Multan has a rich tradition of mourning and commemorating the sacrifices of Imam Hussian and his companions in the battle of Karbala. Every year mourners converge on roads with different styles of tazia but the most famous of these is undoubtedly the ustad-shagird tazia.
Narrating the history of the tazias, Khalifa Altaf who is the caretaker and license holder of the tazias of ustad-shagird, said that the story begins with Madhu Khan Pathan, a resident of Kubri Madhu Khan, who went to perform Hajj in 685 Hijri. On his return he went to Karbala to pay tribute to Imam Hussain’s shrine.
During his stay in Karbala, Madhu Khan had the same dream for three consecutive nights in which he saw Hazrat Imam Hussain instructing him to initiate the tradition of commemorating the battle of Karbala in his hometown.
On his return to Multan, Madhu Khan began observing the rituals of zuljinnah and alam during Muharram and led processions from Kubri Madhu Khan to Karbala Shah Risaal.
Altaf said that some 200 years ago, Hakim Ramzani Khan who was the caretaker of astana nominated his son Hakim Abdullah Khan as the caretaker and both father and son decided to get a tazia for the astana.
Artists from Multan and Bahawalpur were commissioned under the supervision of Ustad Pir Bakhsh who had a student called Mukmo Din.
While Mukmo Din spent the whole day helping his teacher make the tazia, at night he would work on his own. The day his tazia was completed he invited his teacher for dinner and showed him the masterpiece.
According to the legend, the teacher, Pir Bakhsh, was delighted to see that his student had made a seven-storey tazia, while his own had only five-storeys.
Raees Hussain, caretaker of the tazia of the shagird, said that it was the third ziarat of the tazia since it was made, as the previous two ziarats were damaged. The second ziarat got damaged in 1944 and this new ziarat, comprising 140 pieces, was made within the period of one year.
Altaf said that the tazia of the ustad appeared at 9.30am while shagird’s tazia appeared later, at 1.30pm. The tazia of the shagird salutes the tazia of his ustad at Chowk Pak Gate at three in the afternoon. The tradition is that the tazia of shagird always follows the tazia of ustad.
Shahid who has been preparing the tazia of shagird since the last 30 years, said that as many as 105 tazias emerge every year in the city of Multan where sunni Barelvis have licenses for more than 90 tazias including those for the famous ustad-shagird tazias.