Muharram comes on the 10th day of the first Islamic month. It commemorates a tragedy in the history of Islam, namely the martyrdom of Mohammed's grandson, Imam Hussain. Though it appears to be a festive occasion with colorful 'Tazias' (a 'tazia' being a model in wood and paper of the tomb of the martyred Hussain) it signifies mourning and the marked dancers in the procession are mourners.

It is observed in different ways in various part of India, thought the basic theme is the same in all these observances, that is, the first ten days of Muharram, the dedicated to the morning and remembrance of the martyrdom of Hazrat Imam Hussain, grandson of the prophet Mohammed, and the son of Hazrat Ali and Fatima. Hazrat Imam Hussain died on the 10th day of Muharram, 61 A.H. While fighting the force of Yazid, when Hazrat Ali's whole family was practically slaughtered. This tragedy is observed with great passion in Lucknow, in particular, as it is the centre of Shia culture and religious activities, and accordingly a large number of taziyas and the alams (standards of Hazeat Imam Hussain's army) are taken out all over the city. The taziyas contain wooden and paper models of the mausoleum of Hazrat Imam Hussain, and the processions carrying these terminate in open space called Imambaras, where they are buried.

In place other than Lucknow, the taziyas are taken out and buried in the local burial ground known as Karbala. Scenes depicting the battle of Karbala are enacted by wrestlers and gymnasts asa the alams are taken out in procession on the first nine days of Muharram.

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