For devotees, the preparation and distribution of niaz amongst faithful mourners during the Islamic month of Muharram is a significant part of their remembrance of the steadfastness and martyrdom of Imam Hussain, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and son of Hazrat Ali.
The word niaz commonly means the food offered during or after the conclusion of the religious processions and congregations on the 9th and 10th of Muharram. This food is cooked in huge cauldrons, colloquially known as degs, and served at homes, neighbourhoods and among the participants of ‘Majlis’.
While haleem has long been a mainstay among the fare served as niaz, degs of other dishes are gradually gaining popularity for the purpose as well. Besides being prepared on a smaller scale at homes, entire cauldrons of these dishes keep catering businesses and specialty food vedors extremely busy during Ashura.
In addition to sabeels – or free distribution stalls – offering cold milk and sherbet on the routes of the processions, there is no street, neighbourhood or food hub where niaz in the memory of Imam Hussain and martyrs of Karbala is not being prepared and distributed with customary devotion and respect.
This year, a deg of haleem is being sold for Rs16,000, while beef haleem is being prepared for Rs18,000, chicken biryani for Rs13,000, beef pulao for Rs17,000 and chickpea rice for Rs6,000 per deg.
Citizens who book orders for these degs every year have shared their concerns over the astronomical increase in the prices this year.
Catering manager Maula Bakhsh alias Pyari Jan said while he is fully aware that the cooks are fulfilling a sacred religious duty by preparing niaz, the soaring inflation has left them no choice but to charge customers dearly.
He went on to say that prices of everything have risen considerably, and rates for the material used in preparing degs seem to be revised every other day. Moreover, gas cylinders have also become expensive, which add a lot to the overall cost.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 12th, 2022.
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