On Wednesday evening, when all Hindus converged for immersing goddess Durga idols, the Jharia family in Narsinghpur district’s Simariya village readied for symbolic cooling of the green-coloured tazia that has been installed near their house since October 3.
Situated 250 kms from Bhopal and 45 kms from Narsinghpur district headquarters, the village in Gotegaon houses 3,200-strong population, all of who are either Hindus or Jains.
But, the village has been observing the ceremonial mourning of Muharram and staging Ramlila over four generations – emerging as an ideal microcosm of India’s pluralistic culture.
It’s after several years that Muharram has coincided with Navratri this year, making the Jharia family to go for dual fasting for Navratri and Muharram.
“From what we’ve heard from our elders, three generations back, our family was childless,” claims Dabbal Singh Jharia.
Seventy-year-old Singh heads the Jharia family and has been observing Muharram and performing other rituals associated with the mourning for ten days.
“Around a century back, one day one of our family members spotted the tazia burial procession outside the village and prayed before it for a child’s birth in the family. The family astonishingly was blessed with a baby boy within a year, consequently triggering a tradition of our family annually observing the ceremonial mourning every year since then,” says Jharia.
Observance of Muharram through installation of tazia at Jharia’s house has the support of every other family in the village, said two villagers Mulayam and Chaturbhuj.
“Despite our village having no Muslim family, we’ve never objected to Jharia family observing Muharram, but instead help them out in all possible ways to preserve this unique tradition that has made our village famous in Narsinghpur,” the duo said.
Adds Chaudhary Vijayendra Singh, a 60-year-old rich farmer, “observance of Muharram by all members of Jharia family is a pride for the entire village, particularly as the family’s head Dabbal Singh has been playing the tabla since decades for the village’s 80-year-old Ramlila.”
A member of the Ramlila’s management committee, Singh claims not only does the family observe Muharram every year, but also fasts during the auspicious month of Ramzan and celebrates both eid-ul-juha and eid-ul-fitr sans non veg delicacies.
Seconds another villager Dharmendra Singh, the Jharia family which forms an inseparable part of the village Ramlila is helped by fellow villagers in the tazia burial procession with every one beating their chests like any other Muharram procession till the tazia is symbolically buried four km away at a pond in Latgaon Pipariya village.
“Throughout the ten-day mourning, people from all age groups and communities frequent Jharia family’s house and pray for their well being. On Tuesday, only 4000 people from neighbouring villages offered prayers before the tazia. A Tamrakar family from Gotegaon whose prayers were fructified, had funded the building of a dome-shaped platform a few years back for installing the tazia near Jharias house,” says Singh.