Urdu translation of the following blog appeared in the January edition of “Raah-e-Islam”, a journal published by Iran Culture House, in 2007.
By: Syed Asad Haider Zaidi ( s/o Syed Masih Haider Zaidi )
Acknowledgement: I would like to thank Janab Syed Sabir Raza Zaidi Sahab, Janab Qayam Mehdi Zaidi Sahab, Janab Mustufa Zaidi Sahab, and Janab Alamdar Haider Sahab who patiently answered my questions and gave historical information which helped shape this blog. I would also like to thank Janab Syed Mohd. Mehdi Zaidi Sahab (Urf Naatiq Zaidi) and Janab Syed Tafseer Zaidi Sahab, for I learnt a lot from their earlier works on Meman. I would also like to thank Prof. Azizuddin Hussain Sahab who asked me to write this article in the first place. In the end I would also like to thank my mother, Zoya Nasreen Zaidi, for translating this original version in Urdu, Janab Ghulam Haider Naqvi Sahab for giving his inputs, and my cousin Abbas Ali, for taking out time and visiting Meman with me for completing this article…
Note: Shayar Azhar Bijnori, Shayar Asif Bijnori, Shayar Kaleem Asghar, Noha Khwan Asad Abbas, Noha Khwan Khursheed Asri, Marsiya Khwan Liaqat Zaidi are some of the people from Meman who have become quite famous in recent times…
Meman is a village 180kms from Delhi, 25kms from Bijnor and 14kms from Najibabad on the Bijnor-Najibabad highway. Dargah “Najaf-e-Hind” of Jogipure is around 24 kms from Meman. It was originally inhabited by nomads named Koli. Syed Shah Ashraf came to Meman from Darsu-Nawazpura in Punjab around 1386A.D. His father, Syed Arif Shah is buried in the Shah-e-Marda dargah in Jor Bagh, New Delhi. Meman has a population of around 9000 people with a Shia majority. There were twelve Syed families in Meman most of which left for Pakistan when it was created.
There were a total of seventeen Imambargahs in Meman of which one is in partial ruins while another one has no building remaining. Another Imambargah is being rebuilt and is under construction. The seventeen Imambargahs are as follows:
- Barah Dari: “Barah Dari” which literally stands for twelve arches, was the first azakhana built in Meman. It was built by Syed Mohammed Meer. Since he had no son, the responsibility to carry on the azadari fell on the shoulders of his son-in-law Syed Fazal Ali who originally belonged to Bedha, Muzaffarnagar. The Zari of “Barah dari” was built around six hundred years back and it still exists. For the last 240 years it is placed in “Deewan Khana.” It was last repaired eight years back by Syed Sabir Raza s/o Syed Akhtar Abbas, who traces his lineage to Fazal Ali.
- Chhatta: “Chhatta” was a huge Imambargah next to the lake in Meman but over the centuries was weathered to dust. It no longer exists. The main Ashura majlis is still held at that place where once the Imambargah stood. The daily majalis of “Chhatta” held during muharram are now held in “Deewan Khana.”It was built in the 16th century and was a two storey building. Zanani majalis were held on the first floor and mardani majalis were held on the ground floor. During zanani majalis no males were present but during mardani majalis females used to be present on the first floor.
- Deewan Khana: “Deewan Khana” was built by Fazal Ali around 1766AD and majalis are being held there since then. All major processions during muharram azadari used to start here. Over the years many other Imambargahs were built in Meman. Today all major processions end in “Deewan Khana.” Amaal-e-Roza-e-Ashura is performed in “Deewan Khana” on the morning of Ashura.
- Bangla (Haatha): “Bangla” was built for zanani majalis which started here in 1889 AD. The tazia in “Bangla” was built in 1919 by Abdul Majeed of Najibabad. Arbain ashra of Bangla is quite well known.
- Kothi(also called Hakeemo Walon ka azakhana): It was built in 1909 AD by Syed Agha Hasan s/o Syed Sadaq Ali. Syed Agha Hasan is from the 11th generation of Syed Shah Ashraf. This Imambargah was also built for zanani majalis and as a mannat by Razia Begum w/o Syed Sadaq Ali. The ashra is being organized there since the last 97 years.
- Imli wala Azakhana: Is a very old azakhana and was rebuilt many times. It was last rebuilt in 2004 and now has a permanent structure.
- Mama ka Azakhana: Was originally a house used later as an azakhana after the death of the owner according to his wishes.
