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One hundred years of solitude

world Updated: Jan 08, 2009 01:07 IST

When the Muharram procession winds down the streets of Karachi on Thursday, the Mai Jannat Ka Taziya will stand out from the scores of taziyas that form part of the ritual — because it is built and decorated not just by Shias, but also by the Sunnis, Hindus, Sikhs and Parsis of the city.

The custodian of this taziya and the shrine that goes by the same name, Mehmooda Bibi, says when it comes to Muharram, no one has a copyright on mourning the tragedy of Karbala. And the small plot on which the taziya is built in the busy, congested Saddar area of Karachi, also houses a small mandir of Mari Mata on the same premises.

Interestingly, both Shias and Hindus use a hand as one of their religious symbols. For the Shias, it is the hand of Hazrat Ali, the fourth Caliph of Islam.

In front of the plot are three poles on which religious symbols are displayed, even shared. This level of tolerance, says Mehmooda Bibi, has been in place for almost a century now.

People come here for different reasons but the high point is the building of the taziya, a squarish structure built of wood and usually covered with black cloth. Believers carry this through the streets as part of the Moharram procession, which ends by the sea where the taziyas are then left.

The people who come to build or beautify the Mai Jannat Taziya do it not just as part of the rituals but also to make a wish, or mannat, be it for better job prospects or the birth of a child. The mannat, once made, has to then be marked, either by tying knots at the shrine or in some way adding to the beauty of the taziya.

Mehmooda Bibi says she inherited the status of custodian from her mother,

popularly known as Mai Jannat. The small Hindu temple, whose plaque says it was built in December

1957 by Seth Motandas in memory of Shrimati Tulsibai Motandas, is equally revered by all.