Learn about Muharram and the story behind it...
In India, there is great diversity of religious beliefs and practices. Throughout India's history, religion has been an important part of the country's culture. Here, every religion is respected and its followers freely practice their faith. Among the various religions in India, Islam has the second largest following, constituting 14.4% of the entire country's population with a staggering 176 million muslims in the country.
This vast Muslim population of the country observes various Islamic festivals in accordance with their faith. Muharram is one such festival of the Muslim community and commemorates one of the greatest events in the history of Islam - the martyrdom of the Prophet's grandson, Hussain. The event marks the anniversary of the Battle of Karbala when Imam Hussein ibn Ali, the grandson of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, and a Shia Imam, was killed by the forces of the second Umayyad caliph Yazid the first. On this day, one can observe many a 'majalis' or gathering to review Islamic teachings and to commemorate Imam Hussain's sacrifice. This day is referred to as the day of Ashura.
Sunnis also observe this day but as the day of a victory for Islam. They fast to commemorate the day when Moses or Musa and his followers were saved from the Pharaoh by Allah as he parted the Red Sea to let the faithful through.
According to Islam, Muharram is the first month of the Islamic Calendar. But instead of joyous celebrations, Shia Muslims mark the beginning of the New Year by mourning the death of Hussain. On this day, the sacrifices of Hussain and his companions are remembered. Muharram is one of the most sacred Islamic months, second only to Ramadan.
Shia Muslims begin mourning from the first night of Muharram and continue thus for ten nights. The tenth day of Muharram is the Day of Ashura. There is lamenting and grieving to the tune of beating drums and chants of "Ya Hussain".
.To express their grief on the death of Hazrat Imam Husain, they beat their chests. Others flagellate their bodies with chains or whips, consisting of small knives and sharp objects, drawing blood.
The Muharram procession passing through the streets of major Indian cities is a strange and fascinating spectacle verging on the bizarre, for although the accompanying music sounds like a funeral dirge, it takes time for one to realise that the participants are mourners not revellers.
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