Ashura and Zuljanah

(Picture: Imam Hussain Shrine in Karbala, Iraq)

Daily Times, February 9, 2006
Zuljanah, O zuljanah, come to my house!’
By Ali Waqar

LAHORE: Zuljanah, a pet horse symbolically named after Imam Hussain’s (AS) steed, is a major source of inspiration for mourners recalling the martyrdom at Karbala.

“Zuljanah, O zuljanah, come to my house,” children chant, waiting for the sacred horse on the processional route or outside their houses. The tradition of brining a zuljanah to selected houses in Muharram 10 processions is still practiced in many Pakistani towns, but in large cities like Lahore, the zuljanah has gradually been decentralised.

The procession is usually taken out on Muharram 9 and 10, to commemorate Imam Hussain’s (AS) martyrdom at Karbala 1,368 years ago. The tradition began in the subcontinent about 800 to 1,000 years ago, with Taimurlane’s arrival. It was gradually adopted throughout the subcontinent and became a religious icon, becoming a fundamental part of Muharram 10 processions.

After partition, Lahore’s main zuljanah procession was taken out from Nisar Haveli among a few other places but in the next 10 to 15 years, the Bukharis, Sadaat-e-Niaz Beg and other Shia families also began to follow the tradition.

Because of the city’s increasing population, the number of processions increased. Currently, there are about 100 zuljanah procession in Lahore every year in Muharram.

Zuljanah was a pet horse presented by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to Imam Hussain (AS) when he was young. The horse was named Murtajiz, but when the horse was riddled with arrows on both sides in the battle of Karbala, Imam Hussain (AS) called it zuljanah, a horse with two wings.

Some historians link the name of Pakistan’s founder to Zuljanah. They say that Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s grandfather, a Parsi, did not have a son. His three sons had died in infancy. When he prayed looking at Zuljanah in a Muharram procession (a tradition called mannat) he got a son and named him Poonja Jinnah, the word Jinnah coming from Zuljanah. Historians say this inspired the Parsi family to convert to Islam and Poonja named his son Muhammad Ali Jinnah.


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