Muharram is one of the greatest festivals of the some Muslims community. It is a sorrowful occasion to mourn the death of Hussain, the grandson of the prophet Muhammad. However, the larger Muslim community opposes this heinous festival.
Muharram is also the first month of the Islamic lunar calendar. On the first day of Muharram, the Islamic new year is observed by Muslims. The month of Muharram is of great religious significance to Islamic people all over the world. The occasion starts on the first day of Muharram and lasts for 10 days until 10th of Muharram.
Muharram is so-called because it is unlawful to fight during this month except in emergency like a threat to the sovereignty of an empire. The word is derived from the word ‘haram’ meaning ‘forbidden’.
The history of Muharram is thus: The prophet Muhammad had two grandsons, named Hasan and Hussain. They inherited Muhammad’s property and the Caliph of Damascus wanted to take away that property. For that he poisoned Hasan. When Hussain was called upon by the Shiahs of Kufa to accept their allegiance and claim his place as the leader, he, accompanied by his family members, headed for Kufa. This was against the wishes of the ruler of Kufa. When Hussain and his companions reached Karbala on route to Kufa, the forces of Kufa and the Caliph of Damascus surrounded them at Karbala on the bank of Euphrates. Hussain fought there for ten days without having food and water. He was killed at last and his severed head was presented to the King.
The Muslims observe this tragic occasion for ten days of the month of Muharram. This sorrowful festival begins on the first day of the lunar month ‘Muharram’ and ends on the tenth day. They commemorate the martyrdom of Hussain as a religious occasion. As Hussain had no food or drink for ten days, they also fast for ten days. As Muharram approaches, they put on black clothes, as black is regarded as a colour of mourning. During these days, they keep themselves away from any entertainment (wedding etc.) as that can distract them in any way from the sorrowful remembrance of that day. They parade the streets holding banners and carrying Tazia, the model of the mausoleum of Hussain who fell at Karbala. When a procession passes through the streets, the Muslims beat their breast with cries of “Hai Hasan! Hai Hussain !” to express their sorrow for the tragic death of these two brothers. Some Shia sects observe it by beating themselves with chains or cutting the limbs with Knives and sharp swords in public. Drinking posts are also set up temporarily by the Shia community where water and juices are served to all, free of charge. On the 11th day, the Tazias are immersed in the water of a river or a pond. After that, they go back to their homes. They give away alms to the poor and then sit down to break their fast. On the occasion of this festival, fairs are held in many places.