Muharram Festival, India

The first month of the Islamic calendar is Muharram, which is considered to be highly religious, just like Ramadan, the month following it. In itself, the name Muharram means "forbidden," and since it is considered sacred, it is used by many Muslims for prayer and reflection. Fasting during the holy Muharram period is a norm in the community. During Muharram, Imam Hussain Ibn Ali, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, was killed at Karbala. Observers fast the 10th day after the massacre, Ashura, in memory of the massacre. Muharram also marks the migration of Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina, known as the hijrah.

Prophet Muhamad teaches that fasting on Ashura will kill away all of the sins from the previous year. The ninth and tenth days of this month are therefore considered fasting days by many Muslim followers. There are many Shia Muslim sects that practice chest-beating called Latyma, as well as self-flagellation and forehead shaving. Sunni Muslims observe Ashura as a day of respect for Muhammad but don't participate in its rituals. Islam forbids Muslims from participating in joyous events during this solemn period of Muharram. A reading of Ziarat Ashura is customary on Ashura Day, the book that salutes the martyrs of Karbala. In addition to praying to Allah for good health and spending time with their families and near and dear ones, Muslims celebrate this by visiting the mosque. When breaking their fast, people also enjoy cooking sweet dishes like sweet rice for their families and circle of friends to enjoy.

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