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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 world.

(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:


http://globalvoicesonline.org/2011/12/05/ashura-commemorations-around-the-world/

 

https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&msid=211049723901618750359.000497994c76a682d224b&t=h&vpsrc=0&source=embed&ll=11.513862,27.667007&spn=96.805243,301.58432

 

 

For details, see: http://thirdworldism.posterous.com/every-land-is-karbala-the-globalization-of-mu-0

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.

So, for 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

         and the parading of what are known as Tazias - symbolic representations of the shrine of Karbala: (video)

During the 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)

In recent 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: (video)

And 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.

 

 

 
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