Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Muharram in India: Shia, Sunni Muslims mourn Imam Husain's martyrdom [Photos- Part II]

Bibi ka Alam procession in Hyderabad
Here are more photographs on the occasion of Muharram, which is observed to commemorate the martyrdom of Hazrat Imam Husain and his companions.

The photograph of Shia Muslims performing 'Maatam' below is from Amritsar, once a City with half of its residents being Muslims.

But after partition, almost entire Muslim population of Amritsar moved out. Over the last few decades, the urban areas in Punjab have seen a growth of Muslim population.

Most of the migrant workers from Bihar, UP and other parts of India are now settled in cities like Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Amritsar.

As a result, there is a revival of Islamic observances in Indian Punjab. Till recently, only Maler Kotla pocket in Sangrur district had a concentration of Muslims.

It is in this context that maatam by Anjuman Yadgar-e-Husaini at the Imambada in Amritsar holds special significance.
Fireworks in Jamshedpur
The other photographs include that of the famous 'Bibi ka Alam' in Hyderabad Deccan. The procession is taken out annually on Yaum-e-Ashura.

There is a huge crowd of mourners from both Shia and Sunni sects who attend this observance. Hyderabad is a centre of Muslim culture in South India.

Photos of fireworks during Muharram are from Jamshedpur in Jharkhand province. The photograph of Tazia is from Ahmedabad, which is the capital of Gujarat state.

'Tazia-daari' is an age-old custom in entire Indian sub-continent.
Ya Husain
An eight-year-old Hindu boy, Manish Kumar, walks on red hot embers in Lucknow. Many Hindu families perform Azadari.

Muharram is a period of mourning and it is observed, NOT CELEBRATED. In India, Hindus and other religious communities also take part in the rites and rituals.

Imam Husain, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, had achieved martyrdom at the battle of Karbala, while fighting against the army of the evil Yezid, in seventh century in present day Iraq.

Tazia in Ahmedabad
Ever since, the martyrdom is being commemorated across the world. Shias whiplash themselves to express their sentiments.

Sunnis on the other hand take out tazias. In Indian sub-continent, the uniqueness lies in the fact that Hindus also take out tazias [ie the replica of Imam's tomb].

They also organise distribution of the sherbet or tabarruk [holy food]. Read the story about such tradition and 'Hindu Imambaras' in DNA.

Here is the LINK

Monday, January 29, 2007

Moharram in India: Unique rituals, boys turn into 'Tigers' to mourn Imam Husain's martyrdom [Part--I]

Ya Husain: Young boys dressed as tigers observing Muharram
The 'Sher' [young boys dressed as Tigers] are an integral part of Muharram in Central India and Vidarbha region.

Here is a photograph of the Tiger boys in Indore, a city in Madhya Pradesh.

Mind you, they are all Sunnis. Not the Shias, who are supposed to be more fervent in observing the Muharram rituals.

Though a section among Sunnis these days are quite prompt in terming them as 'bidah' [innovation in religion or wrong practices], this aspect of Muharram has always fascinated people from various cross-sections of society.

Many Hindus consider it auspicious to see the Tazia and take their children along with the procession. The children are made to pass under the Tazia. It is another matter that many mainstream Muslims raise eyebrows at the mention of these practices.

While the Shias stick to Azadari and carry alams, the Sunnis [mostly poor ones] and non-Muslims, mostly Hindus, construct tazias that are replica of Imam's Rauza. The tragic events of the battle of Karbala are recounted during the processions that are taken out on the tenth of Islamic month of Muharram ie Yaum-e-Ashura.

Read the second part of this series: Muharram in India. At this LINK

For my post on Muharram last year:Govt's Tazia, Eunuchs and other aspects Click

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Eminent Hindi litterateur Kamleshwar passes away


One after the other so many literary giants have passed away. Just a month back I had met him. It was my first meeting with Kamleshwar. He was so warm and cordial.

Today he also departed. You go to wikipedia, you'll find just 3 lines about him. Yes, that's what we have reduced everybody to. Whoever doesn't write in English is a nobody in this nation.

People like Rajkamal Jha [just an example, I ain't have any problem with Jha] write an ordinary novel and earn millions [again not that important] but great writers of other regional languages hardly get the respect, which they deserve.

For the so-called national English dailies, Kamleshwar is barely a single column news even in his demise. We may produce lots of Ambanis and Indira Nooyis in future but we are surely going to become a nation of pygmies, who we'd look up to!...sab baune hi bachenge
Jitne qaddaavar the unke sar to ghutnoN me.n gaye

Ab tamaasha yeh hai baune aasmaaN chhuune lage
Kamleshwar was born in Mainpuri district of Uttar Pradesh on January 6, 1931. After graduation from Allahabad in 1954, he started writing scripts for TV. He has left several collections of stories and travelogues apart from major literary works.