- Majnoo Shah ka Azakhana:
- Jagni ka Azakhana:
- Noor Deo ka Azakhana: Was constructed in 1959 AD.
- Ahlebait: This Azakhana was built by ansari shias in 2000 AD.
- Naya Imambada: This Azakhana was also built by ansari shias in 1967 AD.
- Amroh ka Azakhana:
- Bada Imambada: This azakhana is also a very old azakhana. It had been rebuilt many times over the years. It got a proper pucca structure in pre-independence days. It was the result of a chutki fund started by the villagers. In this fund, every resident of Meman used to donate handful of flour everyday and the collection used to be sold after some time. The revenue generated was used to construct the building. No outside help was taken during the construction of this building. Recently, some of the villagers who work as truck drivers took the initiative and painted this Imambargah themselves.
- Zainabiyah: This azakhana is basically a madrassa which is used as an azakhana as well. Zanani majalis take place here. It was built in 1980 AD.
- Dr. Sahab ka Azakhana: This azakhana was built by Dr. Ghulam Murtaza. Ashra is organized here during the first ten days of muharram and during arbain as well.
In the earlier days, on the day of ashura, people used to stand in a circle with a fire burning in the middle and perform maatam. There was no recital of nohas during that time. Later, when “Deewan Khana” was constructed, processions used to start from there. During processions there used to be one big “halka” or circle accompanied by taashe and nakkare (drums), and even then, nohas were not recited during the processions but only in the azakhana after the majlis. Azadari of Meman as we know today was introduced by Syed Zafaryab Abbas and Syed Akhtar Raza. They had gone to lucknow for higher education and were inspired by the azadari they witnessed there. On their return to Meman, they formed Anjuman-e-Hussainiya. Later others anjumans were formed and today, six anjumans exist in Meman.
Processions in Meman include a leader who is known as the “Sarbarah.” The procession moves when the “Sarbarah” moves a cloth and the procession stops when the cloth stops. Ghulam Hasnain, Fazal Ali, Shafeeq Hussain and Mumtaz Ali (also known as Bhai Mumtazi) are some of the “Sarbarahs” of the past. Syed Sabir Raza is the current “Sarbarah” of the procession.
In 1931 AD, shabih-e-zuljana was first introduced in the procession on muharram 8th, which begins from Bangla, Haatha. In 1944 AD, Akhtar Raza and Akhtar Abbas, went to Allahabad during muharram. The famous noha, “yeh uski sawari aati hai, jo nahar par pyasa sota hai” was written on the night of 7th muharram at around 8pm under the light of a lantern by Akhtar Raza and Akhtar Abbas recited it the next day. Since then this noha is recited during the shabih-e-zuljana procession on the 8th of muharram every year. Presently, Syed Sabir Raza, s/o Syed Akhtar Abbas recites this noha.
Azadari is a way of life in Meman with majalis throughout the year. A day before muharram starts, on chand raat, a procession is taken out from “Deewan khana” after namaz-e-isha. The procession then proceeds to “Mama’s imambada,” “Asgharia,” “Imli wala imambada” and then finally reaches “Deewan khana.” with a majlis at each azakhana.. The noha, “Phir chaand muharram ka namudaar hua hai” is recited during the procession. The tareekhi marsiya, “Muharram aya hai ai mohibbo rasool rote hain karbala mein” is recited by Syed Sabir Raza in “Deewan khana.” Earlier this marsiya was recited by his father, Syed Akhtar Abbas, and before him by Syed Intezar Hussain.
On 1st muharram there are eight majalis in different Imambargahs. The first majlis starts at 8am in “Noor Deo’s Imambargah,” followed by majalis in “Ahlebait” and “Dr. Sahab’s Imambargah.” After namaz-e-zuhr, there is a majlis in “Naya Imambada” at 2pm followed by a majlis in “Amroh ka Imambada”. After namaz-e-maghrib, there is a majlis in “Mama ka Imambada” at 7pm, followed by majalis in “Asgharia”, “Imli wala Imambada” and the last majlis in “Deewan Khana.”
The above routine is followed for the next five days.On fouth of muharram, a “tareekhi marsiya” is recited before the majlis in “Deewan khana” by Syed Sabir Raza. This marsiya is “Sitaron ki amad hai, kaali ghata mein”, which is based on Bibi Zainab’s sons. On the fifth muharram, many people go to Bijnor to attend a big majlis held at the residence of late Syed Ghamkhwahar Haider Zaidi, s/o Syed Baqar Raza. This majlis is being held there since 1986 AD.
