DELHI: Indian Shiites commemorated Ashura, which for them is a day of mourning that honors the martyrdom of the Imam Husain, grandson of the Prophet Mohammad, who was supposedly killed at the 7th century Battle of Karbala. That historical event prefigured the schism between Sunnis and Shiites, and is remembered annually through passion plays known as the ta’ziyeh or taziya and startling scenes of ritual scouring and self-flagellation.
Joining the throngs in Delhi on Tuesday was an unusual community of mourners. They carried out their own taziya procession and beat their chests in lamentation. But they were Hindus, not Muslims. A report in the Times of India follows these Hussaini Brahmins, also known as Mohyals, a community of Hindus in North India who adhere to certain Muslim traditions and rituals. According to Mohyal lore, a number of famous ancestors fought on Husain’s side at Karbala and died in the battle. The community now bears the legacy of that mythic lineage.
They embrace an eclectic range of Hindu and Muslim practices. “We believe that both Hindus and Muslims should follow each other’s rituals and traditions,” Rajinder Kumar, a Mohyal man tells the Times of India. “Our community observes Muharram and women keep fasts just as Muslims do.”
Despite the relative obscurity of these Hussaini Brahmins, their existence speaks of a wider legacy. For centuries, the subcontinent has been a crucible for many divergent traditions and beliefs, some coming into friction, most existing in harmony. Muslims celebrated Hindu holidays; Hindus still worship at the old shrines of Sufi saints.
Read more: Communal Harmony