Apart from his association with the national television channel Doordarshan, he worked as a journalist also. He was associated with Dainik Jagran and later with Dainik Bhaskar. He was awarded the Sahitya Akademi award and Padma Bhushan.

Kamleshwar, a humanist person, embodied secular values. He wrote scripts for TV serials Darpan, Ek Kahani and Chandrakanta. Also, he directed many programmes. He wrote movie scripts for Hindi films like Aakash, Andhi, Mausam, Rajnigandha, Chhoti Si Baat and Mister Natwarlal.

 خدا حافظ کملیشور

Friday, January 26, 2007

Padma Awards 2007: Khushwant Singh, Neeraj, Teesta & Muslim awardees

The Padma Awards have been announced on Republic Day eve.

The highest of these three awards, Padma Vibhushan, has been given to writer-journalist Khushwant Singh and jurist Fali Nariman, both of whom fully deserve the recognition. Raja Rao and some other eminent personalities have also been conferred this award.

The second, Padam Bhushan, has been awarded to over 30 peronalities including Gopal Das Neeraj, Javed Akhtar and even Pepsi CEO Indira Nooyi (why?). Neeraj truly deserves it. Just last week when I saw the Hindi poet (he was given Padma Shri long back), I felt why out government has not given him Padma Bhushan. Thank God, good sense prevailed. My interest in Hindi poetry began after listening to Neeraj in Kavi Sammelans. And what about his 'karvaaN guzar gayaa, ghubaar dekhte rahe...'

As far as Padma Shree is concerned, scores of persons have been awarded with this honour. Teesta Setalvad has been given the award. I congratulate her. She has fought for the riot victims, had become the Voice of Voiceless in Gujarat and deserves it truly. [The highest civilian award, Bharat Ratna has not been awarded this year also. In the past, the award was given generously. ]

Muslim Padma Awardees

This year there are comparatively few Muslim names in the list. No Padma Vibhushan. Syed Haider Raza (Art), Javed Akhtar (Poetry/Films) and Hakeem Syed Mohammad Sharfuddin Qadri (Medicine) are amongst the list of personalities selected for Padma Bhushan.

Mushirul Hasan, Khalid Zaheer, Mujtaba Husain (Urdu writer, isn't he the one!), Syeda Saiyidain Hameed, Mohsin Wali, Yusuf Khan Pathan are amongst the Padma Shree awardees. May be I missed a name!

Frankly, the number of Muslim awardees is less important. I am more happy that Neeraj Sahab got Padma Bhushan and Khushwant Singh, Teesta Setalwad and contribution of so many others from various fields has been acknowledged. However, Nooyee keeps baffling me. Wouldn't a Padma Shri would have been enough!

(Above are photographs of Neeraj and Teesta Setalwad along with the caricature that appears with Khushwant Singh's column 'Malice Towards One and All')

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Now a venomous article in Shiv Sena mouthpiece

An article in Shiv Sena mouthpiece 'Dopahar ka Saamna' has caused lot of anger amongst Muslims in Mumbai. One, Anil Mishra, has written the article slanderous piece.

It is extremely provocative indeed. The kind of things written about Islam, especially the life of Prophet, have made lot of people upset. The langauge is also derogatory. However, the decision of the Muslims, not to take to streets is laudable.

Instead, it has been decided to use the legal option. The police have registered a case against the paper. However, it is high time that the Press Council take a strong action against such slanderous articles that are purely aimed at hurting sentiments.


In 32 police station of Mumbai, cases were registered against Saamna under sections 153 A, 295, 504 A and 84 of the Indian Penal Code. Besides, a complaint has been made to the Election Commission to cancel registration of Shiv Sena for using its paper to create wedge in society in order to consolidate votes based on religious lines. Press Council has also been sent the article published in the paper and urged to take necessary action.

The Ulema Council has decided not to meet the Chief Minister as 'taking delegations and sending memoranda' has been of use in the past. Meanwhile, Editor Prem Shukla and Anil Mishra, who wrote the article were arrested but later released on submission of personal bonds.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Manzil unhein milee jo shareek-e-safar na the

Eminent Pakistani poet Mohsin Bhopali passed away in Karachi recently. One of his couplets is nearly zarb-ul-misl and oft-quoted.

nairangii-e-siaasat-e-dauraaN to dekhiye
manzil unheN milii jo shariik-e-safar na the

نیرنگی سیاست دوراں تو دیکھیےء
منزل انہیں ملی جو شریک سفر نہ تھے

(nairangi=trick, magic, wonder)

baat kahne kii hameshaa bhuule
laakh angusht pe dhaaga bandhaa

بات کہنے کی ہمیشہ بھولے

لاکھ انگشت پہ دھاگہ باندھا
A disciple of Saba Mathravi and Seemab Akbarabadi, Mohsin was a poet who experimented with several genres including Haiku and Nazmany. He was born in Hoshangabad in 1932 and had spent his early days in Bhopal.

