Munshi Chunni Lal, a brother of Raja Jhaulal, the deputy prime minister of Nawab Asaf-Ud-Daulah of Lucknow lived between 1780-1848. In the vitiated atmosphere of today, it feels like a tale from a different planet when we see a Hindu poet writing “marasiyas” in honour of the martyrs at the battle of Karbala.
For Shia Muslims, the tragedy is a personalised account of pain. Every year the Shias mourn martyrdom at Karbala. The moment is etched in the consciousness of the Muslims.
Chunni Lal who wrote with the pen name “Dilgeer” epitomises, like Ras Khan, who wrote Bhajans for Krishna in the sixteenth century, the famous Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb.
One of the most famous marasia ( a poetry genre in the Indian sub-continent of sad songs for the dead) is “Ghabraye Gi Zainab”. It is a narration of the arrival of Zainab, the daughter of Hazrat Ali when almost all her male relatives had been martyred. It is poetry with extraordinary compassion and moving pain that Munshi Chunnoo Lal Dilgeer had written a marasiya depicting the tale of tortured and butchered family of Prophet Mohammad. Hazrat Ali was married to Fatima, daughter of the Prophet.
Karbala has a significant place in Shia consciousness. It is the path to defend just rights and righteousness one must tread like Imam Hussain, upholding the basic tenets of decency, dignity, mutual respect, kindness and compassion. Karbala indeed transcended beyond a battleground to become a momentous event for humanity in the most difficult of times. Imam Husain’s caravan was stopped by the enemy army of Yazid. Despite knowing that, Imam Husain offered all the water he had, down to the last drop, to them, quenching the thirst of not just the enemy’s soldiers but also their horses. Imam Husain set an example for humanity.
The story of Karbala is a story of tragedies, characters, dignity, the integrity of purpose and commitment. On Ashura, the 10th day of Muharram, except women and an ill Zainul Abideen, were all decimated. But Zainab, an emblem of courage, demonstrated her bravery in the court of Yazid, where she, along with other women and children had arrived in chains.
Muḥarram is the first month of the Islamic calendar and one of the four sacred months of the year. Shias abstain from joyous events this month and offer condolences to the memory of Imam Hussain.