Volume: 9, No: 10 ; October-2015
For around 15 minutes, 70-year old K K Bali had his gaze fixed to a banner hung across the Husainabad road that stretches between the magnificent Bara and Chhota Imambaras during Muharram. His old eyes welling up with tears, Bali took out a notebook and copied down the words. “Every time I find a couplet on Imam Husain, I write it down,” he said, striking a rare connection with the martyr of Karbala through his ancestors. He is, after all, a Hussaini Brahmin.
The couplet describing the glory of Imam Husain noted down by Bali read: Main yahan ki sarhad se nikal kar Hindustan jaana chahta hoon, Wahan Musalman to nahi, insaan baste hain (I want to cross these borders and visit India. No Muslims, humans reside there). “My father told me about our proud history and so did my grandmother. It had always been a value ingrained in us right from childhood when we attended majlis (congregation) at Shahnajaf Imambara along with members of the Shia community,” he recalled. His identity as a Hussaini Brahmin, however, is limited to his family and close confidantes. He said, “People are confused, even doubtful of the existence of such a community, but for us it is the life we have lived since 680 AD.”
There are many versions of the story of the birth of the community and the oral tradition has stayed for several generations. It is said that Dutt Brahmins carry a slit mark on their throat even to this day as a symbol to sacrifice their ancestors made in Karbala. “Since birth I have had a mark on the side of my neck. My father had one too and so does my son. When I came to know about our history and this fact, I felt proud of the sacred mark,” said Vipin Mohan, another Hussaini Brahmin.
The preface and subsequent acts of Munshi Premchand’s historical drama `Karbala’, published in 1924 from Lucknow also mention the brave Dutt warriors. He stated the warriors are descendants of Ashwatthama, the Hindu saint.
Recounting his experience at the temple, young Aishwarya Jhingran, a resident of Lucknow displayed signs of both pride and liberal thought. “At a temple, while praying to Goddess Saraswati, I had the urge to send out my salutations to Prophet Mohammad and his progeny. The priest looked at me in shock as I uttered the Salawat (Sending Blessings on the Holy Prophet & his family). My mother was instantly sent for. I was looked at as someone who had converted to Islam. This didn’t mean I had converted, but was proof of my being a proud Hussaini Brahmin.”
For another community member, corporate trainer Radhika Budhwar, listening to nauhas (This is a genre of Arabic, Persian, or Urdu prose. In English language also known as Elegy depicting the Imams killing), attending majlis and lamenting on the vents of Karbala are a way of life. “I celebrate Diwali, but at the same time, I look forward to attending majlis during Muharram,” shared Budhwar who has grown up assimilating all religions and cultures.
In lieu of the loyalty of the Dutt family to that of the Holy Prophet was coined the famous saying: `Waah Dutt Sultan Hindu ka dharm Musalman ka imaan Aadha Hindu, aadha Musalman’
Steeped in glorious history the community of Hussaini Brahmins has an intertwined link with Hinduism and Islam. As per legend, one of the community’s ancestors, Rahab Siddh Dutt, who was a trader, sacrificed seven of his sons for Imam Husain in the tragedy of Karbala on the 10th of the Islamic month of Muharram in 680 AD. The supporters of the Imam honoured the Dutts with the title. British writer T P Russell Stracey in his book `The history of Mohyals’ (1911) had mentioned the names of the sons as Sahus Rai, Harjas Rai, Sher Khan, Ram Singh, Rai Pun, Dhoro and Pooro. Hussaini Brahmins alias Dutts branch out from the Mohyal clan of Brahmins, being the only martial clan within. There are seven branches of this clan namely Bali, Chhibber, Bhimwal, Lau, Mohan, Vaid and Dutt.
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