Chandrabhan 'Khayaal', who hails from Hoshangabad, once told me that he knew of no other Urdu poet from Hoshangabad except Mohsin. After migrating to Pakistan, he settled in Larkana. Couplets of a ghazal:

Kyaa zaruuri hai ab yeh bataana meraa/TuuTtii shaaKh par thaa Thikaana meraa

Gham nahiiN ab milii haiN jo tanhaiiyaaN/anjuman anjuman thaa fasaana meraa

ek zamaanaa kabhii thaa ham-navaa meraa/tumne dekhaa kahaaN voh zamaana meraa

be-zamiini ka miltaa hai taa'na mujhe/jurm Thehraa hai bastii basaanaa meraa

arz-e-Bhopal se thaa taa'lluq thaa kabhi/ab to sab kuchh hai Larkaana meraa

Recently Munir Niazi and Azhar Saeed Khan, both Urdu poets of Pakistan also died. However, the poor quality of obituaries in English papers in Pakistan, have amazed me. No couplets were quoted and after the 'intro, the poet was referred to as Bhopali, which is not deemed correct for poets whose takhallus is succeeded by reference to his place of birth. I could not find Azhar Saeed Khan's obituary. In contrast, Hindi and English papers in India published well-written obits of both, Mohsi, Munir and Azhar Saeed Khan.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Taslima Nasrin's article against Islamic veil angers Indian Muslims

'Let's burn the burqa' is the title of article written by Taslima Nasrin in the recent issue of the weekly magazine, Outlook, that has agitated many Muslims.

The strongest attack against the Bangladeshi author has come from Mumbai.

Here a host of Muslim organisations have demanded action against her for hurting sentiments.

Many non-Muslims have also issued statements in support. Here is link to the article. Click here.

Whether it is cheap publicity she is after, as some sections say, her conviction to write and utter such things or some other agenda, Taslima Nasreen, is once again under fire. All India Muslim Personal Law Board wants her deported.

But is it too objectionable? Yes, one can understand that the protest is not about her opposition to burqa but some other reference in the long article, which will probably not strike a non-Muslim reading it. It seems to have affected some Muslims' sensibilities. Her references are incorrect and she has not read the Quran, it seems. But can't we just ignore her!

Achelois has replied to Taslima Nasreen's article. Link.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Saudi Arabia & Israel becoming 'friends' to contain Iran

Mai Yamani's article in Times of India has surprised a lot of Muslims.

He has written about the meeting between top intelligence officials of Saudi Arabia and Israel.

The situation is that Saudis are wary of growing Iranian influence. And after their failure to annihilate Hezbollah, Israel knows that it can't bank upon United States of America for its survival in the Middle East where Mishal, Ahmedinejad and Nasrullah are heroes of street.

So the common enemy is Iran and its growing influence. At the beginning of the recent clash between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah, Saudi Arabia was the first country to criticise the Hezbollah, writes Yamani, in his quite long article that appeared on editorial page.

It's no big issue for Saudis as they consider Shias apostate. However, Muslim street is now tired of the Royal family that changed Arabia to Saudi Arabia. Israel-Saudi bhai bhai! After all, doesn't Saudi rhyme like Yahudi [Jew].

Forty years after they lost to Israel in the 1967-war, Saudis seem to have grown quite 'pragmatic'. (May be they feel that when the slayer of Jews, Hitler was a Christian, and Jews shared no ill will with Muslims until mid-20th century unlike their relations with Christians

So it is better to make them friends than the Persians with whom the Arabs have the real fight for supremacy in the region for over a millennium. Read the article at this link.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Indian Muslims hold demonstration in Delhi to protest Saddam Hussein's hanging

Muslims took to streets of Delhi on Friday to protest the execution of Saddam Hussein.

They were marching towards the US embassy but were stopped near Daryaganj bridge.

Thousands of Muslims carrying banners and placards participated in the demonstration.

The ‘duaa’ was also held. But the question is that 'aren’t Muslims overdoing it in India'? So many protests and marches across the country!

On one hand, a section of Muslims assert that it is necessary and they should raise their voice.

