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Of Majlis, Karbala and tazia

This Moharrum R.V. SMITH weaves together a tale of tazias, and the age-old procession that is joined by the elite and the plebeians alike


Tazia processions will wend their way through the streets of Delhi to the Karbala on January 30, which happens to be the 10th of Moharrum, the first month of the Islamic Calendar. Tazias are paper replicas of the grave of Hazrat Imam Hussain, grandson of the Prophet who fell during the battle of Karbala in Iraq on this day along with 70 followers while fighting the forces of the tyrant Yazid. The Majlis Khana, west of the Dargah of Shahi Mardan, mentioned by Maulvi Zafar Hasan in his book on the monuments of Delhi, was the repository of tazias and Alams, which represent the insignia of Imam Hussain. Near it is the graveyard of the Shias.

There is an interesting story relating to the Dargah of Shahi Mardan, which contains a footprint believed to be of Hazrat Ali (son-in-law of the Prophet) According to Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan, "In the year 1137 (AD 1724-25) there came in the possession of Nawab Qudsia Begum (mother of Emperor Ahmad Shah and an ardent Shia), a stone on which there was a footprint. It was said that the mark was of the foot of Ali. She had it set up here (Dargah Shhai Mardan) in a tank, constructed a marble flooring under the tank with this proclamation on its edge: `On this piece of ground where there is a mark of your foot, for years there will be prostrations by men of insight'. However, according to Maulvi Zafar Hasan, the date 1137 AH (Islamic Calendar) mentioned by Sir Sayyid is wrong. It is actually 1173 AH. The Maulvi goes on the say that Qudsia Begum had "lost all her influence and was cast into prison and blinded along with her son. (Ahmad Shah) as early as 1167 AH (which corresponds to 1753-54 AD)".

Not far from the Qadam Sharif, Maulvi Zafar mentions the graves of a number of "Khadimas" of the dargah. Among them were Sharfun Nisa Begum "alias Haji Begum... . daughter of Mirza Sayyid Muhammad Gulistana alias Mirza Jani", Bibi Jan, Wiayati Khanam, Sadrunnisa and Jahanara. However more imposing, according to the Maulvi is the Bibi Ka Rauza, immediately north of Qadam Sharif. He writes: "The Rauza is a masonry building situated in a walled enclosure and roofed by a dome. It is said to contain a cup set upon a small masonry platform. Bibi is a title of Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet and the wife of Ali. The building which has been given the name of Rauza (a mausoleum) was built in her honour to contain the cup which has been dedicated to her and which is thus located in appropriate proximity to the relic of her husband (the Qadam Sharif). As a sign of the greatest respect to Bibi Fatima purdah is strictly observed in the case of this relic sacred to her. No man is permitted to enter the Rauza and defile the cup by his sight".

Real burial place

Members of Women's Lib may take heart from these words written, in 1916. Also in proximity to the Qadam Sharif Dargah is the grave of Mahabat Khan, the great general of Jahangir and Shah Jahan, whose real name was Zamana Beg. But the Maulvi doubts if the remains of the monument he found on an elevation was the real burial place of the general, who is said to have sent the head of Mirza Dharab Khan to his father, Abdur Rahim Khan-e-Khanan, after beheading the nobleman at the instigation of Jahangir. Mahabat Khan had become a Shia later in life. The grave of his daughter is in Bagh Mahabat Khan, Agra. A great lover of elephants, Mahabat Khan's house is mentioned by Maulvi Zafar Hasan as being immediately south of the mosque of Abdun Nabi on Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg. It too was in ruins in 1916 and the report listed it as "unnecessary". It is pertinent to remember that tazia procession passed by the house of Mahabat Khan who must have joined them with great enthusiasm. Some still pass that way to the beating of kettledrums on the road to the Karbala.

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