In the tribal hearland of Adilabad, Muharram is a part of Adivasi ethos

Raj Gond Adivasi youth with the sawari of Ali Moulali and Panjesha Wali at Mutnoor in Adilabad district.   | Photo Credit: S_HARPALSINGH

No one in the Agency areas of former undivided Adilabad district remembers when Muharram became a part of the Adivasi ethos but the event which starts on the Islamic new year day, September 12 this instance, blurs the line that divides the cultures. The 10-day period of mourning evokes as much piety and devotion among the aboriginal people in these parts as it does among Shia Muslims elsewhere.

The influence of the non-tribal culture has apparently come to the tribal heartland of Adilabad during the rule of the Nizam of Hyderabad. Muharram was a State festival then and it is generally believed that it has evolved into a tribal event over the years incorporating some of the religious methods of the ethnic people.

The assimilation of culture of the aboriginal Raj Gond, Pardhan or Andh tribes is what makes Adivasi Muharram different from the Shia event but makes it somewhat similar to the one which is observed by Hindus in North Telangana.

Thousands of tribal devotees flock the makeshift or permanent ‘dargahs’ scatterred all over the tribal belt making wishes which forms the core activity of the event.

Many dargahs

A good number of aboriginal habitations, especially in Adilabad and Kumram Bheem Asifabad districts, boast of ‘dargahs’ which happen to be the resting places of ‘sawaris’ that symbolise the sacrifice of Hasan and Hussain, the grandsons of Prophet Mohammed. The dargahs are looked after under the guidance of a ‘mujawar’ or custodian who is invariably a Muslim. The sawaris have a central long wooden piece with a rounded off distal end, sometimes carrying a ‘panja’ or palm or ‘naal’ or a crescent moon shaped object, from where the plethora of cloth pieces offered by devotees are suspended.

Carrying sawaris

“The sawaris ‘become’ active starting the 6th day of Muharram period and cool down on the last day. Until the ninth day they are carried to nearby villages on the invitation of devotees,” revealed Shaikh Ali, the Mujawar of Ali Moulali and Panjesha Wali dargahs near Anji in Indervelli mandal of Adilabad district. The sawaris are carried by Adivasi youth in the fashion of a standard bearer who dance and visit households where devotees receive them in a ritual called ‘pani lena’.


“The last session of Muharram on the 10th day is when devotees make offerings in the form of khichdi or maleeda or broken pieces of roti made of wheat flour. Some of the devotees even sacrifice goats at the dargah after their wish is fulfilled,” disclosed Mesram Namdev, the Raj Gond priest of Ali Moulali dargah.

The dargah is located in the agriculture field of Namdev who constructed it nine years ago after finding a panja in his cooking bowl and took it for an order from the gods to do so. He conducts seance sessions on the last day.

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Printable version | Jun 21, 2021 8:53:14 PM |

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