Weekend of 20 till Monday 23rd of November!
Salaam my friends!
This has been a very hectic and productive weekend!
This friday that was, me and Beatrice went out to explore the Mazaars in our neighboorhood after our Urdu class. To explain shortly, a Mazaar is a specific trait for Islam in South and Central Asia which is basically founded on the notion that a holy person/saint or important person for the local Muslim community gets his or her shrine which people come to take part in processions to honor the dead person or to get blessings to cure themselves from illness.
It is a very interesting feature of contemporary South Asian society since it would seem polytheistic and ”non-Muslim” in other parts of the Islamic world since it is some kind of religious practise outside a Mosque but also dedicated to someone else than Allah.
This has certain influences from Hindu polytheism and especially the Mandir culture and worship. An excellent evidence of interreligious and intercultural mixing. In the Mazaar they play music and brun inscence as well as offer flowers, typical Hindu traits in sacrifice rituals and Bhajans to deities in Hindu religious spheres. Also these traits are banned in a mosque which is focused on praying to Allah and to focus on his message. The Mazaar is therefore not a center for prayer for Muslims since it is a place for healing or spiritual help. Also a lot of non-Muslims work at Mazaars and go there regurarly, also in our neighborhood. Another example of South Asian cultural transcendency.
We visited two small Mazaars and then we visited the Shah Najaf Imambara. An Imambara is basically a monument to a Nawab or former Shia Muslim ruler of Lucknow and also a shrine/tomb for his family but also a place of gathering for Shia Muslims. This can be explained in the minority status of Shia Muslims in India, and their stronghold was in Lucknow and the Nawabi culture. The Nawabs were the local dynasty of Muslim rulers who ruled western Uttar Pradesh before the arrival of the British East India Company and British colonialism.
This monument was really spectacular and it was built to honor Nawab Ghazi ud Din Haider and his three wives. One of his wives was acutally a converted Muslim of British ancestry as well as his two Indian wives. The man who worked there also told us that the main division between Shia and Sunni in India is the use of Mazars in Sunni Islam and Imambara's in Shia Islam. It is also visible through the use of Mazars, which is much more wide spread and Imambaras are really rare, mostly centered around Lucknow.
Saturday morning and around lunchtime we went to the Nadwa Tul Ulama, or the Islamic university for men in Lucknow and got a guided tour of the entire university from our teacher Ayaz. We also got to meet a lot of students and also exchange students from Thailand, Malaysia, England, America, Indonesia etc, as well as some teachers and librarians as well as the boss for international students.
After that visit we went to town for some shopping and relaxation. After all this endevaours I felt really sick and spent the rest of the Saturday and also Sunday in bed, trying to study and read. It went so-so. I usually have such a high degree of duty, but sometimes my body just needs to relax and heal.
This day, Monday, we have mostly studied and completed our Urdu assignments. We have also planned an exciting schedule for our Non-Lucknow teachers who will arrive in the week to see some sights, in Hindi of course. We are going to give them the guide and then guide them in Hindustani around the town.
This week's subject will be Urdu in the media sphere, so our focus will be on Urdu in media and news. By the way, me and Beatrice passed our course in Development Theory so we had to celebrate with some Indian pastries to reward ourselves! No shame!