Muharram traditions: ‘Loving white angel’ to lead for third straight year

The horses used for Lahore’s biggest Muharram procession are kept at Nawab Palace.


Saleha Rauf December 17, 2010

LAHORE: The horses used for Lahore’s biggest Muharram procession, from Nisar Haveli to Karbala Gamay Shah on Muharram 10, are kept at Nawab Palace. The Qazalbash family, which operates the palace as a trust, has the licence to supply zuljinnahs for the main processions in the city.

There are five animals at Nawab Palace from which the main zuljinnah is chosen. At 15, Burraq Badshah is the oldest. The brown Sussex breed with white hair has 11 years of experience taking part in processions at Mochi Gate, though not for the last few years. Muhammad Khan, his caretaker of 11 years, said he knows everything about the zuljinnah.

Sardar Badshah, 6, is a white Percheron that has been going for processions for two years. It lowers its head on seeing the alam (flag). “A zuljinnah needs special attention,” said his caretaker Ghulam Fareed. “This is a pampered animal. I enjoy serving Sardar Badshah.”

Lal Badshah, 8, is a hot-blooded Noriker breed that has experience of processions in Karbala Gamay Shah. His caretaker Tahir Ali said Lal Badshah was the most aggressive animal at the palace, “and the best one”.

Shahzor II, 8, is a white animal that has been going for the main procession for the last five years. For the last two years it was the main zuljinnah in the Nisar Haveli procession.

But this year’s zuljinnah will be Shah Sawar (Mounted Knight), 5, for the third year in a row. Caretaker Sultan Mehmood described the Percheron as “a loving white angel”. Shah Sawar will be the main zuljinnah in the procession from Mochi Gate to Karbala Gamay Shah from 10 pm to 6 am. After 6 am, the zuljinnah will be replaced with another, to be selected through a process that involves consulting the Holy Quran.

Another zuljinnah is kept by the Qazalbash family at Elaqa Nawab Sahab (Ali Raza Abad) for a procession in Niaz Baig. Shahzor I, 18, is a white zuljinnah that has been going for processions for 15 years, including for the last 10 at Thokar Niaz Baig. The route of the procession is from Hussainabad to Elaqa Nawab Sahab.

Ali Raza started the Niaz Baig procession in 1862. Nawab Palace is now run by his great great grandson Nawab Jan Ali Khan Qazalbash. Nawab Jan’s cousin Agha Mansoor Khan is responsible for zuljinnah purchase, training and discard.

“All the animals are imported from Sargodha,” said Agha Mansoor Khan. “We localise the breed of the animals and take special care of all of them and train them how to behave in a procession.”

Khan, one of the caretakers, said that all the zuljinnahs are taken for daily 90-minute walks and trained for three to four hours. He said their diet includes butter, desi ghee, black peas and jam.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 17th, 2010.

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