City Faith – Chehlum Procession, Matia Mahal
End of a mourning.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Today is chehlum, the ceremony commemorating the 40th day after the death anniversary of the Prophet Muhammed’s grandson Imam Husain Ibn Ali. Centuries ago, he and his 72 followers sacrificed their lives for truth and honor in a battle at Karbala, in modern-day Iraq.
Dressed in black, the Shiite Muslims, the followers of Imam Husain, have gathered in Matia Mahal Bazaar, Shahjahanabad, to mark a closure to the traditional 40-day maatam (mourning). The Shiite and Sunnis are two major sects of Islam. The Sunnis form the majority.
Walking towards the Mughal-era Jama Masjid, the Shiite men are thumping their seenas (chests) and reciting marsiya, the poetic lamentations. The Shiite women are standing on pavements.
The two tall taziyas, the ritual coffins of Imam Husain, are being carried through the congested street with great care so that they don’t get tangled up in the overhanging electric cables. The procession will end 8-miles away at the Karbala graveyard in Jorbagh.
About the same time a bomb explodes in a similar procession of Shiite Muslims in Pakistan. At least 17 people die.
Some Sunni extremist groups view Shiites as heretics. In Matia Mahal balconies, however, the mostly Sunni residents are watching the Shiite mourners quietly.
After the procession moves ahead, the dogs, cats, beggars and garlic sellers reclaim the street.
Mourners, coffins and electric cables