Srinagar: For the last seven years, Syed Murtaza, raised a horse with love and compassion near his home in north Kashmir’s Baramulla. One of his family members always kept an eye on the horse, making sure to never use it for any domestic purpose.
“We never neglected him,” said the 30-year-old. On the day of Ashura, the horse is dressed up in black and green cloth, readying to be paraded through the streets in Pattan, in memory of the horse that Imam Hussain (A.S.) rode during the battle of Karbala.
“We prefer the horse to be high and strong so that it looks more beautiful,” Murtaza told The Kashmir Walla. The locality, or a nominated head, identifies a family that offers its home to host Zuljana during Muharram. “This is considered an honour and a blessing for the family to become a host for Zuljana,” he added.
Though Zuljana is a symbolic representation of a horse from a significant historical event, it doesn’t need to have been born or fed in the traditional sense. “Instead, the focus is on its role in the commemorative processions during Muharram,” Murtaza said.
Annually, on the tenth of Ashura, the biggest Zuljana procession is taken out in Srinagar’s Zadibal area which is attended by the thousands of mourners. The name of the procession comes from the name of the horse that Imam Hussain (A.S.), the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), rode during the Battle of Karbala in 680 CE against the army of Yazid, the then ruler of Syria.
The horse was bred and raised by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) who later gifted it to Imam Hussain (A.S.) when the latter was a child.
Muharram is the first month of the Islamic lunar calendar and holds significant religious and historical importance for Muslims around the world. It is considered one of the four sacred months in Islam, during which certain activities are considered especially virtuous.
One of the most significant events associated with Muharram is the martyrdom of Imam Hussein (A.S.), the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), in the Battle of Karbala.
During Muharram, Muslims observe several rituals and practices to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (A.S.) and his companions at the Battle of Karbala. Majalis are held during Muharram and Shia Muslims come together to remember the events of Karbala.
Scholars and preachers deliver sermons that recount the tragic events and the sacrifices made by Imam Hussain (A.S.) and his followers in gatherings at mosques, community centers, or homes.
During the processions, the mourners carry Alam Sharif, holding Quran on their heads, and taziya — a replica of the mausoleum of Imam Hussain (A.S.), made in numerous forms and types — to commemorate this event and express grief and solidarity.
Speaking with The Kashmir Walla, Dr. Mudasir Rizvi, a preacher from Zadibal, said that the horse is regarded to be faithful. “It is believed that after the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (A.S.), the horse rubbed its forehead in His holy blood and went to the tents of Ahle Haram to convey the heart-wrenching message.”
As the procession progressed through the streets of Srinagar, mourners tried to pass through the crowd and reach near the horse. “The mourners give money to the horse as Sadqa, which is used to feed the horse,” said Murtaza, the caretaker.
Shabeer-ul-Hassan, a 16-year-old from Srinagar’s Hassanabad, had been waiting to take part in the procession for a year. When he saw the horse during the procession, he said, it reminded him of the moment “when Imam Hussain (A.S.) rode Zuljanah to the battlefield standing up against tyranny and oppression”.
He went ahead to kiss the horse, wiped his hands over the skin to express his love for everything that “reminds us of the heroic moment,” he said.