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A family business

November 25, 2012

The art of tazia-making flourishes in Lahore thanks to a few devoted families, reports Intikhab Hanif

Although Lahore has no home-grown artisans, a few tazia making families who migrated to this city at Partition, are struggling to keep the tradition alive.

Basically, there are three types of tazias seen in the main processions in Lahore — silver or metallic, wooden and paper-bamboo.

The metallic including silver tazias are made by families who migrated to Lahore from Lucknow, Muradabad and Delhi. The wooden are made in Chiniot otherwise known for its artistic woodwork. The paper and bamboo tazias are made by two families — one from Patiala and another from Kangra.

The Qizilbash family, considered the patron of the shia community in Lahore, owns the most costly and beautiful tazia. It was prepared by artisans from Lucknow, the epicentre of this art, around 175 years ago and is permanently housed in the family’s haveli inside Mochi Gate.

The Abul Hasan family hails from Cawnpore and specialises in the Lucknow pattern. It built a new silver tazia for the Qizilbash family a few years ago. Weighing over 120 kg and valued at around Rs20 million, the tazia is an impressive symbol of religious grandeur and is taken around only on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Hazrat Ali (AS).

Yaqoob’s family is sunni and hails from Delhi; they are settled in Gowalmandi’s Railway Road. Their tazias lack the detail and finery of the Lucknow school but are still revered; his style is called Punjabi.

The metal tazias are more or less a copy of the Lucknow, Muradabad and Delhi styles and bear Chitrai, Ukas and Kashmiri engraving; the metal is fixed on a wooden structure. The tazias with gold trimming are called Ganga-Yamuni. Kashmiri and Ukas are very popular in Lahore but as silver and gold are exorbitant, they are now mostly made of brass or German silver, costing around Rs800,000 a piece.

The Abul Hassan family employed a number of people to prepare the Qizilbash tazia. Now the same team is used for other tazias as well. Abul Hasan’s son, Noorul Hasan, says “I continue to make tazias all around the year because of lack of artisans fully devoted to the task.”

The second main tazia is carried out from Delhi Gate’s Haveli Alaf Shah on Hazrat Imam Hussain’s (AS) chehlum every year. It is a wooden tazia, made in Chiniot. There are three major families of tazia artists in Chiniot — Alvi/Khokhar, Pirjha and Saharan.

The Alaf Shahi wooden Chinioti tazia is considered Lahori because it lacks the detail and finery of metal tazias. It is a tall structure covered with embroidered cloth; the pedestal is large, tapering up to a summit in typical Chinioti style. The pedestal is adorned with silver sheets bearing the names of Hazrat Imam Hussain’s family.

The art of making paper and bamboo tazias is 500 years old and Bawa Nazir, whose family hails from Kangra, India, is carrying forward the family tradition without any break. The art travelled to Nazir from his father Bawa Talib Hussain who is passing on the craft to his sons and grandchildren. The work begins two days after Eidul Azha and is completed on Muharram 9. The tazia is taken out on Ashura; it is huge and matches the finery of  metal tazias.

Another exquisite and delicate paper-bamboo tazia is prepared by the Patiala Gharana scions outside Said Mitha Bazar’s Beli Ram Gali, situated inside Lohari Gate. It is placed adjacent to Shahi Mohallah on Muharram 8. Previously, the tazia used to be cooled in the waters of the Ravi. Now it is taken back home because of rising costs and the river drying up.