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The cost of devotion

November 25, 2012

Photo by Arif Mahmood

Hyderabad has a vibrant history of tazia making where, like other parts of the country, tazias of different varieties and colours are produced, predominantly by Barelvi sunnis.

The phoolon walla tazia (tazia made out of flowers) is displayed for ziarat at the historic Pakka Qilla, while the Ajmeriyon ka tazia is brought out in Market Tower area Muharram 8.

Aftab Shah, who is associated with crafting the Ajmeriyon ka tazia says the cost of making a tazia has increased manifold. “Our elders have been producing this tazia ever since they migrated to Pakistan,” says Shah, a fruit vendor. “Earlier our expenses would be around Rs4000, but now they go from Rs10, 000 to Rs12, 000.”

“Gone are the days when tazia making was affordable,” agrees Saeed Arain.

Around 15 to 16 people are deployed to make a tazia using material like bamboo, wood, shiny coloured paper, transparent paper (commonly called taamra), glue and superfine flour. According to Arain, a gigantic tazia may require around 50 people, some of whom are hired help, while others work out of religious devotion.

Other significant tazias of Hyderabad include a choori walla tazia, made out of bangles and gattay walla tazia made of cardboard studded with artificial jewels. The choori walla tazia is brought out in Resham Gali while nageenay walla tazia is displayed for devotees at Kohinoor chowk on Muharram 9, who offer dry fruit or money to the mujavir or caretaker of the tazia.

On Ashura, following the main mourning procession, people bring their tazias back to where they were crafted.

“Previously, we used to detach certain parts of the tazia and submerge the rest in Phuleli canal until it began receiving sewage from the city. Now we prefer to bury parts of the tazia,” Arain says.

Material that can be used again the following year is preserved to save expenses. “Until the eighties, a 27-foot tazia would cost Rs40,000 to Rs45,000 (and took six months to construct) but now it costs around one lakh or more,” he said.