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The Globalization of Muharram
Videos of Muharram rites around the world. Click on any blue marker
to see a video of Muharram rituals in that part of the
(For some markers, where a video could not be found, there
is text or a photo in its place)
Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar, is a
period of mourning for Shia Muslims. During the month they
commemorate the death of Husain, grandson of the Prophet
Muhammad and the third Shia Imam, at the Battle
of Karbala. The mourning events reach a climax on
Ashura, the tenth day of the month, which falls this week.
In this post we look at different Ashura rituals around the
world, and bloggers describe what Ashura means to them.
Last year during Muharram, Pakistani blogger Fahad Desmukh
mapped commemorations in different countries:
For details, see:
The map is
far from exhaustive, as there are literally thousands of
Muharram videos on Youtube from all over the over the world.
I've just selected a few that show the wide diversity of the
rituals as they have spread around the world.
The map and
videos quite neatly reflect the migration and displacement
patterns of people from the time of the events of Karbala in
680AD to all corners of the globe today. It also shows
something about how rituals and tradition are defined, and
then continuously moulded by time and migration.
example, here is one path taken. The rites travelled east
from Iraq, across Persia, to North India sometime between
1300 and 1700 AD. Although Shi'ite Muslims claimed ownership
of the rites, in India Sunnis and even Hindus were active
participants. Somewhere along the way two things became
common elements of the rites:
a drum performance known as Dhol-Tasha: (video),
and the parading of what are known as Tazias - symbolic
representations of the shrine of Karbala: (video)
days of the British Raj, thousands of Indian indentured
labourers travelled to far flung regions of the British
Empire, such as Fiji, Mauritius and the Caribbean Islands,
taking these rituals with them. In Trinidad, the rites
became known as the festival of Hosay, in which not only
Sunnis and Hindus participated, but also Afro-Trinidadians.
In Trinidad, the Dhol-Tasha drums (referred to as 'Tassa')
and Tazias ('Tadja') can still clearly be seen: (video)
decades there has been considerable migration of people from
the Caribbean to North America. So today you can see those
same Tasha drums and Tazias at Muharram commemorations in
Manhattan you can also see Muharram rites being carried out
by migrants from India who did not stop over in the
Caribbean, something quite different: (video)
There are a
million other things that can be said, but have a look at
the videos on the map for yourself and see.