Muharram is incomplete without towering tazias, each more magnificent than the other, wrought in metal, wood or paper and embellished with engravings and gems, some even plated gold and silver are brought onto the streets in processions that include people from various faiths and beliefs. Mostly built by Barelvi Sunnis, but some Shias are no less involved in tazia-making.
In India, Hindus and to some extent Sikhs also get the tazias built and carry them in processions. The replicas, representations or tazia, as they are called, are pieces of art. Earlier, there used to be new tazias made every year but now inflation and shortage of good material has come in the way of that.
“Commemorating the martyrdom of the Battle of Karbala is given a real dimension through the tazias. There are replicas of many sacred places, shrines or tombs of Karbala. All this has to be planned in advance,” says S. Manzoor-ul-Islam Qadri or Nazar Mian as he is more popularly known. The gentleman, who owns a paper business on Hassan Ali Affendi Road or paper market, says he has been involved in tazia-making for over 50 years now.
“I have been supplying material for making tazias to customers from Hyderabad and others parts of Sindh as well,” he says.
“Over the years, I have witnessed a steady decline in decorating tazias with paper. People these days are more into decorating them with electric lights instead of shiny paper or paper flowers,” he says.
“The frame for a tazia can be wooden or made of bamboo which is more popular. That done, you need glue and lai to build the walls and roof of a model. The main materials used here are cardboard and paper,” he explains.
“Once done, the bamboo frame is covered with cardboard and brown paper. With the structure ready, it is time to think of how you are going to decorate it,” Nazar Mian continues.
“It is not very different from when you build a new house and decide on the colour scheme for each room in that house,” he says.
“Tazia-making is a craft which involves entire families. The young do all the work and the older generation participates by giving advice,” he adds.
Nazar Mian specially stocks his shop with all kinds of shiny paper way before Muharram. “We start getting customers some 10 to 15 days before Baqr Eid. Plain or textured golden and silver paper or panni, as we call it, is most in demand. They are also available in tapes or strips for doing the borders. Other metallic colours such as dark green also sell well,” he shares.
“Strands of paper flowers are also used, especially for making the head gear in commemoration of the young martyrs — one whose wedding is presumed to have been solemnised at Karbala and one whose wedding remained a dream for his family. Happy as well as sad or solemn occasions have to have flowers,” he concludes.
Even fresh flowers generously used on the alam, tazia or the taboot (replica of the coffin) both at homes and in the processions.