jaffery, president, A.P. Shia Youth Conference.

Procession

The highlight of the month is ‘Youme Ashoora' observed on the 10th of Muharram with the historic Bibi ka Alam taken out on a caparisoned elephant from Bibi ka Alwa in Dabeerpura to Masjide Ilahi at Chaderghat.

The 65-year-old elephant, Rajni, belonging to the Nizam Trust, is getting ready for the procession. On the 4th of Muharram it will be taken out on the procession route just to acclimatise it to the crowd.