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Muharram in Ladakh 2021

Muharram is the period of grief for Shia Muslims across the world. It is the month of mourning for the death of Hazrat Imam Hussain, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad. ... During the month of Muharram, the first in the Islamic lunar calendar, the Day of Ashura is very significant.

Storytelling, weeping and chest beating, wearing black, partial fasting, street processions, and re-enactments of the Battle of Karbala form the crux of the observances. Self-flagellation has been practiced but is now considered haram (prohibited) by some namely Irani Usuli Shia authorities (maraji).

Since Ladakh became a Union Territory, Shias become a majority community. They enjoy equal rights and face no religious discrimination. The main religious groups in the region are Muslims (mainly Shia) (46%), Tibetan Buddhists (40%), Hindus (12%) and others (2%). Ladakh is one of the most sparsely populated regions in India.

Sunny and I got the chance to witness this years Muharram in Ladakh. Since the start of the month of Muharram, we observed the vibe of the whole valley get into mourning and singing every evening in the Jamia Masjid located in the main Leh market.

So it was much obvious to go and see the procession. But we were reluctant about our safety with covid still going on, we made sure we took all precautionary measures and also wore black clothes to be a part of the mourning procession. As soon as we reached the start point of the procession, we noticed how well the masjid had managed the whole covid scenario. They not only had ambulances in place, but they had a big team of doctors and nurses on the run. Sanitation was given utmost priority, every one in the procession constantly had their masks on, and they kept passing masks and gloves to people along with water and juice.

The energy and vibe of the procession was beyond words, they had a pattern in which the most inner circle would be kids and young men and the older men in the outer ones. The singers maintained a beautiful rhythm that went from a slow throbbing to high and then back to slow, it was felt in the deepest corners of our heart. We became a part of the procession in no time.

They all gathered in front of the Jamia Masjid where the prominent leaders gave out speeches motivating each and everyone present to spread the pure teachings of humanity of their prophet.

After a long session of speeches, the procession started again with a different level of energy and the grieving and mourning kept getting leader to a point where it was difficult to hold our waters. That is when we finally decided to get back home. As we got out of the procession we had our last share of how beautifully this whole procession was organised, and that was the immediate round of cleaning they did.

To conclude I would just say that this was one of the most memorable experiences that I had in Ladakh. The music, the singing, the rhythm and the people will always resonate in my heart.

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