Local Lives 06

A tomb for the Imam
A community joins the Muslim faithful in commemorating a historic martyrdom
Photographs and story by Mark Lyndersay

Depending on the calculations of the moon and the start of the Muslim calendar, Hosay celebrations move through the Gregorian calendar from June to January, and the festival of commemoration tracks closely with Carnival for several years before the two festivals drift apart.
Hosay involves building beautiful mobile art and drumming, but it is really about sacrifice, with hundreds of people in St James alone giving of their time, energy and talent to commemorate the massacre of Imam Hussain and the faithful followers of the Prophet Muhammad in the desert of Kerbala in Iraq.

The celebration that takes place principally in St James and Cedros is rooted in the Shia Muslims of India, who brought this way of remembering the Kerbala massacre from their homeland two centuries ago.
That dramatic martyrdom is honoured in the prayer cycle of Muharram, the first 10 days in the first month of the Muslim calendar during which believers reflect on the demands and challenges of their religion.

Darryl Merani devotes the weeks leading up to the festival to the work of the Panchaiti camp, where he works on the construction of a tadjah, an honorific tomb to the slain Imam that is meant to convey all the respect that the Muslim faith invests in the stand that Imam Hussain took against Caliph Yazid.
Merani is joined by dozens of supporters, many of them of other religions, who work on the project under the rules of the Muslim faith.

Threaded through the buzz of energy and the almost continuous toil of the work are elders who remind the next generation of the importance of the tradition they are engaged in.
Merani traces his lineage back to Noor Mohammed, who asked permission of the colony more than 160 years ago for the Hosay procession.

Gobi Lakhan works closely with Merani on producing the Panchaiti effort. That support is most obviously manifested physically, as Lakhan often jumps in to help move things along.
Early on Tuesday morning, after the dramatic silver and black Panchiati tadjah had taken to the road, I asked Lakhan, who is Hindu, why he does it.
Between bites of tasty paratha, Lakhan reflected for a moment.
“When I see those ladies dress up and take charge of it tonight, well that’s why. It’s theirs now.”
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