Hyderabad: Muharram, the first month of Islamic calendar, is known the world over for the mourning of Hazrat Hussain, a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, who was martyred in Karbala, in Iraq, some 1400 years ago.
Hyderabad is one of the prominent centres in the Indian sub-continent where there is long tradition of Muharram mourning. While Bibi ka Alam attracts attention as the most visible Alam (symbol) of the City’s tradition, there are numerous other places or ashoorkhanas where alams are installed and people in thousands throng them.
One such place of reverence is ‘Yaadgaar-e-Hussaini’ which is exclusively reserved for women mourners. Located at Dar-ul-Shifa, behind the ‘Alawa-e-Sartauq’ it was constructed by Barkat-e-Aza, a women’s association. Spread over thousands of square metres it is one of the newer centres of mourning in the city.
Built by Begum Mehdi Yar Jung, the daughter of a high-ranking official in the governments of the Nizam as well as independent India, the ‘Yaadgar-e-Hussaini’ is unique in the sense that there is no other ashoorkhana in the city which is reserved exclusively for women. When she donated the land for constructing the holy place other women joined in with donation and participation in different ways.
The idea behind building an exclusive ashoorkhana for women was to provide them with a place to carry out their prayers without any disturbance and maintain purdah. It also serves as a place of rest for those who travel from far off places to visit Hyderabad during Muharram to take part in the mourning sessions that are organized all over the city in the first days of the month.
Shia Muslim women are as passionate about taking part in grieving as their men. Almost all the first 10 days of the month are spent are spent places where meetings are held in remembrance of Hazrat Hussain and his close family members. They listen to the waez or speaker and wail during the speech which is dotted with cries of Oh Hussain and Ah Hussain.
This is done in three stages, the first one is known as Marsiya/Soaz, an elegiac poem written to commemorate the martyrdom and velour of Hazrat Hussain Ibn Ali and his comrades at the battle of Karbala. The second is Hadis (the actual event), which is done to recall the martyrdom of Imam Hussain and his companions. The last part of the commemoration is one is Noha khwani (lamentation). All these sessions end with matam or the beating of chest with hands.
The women at home, just like men, wear only black symbolizing the pain of the death of Imam Hussain and are constantly engaged in prayers. However, the matam done by women does not involve shedding of blood and is restricted to light tapping on the chest.
According to some Shia community sources in Hyderabad mourning lasts for 2 months and eight days. There are also others who say that it ends with completion of 40 days that is also known as chahlum.
Shia Muslims in Hyderabad observe the mourning for 40 days or 69 days, as per their group belief.
Restrictions due to COVID-19, several opt to remain at home.
Just like all other occasions, even the Muharram mourning has largely been restricted. The Telangana government too asked the public to have matam at home. Following the guidelines of the government, only a few meetings are organized at the ashoorkhanas.