Nawabi style of mourning

Descendents of Nawabs of  Lucknow make all efforts to do up Shahi Azakhana for people to observe Muharram in old style.

Shahi Azakhana in Lucknow.

With its grand decoration and silver candle holders reflecting the typical Nawabi opulence, it may appear to be a part of a grand palace of some king or Nawab and a place for holding celebrations for a layman. It is not. Instead it is a place for mourning though in accordance with the true legacy of the Nawabs of Avadh. It is the Shahi Azakhana (place for mourning).

In an old city area of Lucknow, this Shahi Azakhana still attracts mourners from across the town and other places during Muharram (a period of mourning for the Muslims who remember the sacrifice of Imam Hussain and his family and followers consisting of  72 people, including women, children and aged people. They were killed by army of Yazid (satan) at the Battle of Karbala in Iraq).

“The tradition has been going on for the past 100 years. We have tried to maintain the place,” says Syed Masoom Raza, a descendent of the law minister of the first king of Avadh Ghaziuddin Haider.

In Muharram, Majlis-e-Aza (a congregation of mourners) is very significant. “The Shahi Azakahana has been holding such majlis for many years,” Raza told Deccan Herald.
The grandeur of the Shahi Azakhana is best visible during Muharram.

“The entire family gets busy in decorating the place before Muharram. We make every effort to maintain the glory and make the place appear exactly like what it looked during the time of our ancestors,” he says.

The Shahi Azakhana occupies a prominent place among the old azakhanas of Lucknow, which is called the city of Nawabs. “The azakhana still retains the glory of the Nawabi era. It was established by Khan Bahadur Nawab Syed Hussain Khan, life magistrate and his wife Rani Saltanat Begum,” he said.

 Later, Syed Mehndi Hussain Khan, who was special magistrate, and Nawab Syed Raza Hussain Khan carried forw­ard this glorious tradition and added to the grandeur of the azakhana. “We are also trying our best to carry forward the legacy,” he says.

“The azakhana has a main hall leading through a big rounded arch containing the Shahnashin, a row of silver alams with an exquisite alam made of silver work in the middle and patkas embroidered with gold and silver zari work, silver Gulab-Paash for sprinkling rose water during the majils, silver incense holder, silver candle stands and beautifully carved silver mashaals (torches) reflect its grandeur and beauty,” Raza says.

An alam, which is of spiritual significance to the Shia Muslims, is usually seen during the Muharram processions. The alams in India usually have long wooded pole mounted with a silver or metal panja (claw or palm of the hand). Hundreds of Shia Musli­ms take part in the alam processions. They hold the alams in their hands.

“They are all reminiscent of the bygone Nawabi era,” he adds.The Muharram of Lucknow, which has a sizable population of the Shias, is famous across the world for azadari (mourning of the martyrdom of Imam Hussain and his kins through mournful songs).
The nawabs of Lucknow, who were Shias, had esta­blished the tradition of Muharram. “They left no stone unturned in making all arrangements for the event. The azadars will listen to the speeches of the clerics,” Raza said.

He said that it is not easy to maintain the azakhana in these times when a lot articles have become antique and their replacements are simply not available.

 “It takes a lot of effort to keep the azakhana in its old shape... we always handle the antique items with utmost care so that they remain intact,” he added.

Asked whether the generations to come will also look after the articles with the same care and follow the  legacy, Raza said that he certainly expected his children to follow the tradition. “It is a family tradition... from generations we have been following it and there is no reason why the next generations will not continue the same”, he said.

“The cultural bond in the family is too strong for the members to forgo their traditions in the name of modernity,” Raza says with pride. No surprises here as his possessions indeed are prized ones.

Comments (+)