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     Volume 8 Issue 92 | October 30, 2009 |

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The Mystique of Hosni Dalan

Audity Falguni

Hosi Dalan in old Dhaka.

Traditional Persian wall decorations in blue and white; Iranian paintings on the tragic events of Karbala; a large pond at the entrance; children holding candles before the stairs; epitaphs erected upon the graves and flower garlands covering the graves--Hosni Dalan still presents a unique view of the Muslim culture. Shias in Bangladesh represent the diversity of our heritage.

"Many think of Hosni Dalan to be a mosque of the Shias. But, actually it is an Imambara, the mourning place for two Shahid-e-Karbala or the two grand children of the Prophet Hazrat Mohammad (SM; Peace be Upon Him; PBUH) who were savagely murdered at the battle-field of Karbala by their unscrupulous, opponents. Although we, Shias of the Lalbagh-Chakbazaar area offer our namaz here for lack of any Shia mosque in the vicinity, but it is not a mosque. It is the building of mourning," says Syed Baker Reza, whose Shia ancestors emigrated from Iraq to Murshidabad of the then undivided Bengal around four generations ago and later shifted to Dhaka and settled here over the last three generations.

He says that according to the Shia tradition, the beloved and most revered Prophet of Islam foretold his daughter Bibi Fatima (RA) that both of her sons would be martyrs at the battlefield of Karbala. "Bibi Fatima (RA) then asked her father if anybody would lament and shed tears for them and the Prophet replied some people would do it for sure. This is why we, the Shias, come here to offer our tears here," says Syed Reza, who also writes nawha or mourning songs in Khoshbash language of old Dhaka, which is a Creole of Bangla and Urdu.

Being mesmerised by the interpretation of `offering of tears', I notice a number of men and women praying before the Jari-e-Mobarak or the little emblem of the bed for the two martyred grandsons of the Prophet (SM; PBUH). "Those green velvety pillows in the Jari-e-Mobarak are meant for Imam Hasan (RA) who died of poisoning by his opponents and the red velvet pillows are meant for Imam Hosain (RA) who was slaughtered in the battle-field of Karbala," says Orn, who studies at a college in the old part of the city. He is named after the son of the sister of Imam Hosain (RA) and Imam Hasan (RA).

"I am not a Shia. I am a Sunni woman but often I come here to pray so that some of my dreams come true," says a woman devotee at the Hosni Dalan.

Inside the Imambara

Nazir Hossain, who has written a book on the history of Dhaka, narrates in his Kingbadantir Dhaka (Dhaka of the Legends): "There is a legend on the establishment of Hosni Dalan. Meer Murad, a Shia dervish-cum-supervisor of the Navy during the regime of Sultan Suja in 1642 once dreamt that Hajrat Imam Hossain (RA) was telling him to establish a 'mourning building.' From the next morning, the dervish concentrated on establishing an Imambara. Since that very day, the annual celebration of Muharram at the month of Ashura has been held on the premises of the Hosni Dalan. Even a few years ago, the Shias used to observe the 10-day-long celebration of Muharram. For the last three days, the whole city would throng before Hosni Dalan to have a glance at the festive procession of the Muharram. Men and women wept at the touching words of Marsia. Elephants and horses were also exhibited in the procession. However, since the demise of the offspring of the late Nawab Shayesta Khan, the Muharram procession began to loose its pomp and glory."

Nazir Hossain informs: "The last four Nayebe Nazims namely Nawab Nasrat Jung (1822), Shamsuddaulah (1831), Kamaruddaulah (1834) and Gazi Uddin (1843) have been buried in peace in the Hosni Dalan premises. After the death of Gazi Uddin in 1843, the British East India Company abolished the position of Nayebe Nazim and took over the power of Dhaka. Nawab Salimullah renovated Hosni Dalan after the earthquake of 1897. It was the late Nawab Jesrat Khan who wished to reduce the yearly budget for the Hosni Dalan. But, Muslims of Dhaka then appealed to Nawab Sirajuddaulah in Murshidabad and he granted their appeal. But, after the British invaded our country, Shore, the then representative of the colonial government abolished the provision of annual budget for Hosni Dalan in 1788. But, the then Nayebe Nizam Hashmat Jung Bahadur requested the higher authority in the East India Company to grant some fund for this historical monument and the Company determined 2500 taka as the yearly allowance. The Company, in addition, granted 3,000-sikka taka in 1807 and 4,000-sikka taka for renovation of the decaying Hosni Dalan. Later the Court of Directors decided no further grant would be allowed to renovate this monument. Since then the Sunni Nawab Khaja Alumullah and his offspring in the Ahsan Manzil have been incurring the expenditure of Muharram. Mir Murad, the founder of Hosni Dalan, bequeathed a vast amount of his land property to maintain the costs for maintenance of the monument. But, his successors exhausted up all the properties.”

Syed Baker Reza, who is one of the committee members for protection and maintenance of this centuries-old historical monument, says that there are a few lakh Shias across the country nowadays. "In Dhaka, there are <>Shias<> in Mohammadpur, Purana Paltan and Maghbazaar area of the city. We have been living in this area over centuries along with our peaceful Sunni brothers. But, over the last one or two decades, some vested quarters in the locality have encroached upon and have grabbed a vast amount of the adjoining land belonging to the Hosni Dalan," he says.

When I am about to leave the Hosni Dalan, two or three young men comes forward and one of them says, "We both are Sunnis but we have come here to visit this monument. Actually, we all are sons and daughters of this soil. Be it Shias or Sunnis, Hindus or Muslims! We should know, tolerate and respect the culture of each other." Let this spirit takes a firm root in our minds.


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