Harmony and grace in atonement
I have been accompanying my father since childhood in the procession when he used to bear the Alam and after him, I have taken the mantle and carrying the Alam till date A few years ago, I have relocated to Ramanthapur, however, I come here Bibi ka Alawa at least thrice a week and the period of Muharram is very significant for our family
I have been accompanying my father since childhood in the procession when he used to bear the Alam and after him, I have taken the mantle and carrying the Alam till date. A few years ago, I have relocated to Ramanthapur, however, I come here (Bibi ka Alawa) at least thrice a week and the period of Muharram is very significant for our family - Rajendar Das, Alam bearer
This is a sublime period of mourning for many Shia and Sunni Muslims when one finds pervasive harmony and grace in unstinted atonement. At the behest of Muslim brethren, even members belonging to other communities willingly give up eating meat, religiously carry Alams, and refrain from dancing and singing in an exemplary practice from the time of the Qutb Shahis
In Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar, a pall of gloom descends in the Old City; as over 1,300 years ago this was the month when Hazrat Imam Hussain (the grandson of Prophet Muhammed) and his family were martyred in Karbala (in present-day Iraq). Muharram is of course a time of mourning for Shias as well as for many Sunni Muslims; yet, it is also the time when people from various other faiths congregate to express solidarity with their brethren observing Muharram. Also known as ‘Peerla Pandaga’ in many villages of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana --the two predominantly Telugu-speaking States, Muharram has always been the harbinger of peace and harmony.
The Ashurkhanas in the Old City draw people belonging to various faiths to mark the remembrance of the event, particularly during the first 10 days of mourning. The period of Muharram truly mirrors communal harmony as many Hindus participate. The sheer throng of Hindus at some of the long-standing Ashurkhanas proves that Muharram is an enduring symbol of peace and harmony. Mir Abbas Ali Moosvi, who is from the 11th generation of mutawalli (manager) of the historical Badshai Ashoorkhana near Charminar, says: “It not just Muslims who come here; people from Hindu community and other faiths come here in this period of mourning.”
“This tradition of people cutting across all faiths have been practised since the time of the Qutb Shahis. When the Emperor Muhammed Quli Qutb Shah wanted to expand the city, as the population was growing, and Golconda was not enough; this area (around Charminar) was chosen after a survey and they named it Hyderabad. Badshahi Ashoorkhana is the second structure to be built in the new city,” he says.
“Quli Qutb Shah was a generous king and at the time of Muharram, he used to request people to not indulge in activities such as dance, singing, etc and people happily obeyed him. During the 10 days of Muharram, Muslims refrained from eating meat and Hindus also observed the same. This tradition is still followed by all people, irrespective of caste, creed and faiths. People still eat boiled daal and they don’t even temper it for the 10 days. It is not just during the time of Muharram; Hindus come here every day and majorly every Thursday. We also serve food known as “Tabbaruk” in the afternoon and evening,” Mir Abbas Ali Moosvi shares.
It is not just this Ashoorkhana, the famed Bibi ka Alawa at Dabirpura, Hyderabad, is another place of worship where Hindus visit during this time. “Hindus are a major part during observation of Muharram here. From the times of the Qutb Shahis and the Nizams, people from Hindu faith have been coming here and participating in the procession of Muharram. There are many Alam-bearers, who are Hindus and, like us, they also have been doing it for many generations,” says Aliuddin Arif, 11th generation of muttawali (manager) of Bibi Ka Alawa. “Hindus and we live in complete harmony and unity and celebrate every occasion together. People from Hindu faith, irrespective of caste and creed, come here and offer prayers along with us,” he adds.
Rajendar Das, a retired Assistant Commissioner from GHMC, is one of the Alam-bearers during the procession. “My father, grandfather, great-grandfather, great-great-grandfather… have been carrying the Alam during the procession. I have accompanied my father since childhood in the procession when he used to bear the Alam; and; after him, I have taken the mantle, carrying the Alam till date. A few years ago, I relocated to Ramanthapur; still, I come here (Bibi ka Alawa) at least thrice a week and the period of Muharram is very significant for our family,” the 60-year-old shares.
Twenty-four-year-old Vishwam Raj Goud, a civil service aspirant, is the son of Rajendar Das. He is carrying forward the legacy of bearing Alam in the procession now. “I have seen my father carry the Alam from my childhood and he told me about the legacy. I am proud of this tradition and every year I along with my father carry the Alam in the procession,” he says.
- With inputs from Syed
Mujtaba Hussain Abidi