On the sixth of muharram, the routine of majalis before namaz-e-zuhr is same as on earlier days. After the majlis in “Naya Imambada”, shabih-e-taboot of Hazrat Aun-o-Muhammad (A.S.) is taken out. This is a short procession which ends in the azakhana itself. After this the usual pattern of majalis is followed. Before the majlis in “Deewan Khana”, the marsiya “As-haabe Jaan Nisaar Rasoole Khuda ke the” is recited.
On the seventh of muharram, the same routine of majalis is followed. Mehndi procession is taken out from “Amroh ka Imambada” at around 4:30pm along with shabih-e-taboot, Hazrat Qasim(A.S.) This procession then proceeds to “Haatha”, “Deewan Khana” before ending in “Mama ka Imambada” at around 11:00pm. Majalis in “Mama ka Imambada” and “Asgharia” are held simultaneously. The majlis in “Imli wala Imambada” starts after midnight followed by a majlis in “Deewan Khana” which starts around 1:30am and ends after 3:00am.
On the morning of 8th of Muharram, all majalis from morning to evening are finished before 1pm. Also, mannati alams are taken out from individual homes and children are made “Saqqa.” The procession of 8th muharram begins in “Deewan Khana” with the marsiya “Kehti Sakina yeh thi, ab nahi rone ki mein” followed by the marsiya “Jab kasd kiya nahar saqqa-e-haram ne.” Syed Sabir Raza recites these marsiyas along with others.
After this the procession begins from “Deewan Khana” and moves towards “Haatha” accompanied by Shabih-e-Alam Hazrat Abbas (A.S) and beating of drums (taashe) The above two marsiyas are again repeated inside “Haatha” in front of the azakhana named “Bangla.”
After the marsiyas are recited, the noha “Yeh uski sawari aati hai” is recited and the procession circumvents the azakhana “Bangla” with Shabih-e-Zuljana in front. After making one circle of the azakhana the procession moves outside “Haatha.” Outside the gate of “Haatha,” the noha “Khaime se chala ran ko jo Abbas Alamdar” is recited. After this noha, Shabih-e-Zuljana is taken to azakhana “Kothi” and the Alam from there is taken out. This is followed by the recital of the marsiya, “Jab Alamdar ko maidan ki ijazat na mili”. After the procession reaches “Naya Imambada”, all remaining anjumans join the procession. Till this point, only the anjumans, anjuman-e-Hussainiya and Lashkar-e-Hussain are part of the procession. “Chai Sabeel” is organized in different homes for the anjumans participating in the procession. During “Chai Sabeel”, tea is offered in special cups made of clay known as “Shikoras.”
The procession then goes to “Amroh ka Imambada” and then “Noor deo’s Imambargah.” After this anjuman-e-Asgharia takes out Shabih-e-taboot Hazrat Abbas(A.S) and “Aag ka maatam”, the walk on burning coals is performed. The shabih-e-taboot is then taken to Juma masjid. Anjuman-e-Hussainiya then performs maatam inside the graveyard where Syed Shah Ashraf, Syed Sadaq Ali, Syed Agha Hasan, Syed Baqar Raza and others are buried. The procession then visits all remaining azakhanas. When the procession reaches “Imli walon ka Imambada”, the “pharaira” of alam is opened. The cloth wrapped around the pole carrying the alam is called “Pharaira”. The marsiya “Saqqa-e-Sakina, Shada-e-Sakina” is written on the “Pharaira” of the alam and is recited by everyone present. Then the procession moves towards “Dr. Sahab’s Imambargah” and the noha “Ya Sayyadi Ya Abbas” is recited. When this noha is recited, people beat their heads. The procession ends when it reaches “Deewan khana” around mid-night. After the juloos ends, the majalis start. By the time the majlis in “Deewan Khana” ends, it’s close to dawn.
On 9th of muharram, the usual routine of majlises is followed. After the majlis in “Naya Imambada”, Shabih-e-Taboot of Hazrat Ali Akbar is taken out in the azakhana. After the majlis in “Deewan Khana”, Shabih-e-taboot of Hazrat Ali Akbar and Shabih-e-jhoola of Shehzada Ali Asghar is taken out. The noha “Fatimah ki godh ka de diya paala tujhe” is then recited in “Deewan Khana” after which maatam is performed on “Taashey.” All anjumans take out their individual processions visiting all azakhanas where tea is prepared for them. This procession ends at the time of Namaz-e-Fajr.
