Ashara Mubaraka: Remembering Martyr Imaam Hussain bin Ali | Sunday Observer

Ashara Mubaraka: Remembering Martyr Imaam Hussain bin Ali

Buzzing Bambalapitiya
Buzzing Bambalapitiya

The host for this year’s World Bohra Convention (Ashara Mubaraka) - the Husaini Masjid, adjoining the Bambalapitiya Railway Station, is usually a calm and quiet place. The place has turned in to a hive of activity with the convention that’s now underway. Bambalapitiya is abuzz, starting from the Haig Road stretch to Marine Drive and peaking parallel to the train station with the arrival of some 23,000 people from 40+ countries.

Chairman, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) Kishu Gomes said “Twenty one thousand was the number initially promised. But, based on the information we have got, they have brought in about 23,000.”

An official opting to remain anonymous said, Ashara Mubaraka or ‘Blessed Ten’ is held in a different location of the globe annually. Indore,India, was the host for last year’s edition. Previously it happened in Karachi. Countries bid for their nation to play host.

For a country that is gradually lifting its head from the Easter Sunday attacks, it’s a God sent opportunity. The badly-needed boost from the Bohras has brought in an estimated income of US $ 51-million. The estimate’s got to be revised with the increase in the number of arrivals, so the potential income is likely to soar further.

“All arrangements have been made. Some who came early, have already gone around. Others at the end of the session, will be taken on tour as well. Travel agents are in touch with them,” Gomes said.

“This is just one activity that is happening. It’s by far the largest activity since the attacks. We are now in a position to tell the world that tourists can come individually, in small groups and in large numbers. It reaffirms that the country’s security environment is as good as what it used to be, prior to the incident,” he said.

When the Sunday Observer visited the Husaini Masjid, the first session of the day’s prayers and sermons had concluded and devotees were all over - sipping coffee, catching up with fellow-bohras and taking in the fresh breeze of the Bambalapitiya beach. Some were even spotted commuting in luxury vehicles with VIP tags.

The bare land next to the Achilleion Apartments has been converted in to a free-of-charge thirst quenching centre where predominantly foreigners were indulging in hydrating themselves, having king coconuts.

Then, the head of the hydration centre, a Mumbai-based man began to shout “Chalo, chalo” (Let’s go). When queried the man said “We operate only from seven in the morning till four pm. Our peak is after the first sermon. Our workers have been cutting and serving our guests. They need a rest.”

The market soaked by the setting sun looked pretty organised with the used king coconuts neatly stacked in piles and armed with ample stocks.

With the first session done it was a colourful site with multi-languages and multi-activities in progress. A carnival atmosphere was in full-swing with crowds flocking in numbers and heavy movement in-and-out the 400-metre stretch.

The Ashara Mubaraka congregation happens around the first 10-days of the Islamic year, commencing September 01. It is where the Dawoodi Bohra’s remember and grieve the Prophet’s grandson, Imaam Hussain bin Ali who was martyred. These are the ten-days of remembrance.

“His holiness’s message to all is “Be patriotic - love your country, no matter where you’re living. Regardless of the events.” The last time Ashara happened in Sri Lanka was during the LTTE war, in 2008. Regardless of the incidents that transpire in the country, his holiness brings peace to the country. This is more about what Imam Hussain brings to us, as a community. Even, the message Imam Hussain brings to the world. A message of humanity,” an official explained.

“The Dawoodi Bohra community is one-million strong,” he said. Of the million, 2,500 are found in Sri Lanka, with the country home to the community for over 150-years.

The biggest representation is by our neighbour India and other Asian regions. Other representations are from the United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand and Europe.

This is the seventh-time the convention is taking place in Sri Lanka, with the last in 2008. Past events were held in 1970, 1991, 1999 and 2007. 2008 recorded an attendance of over seven-thousand.

President Maithripala Sirisena had paid a courtesy call on day-four and said, it is a huge honour for our country to be host.

A medical camp was busily in operation.

“It’s about health and well-being in general. There are many, who are doctors. They desire to provide services to the needy,” the official said.

The Sunday Observer spoke to some of the volunteers.

Hussain, from Michigan US, is a pre-medical student and a first-timer at a Convention. He said he made the visit to meet delegates from all over the world. “Sri Lanka is a great country. People are very nice and friendly. It’s a great experience to meet people from different cultures. Its humid though. But, I like the breeze that blows from the ocean.

“It’s good to see patients and doctors from all around-the-world and to see the differences in practicing.

“I came five-days prior to the event to look around the country as well. I’ve been to the beaches around here and looked at Adams Peak.”

Aravar Jabargi said she really liked Sri Lanka though it was hot. “It’s nice to be adjoining the ocean, since you get the breeze. Yeah, I would like to return, because I have not gotten an opportunity to visit. I’ve been only in-and-around the city,” she said.

Zahabiya Ali Bhai, keeping company with the above girl said it was her third-time in Sri Lanka.

“It’s a nice country, with the beach and everything. It’s kind of hot (laughingly). It’s very cultural, I like to explore the city and cultural parts of it. Generally, people are very nice.”

This is the first Ashara Mubaraka for the Head of the Dawoodi Bohra community, his holiness Dr Syedna Mufaddal Saifudeen, the 53rd al-Dai- al-Mutlaq, in Sri Lanka.

The seventh convention to be held in the history of the island, will come to a close tomorrow September 9. 

Pix: Sulochana Gamage