However, others feel energy spent on such protests should rather be put to use in creating awareness about education, hygiene in ghettoised Muslim localities, setting up health camps and showing such enthusiasm in other spheres.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Muslim women pray in Albania

Albanian Muslim women pray in a mosque in the capital Tirana. For five centuries Albania was part of the Ottoman empire.

Albania was earlier considered the only Muslim majority nation in Europe though years of communist rules had turned the society un-religious.

Until 1960s, 75% Albanians were Muslim, the rest Christian. However, in 1967 Albania was proclaimed the first aethistic country in the world.

Pig farms sprang up all over the world. Eating of pork was encouraged. The Bektashi sect grew up that also pushed the anti-Islamic movement ahead. It believed in reincarnation of God. Mosques were shut down. After nearly a quarter century the country began to open up. The first Friday prayer was publicly held in 1990 after nearly 20 years. Both Christian missionaries and Tablighi Jamaats have turned their attention to Albania in recent years and mosques have been re-opened.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Temple constructed by Aurangzeb & ULFA's '?' terrorism

Balaji temple for which Aurangzeb granted land
Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb had constructed a huge temple in Chitrakut (Uttar Pradesh) and made arrangement for the 'bhog' at this temple for generations.

Many consider Aurangzeb as a bigot and some historians have also termed the emperor as a 'fundamentalist'.

Aurangzeb had issued a 'firman' as per which 8 villages (330 bighas of land) were allotted for the upkeep of the temple besides Re 1 every day from the government fund.

However, the old arrangement continues till date though nearly 323 years have elapsed since then. Mahant Balram Das of the temple is in possession of the firmaan that was written on brass plate and issued on 19th of Islamic month of Ramzan.

As per the decree Sant Balak Das of Allahabad's Kalinjar pargana's Chitrakoot was given 330 bighas of land without any 'lagaan'. The temple is now in a poor state despite enormous funds at the disposal. The discord amongst Mahants has led to the situation, say locals.


Interestingly, Aurangzeb 'Alamgir' had not only got the temple constructed but also wrote the order of 'rajbhog', himself.

The land adjoining the Balaji temple has been encroached by local strongmen and the infighting among the temple committee has affected the structure, which is crumbling, says the District Magistrate, Chitrakoot, in a recent report.

The temple priests show the framed firman with pride. One of the photographs showing the priest, Mangal Das Ji, carrying the old firman is available here.

Now on ULFA killing HINDI speakers

The United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) has killed North Indians, mostly the Hindi-speakers. More than 75 persons have been killed in the last couple of days. Most of them hailed from Bihar.

ULFA needs to be reigned in. However, North East remains far off from the radar of the national media and news channels and unless there is a major tragedy, hardly any atention is paid to North Eastern states.

Off the cuff but I wonder what terrorism it is. What ideology it could be linked to or what Right/Left-wing militancy it could be? ULFA was anti-Muslim so it could not be Islamic militancy. However, given the reports that are appearing in press that ISI is training ULFA in Bangladesh, one might find ULFA also being branded Islamist-backed Militiancy or quasi-Islamic terrorism...

Saturday, January 06, 2007

'Nanded Blast: The Hindu Hand' & Keith Ellison takes oath on Quran in US Congress

At last a national newspaper has done a detailed story on the involvement of Hindu extremist organisations in the blasts near mosques in Maharashtra.

Tehelka writes that 'Narco-analysis and brain-mapping reports of accused and the Maharashtra police's ATS findings reveal an alarming trend.

This is about local Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) activists [and individuals associated with Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal[ raising their own terror networks'. You can read the report here.

Shashwat Gupta Ray's comprehensive story in the weekly paper dated December 30 reveals that Nanded blast accused Himanshu Panse said 'Bomb attacks outside the mosques are the only way to safeguard Hindus'.

'We will be treated like hijras (eunuchs) if we don't take action. Counter-attacks are the only way of avenging terror attacks', Panse said. The motive was to avenge the killing of Hindus in terror attacks.

The blasts in central Maharashtra occurred between 1.45 and 2 pm at the towns' most prominent mosques, just after Friday prayers, when the attendance is maximum. For weeks the Urdu papers were shouting but national media did not pay heed. There were some references though.

On this blog also, this issue was raised earlier.

In United States, history was made when democart Keith Ellison became the first Muslim to become a member of US Congress. His decision to take oath on Quran (and not Bible) had even drawn criticism from conservatives.

However, Ellison remained unperturbed. He took the copy of Quran that was once owned by Americal president Thomas Jefferson, and took oath (this was termed by many newspapers as a PR masterstroke). Later Ellison said that Quran also inspired the founders of America. Ellison, a lawyer from Minnesota, had converted to Islam during his college years.