On the day of Ashura, Amaal-e-Ashura are organized at four locations including, “Deewan Khana”, “Imli wala Imambada” and in “Karbala”. First, the approximately 600 year old tazia from “Deewan Khana” is taken out after the marisiyas,” Qatl ki raat ko thi shaan se giriya Zainab” and “Aaj Zainab yun kahe” are recited. Then the tazia from “Bangla” is taken out after the recital of the marsiya “Aaj Zainab yun kahe.” After this all the mannati tazias and tazias from all Azakhane are taken out. Also, at each azakhana, the marsiya “Aaj Zainab yun kahe” is recited again after which there is a small majlis. All tazias assemble outside the gate of “Haatha” before the procession begins and the marsiya “Jab kafla haram ka chala sar khula hua” is recited by Syed Sabir Raza and others throughout the procession. There is a big majlis when the procession reaches “Imli wala Imambada.” All the huge alams are lined up together before the start of the majlis. After this the marsiya “Aaj Shabbir pe kya aalam-e tanhai hai” is recited by Syed Munawwar Raza and others including Syed Muhammad Ali. After this marsiya, the soz “Hussain jab ke chale” is recited by them. After the majlis, Shabih-e-Zuljana is taken out and Syed Qaisar Mustafa, along with others recites the noha “Ghoda nikal raha hai Shah-e-Mashraqain ka”. This procession then goes to “Majnu Shah’s Imambargah” before reaching “Chhatta” with all the tazias, alams and Shabih-e-Zuljana. The number of tazias when the procession reaches “Chhatta” is around 55.
After namaz-e-Zuhr is performed, the main majlis of Ashura starts in “Chhatta”. The marsiya, “Rawana nehre laban ko jo sheer khar hua” is recited by Syed Sabir Raza and others before the majlis. After the majlis, the marsiya “Jab hue zuhr talak qatl sipah-e-Shabbeer” is recited by Syed Sabir Raza and Chacha Yaseen. After this each anjuman forms its own circle and matam begins. The procession moves towards “Bada Imambada” doing matam. Zanjeer ka matam is then performed outside “Bada Imambada” near the lake called “Hauz”. Here the tazias of azakhanas are kept while the remaining 25 or 30 tazias are taken to “Dola Wali (Karbala)” where they are buried. The noha, “Sad alvida Hussaina” is recited. After this, ziyarat Roza-e-Ashura is recited. All the people then go to each others homes for “Faqa-Shiqni” for which “Haleem” is prepared in large quantities.
Sham-e-gharibaan majlis is held in all Imambargahs, the main majlis being in “Deewan Khana.” After this majlis, everyone proceeds towards “Dola Wali (Karbala)” where candles are lighted all over the place. From a distance it looks like the stars have descended on earth.
Meman has a tradition of producing good poets, nohakhwans and marsiyakhwans whose nohas and marsiyas became famous in their times. The earlier era produced stalwarts like Akhtar Raza who wrote many nohas during his time and Akhtar Abbas who used to recite them. Today the nohas written by Bhai Asif and rendered by Bhai Asad are quite famous. The current famous noha khwans of Meman include Bhai Khursheed Asri and Bhai Kaleem. Famous marsiyakhwans include Bhai Liaqat (Deewan Khana), Bhai Mohd. Ghulam, and Bhai Ismail (Noor deo’s Imambargah.) Some of these stalwarts, like Bhai Liaqat, are also teaching the younger generation in the art of marsiya khwani.
The whole village participates in the azadari processions during muharram. Sunni muslims and even Hindus in Meman bring out their own tazias and alams and seek divine blessings.
Daily majlises are held in Meman from the Soyam of Imam Hussain to 10th of Safar. Arbain Ashra begins from 10th of Safar to 20th Safar, with four majlises held daily. These majalis are held at “Deewan Khana”, “Dr. Sahab’s Imambargah”, “Jagni ka Imambargah” and “Majnu Shah ka Imambada”. Ahsra majalis in “Majnu Shah ka Imambada” started three years back. Earlier there used to be only one majlis during Arbain. On the 17th, 18th,19th and 20th Safar, processions are taken out in Meman.
From 21st Safar to 1st Rabiulawwal, majalis are held on Thursdays and Fridays. There are ashras in individual homes during this period as well. On 9th of Rabiulawwal the “sok” ends. Throughout the year, on the occasion of wiladat of all Imams mehfils are organized and majalis held on the date of their shahadat. 13th Rajab, 3rd and 4th Shabaan, and 15th Shabaan are some of the dates when important majalis are held.
Arbaeen procession details, and detailed photo log and video log of Muharram will be uploaded shortly…