The rich cultural heritage of India is clearly depicted in the numerous festivals that are celebrated throughout the year. India is a secular country and every region and religion has their own festivals. Sometimes India is often termed as the land of festivals.
Muharram is one of the major festivals of Muslims and is observed across the nation by the followers of the religion. It is the first month of the Islamic calendar. On the first day of Muharram, the Islamic New Year is observed by Muslims. The Islamic calendar is the lunar calendar and it is 11 to 12 days shorter than solar year. In most of the nations, Gregorian calendar is used, but Islamic calendar is little bit different from this. When Islamic calendar is compared with Gregorian calendar, the lunar month of Muharram thus varies.
The month of Muharram is a very important months for Islamic peoples of the world over. The festival of Muharram derives its name from the word “Ashura” which is the tenth day of the Muharram moth of the Islamic Calendar. “Ashura” is considered as a very important day for both shias and Sunnis. According to the belief of the Shia Muslims it was on this day that Husayn ibn Abi who was the grandson of the Islamic prophet Muhammad sacrificed his life for the religion on this auspicious day of the tenth day of the Muharram month in 680 AD in the battle of Karbala that was fought in Iraq which is about 100 km to the south west of the city of Baghdad. The Shia Muslims thus consider this day as a day of sorrow and expresses their mourning’s to Husayn ibn Abi.
The occasion of Muharram commences on the 1st day of the Muharram month and is carried out through the next 10 days. As the 10th day or the day of the Muharram approaches, all the followers of the religion cover themselves with black clothes, which is considered as the color of mourning and during this period of ten days they keep themselves impaired from all sorts of entertainment like weddings and other celebrations
During each of the first nine days of Muharram, assemblies are held which are also known as Majalis. Some of the disciples also mourn the occasion by beating and torturing themselves with chains in front of the public. In the procession everyone chants “Ya Hussain”, wailing loudly to express their deep mourning’s and rememorize the sacrifice of Hussain. On the occasion, a white horse is decorated beautifully and is taken along the procession which brings back to them the memory of the empty mount of Hussain. Stalls are set up along the roads by the followers where juice and water are served for free to all the people.
A strange fact about the occasion is that while Shia Muslims consider the “Muharram” to be a mourning period, the Sunni Muslims look upon it as a festival and consider “Ashura” to be a happy day but however the religious beliefs remains the same.