Myth­i­cal Is­lamic steeds cast into sea in In­done­sia fes­ti­val

The Myanmar Times - - The Pulse -

HUGE mod­els of myth­i­cal Is­lamic steeds were car­ried aloft amid crowds be­fore be­ing hurled into the sea on Oc­to­ber 16, at the peak of a colour­ful fes­ti­val in In­done­sia.

Thou­sands of peo­ple flocked to a pic­turesque stretch of coast­line on western Su­ma­tra is­land for Tabuik, an an­nual event that at­tracts hordes of for­eign and lo­cal tourists.

The cli­max of fes­tiv­i­ties fea­tured two mod­els of a ‘bu­raq’, a steed from Is­lamic mythol­ogy that trans­ported the Prophet Mo­hammed, be­ing car­ried through the streets of the city of Paria­man be­fore be­ing cast into the wa­ters.

The ‘bu­raq’ re­sem­bles a horse but has wings and a hu­man head. Atop the steed sits an elab­o­rately dec­o­rated cof­fin stud­ded with um­brel­las, with the model tow­er­ing about 12 me­tres (40 feet) into the air.

Tabuik, which runs over about 10 days in Paria­man, started in the 19th cen­tury and has Shi­ite Mus­lim ori­gins, as it was in­tro­duced by Shi­ites who came to In­done­sia from In­dia.

It takes place around Ashura, which fell last week and is a ma­jor date in the Shi­ite cal­en­dar.

Held an­nu­ally, Ashura com­mem­o­ra­tions mark the sev­en­th­cen­tury killing of the prophet’s grand­son, Imam Hus­sein, by the forces of the Caliph Yazid, a for­ma­tive event in Shi­ite Is­lam.

Nowa­days the pop­u­la­tion around Paria­man is al­most en­tirely Sunni Mus­lim but they con­tinue to cel­e­brate Tabuik, as the fes­ti­val has a long tra­di­tion and is now re­garded as prin­ci­pally a cul­tural event.

In­done­sia is a pre­dom­i­nantly Sunni Mus­lim coun­try and Shi­ites have faced grow­ing per­se­cu­tion in re­cent years, as they have in many coun­tries.

Tabuik is an ex­am­ple of how myr­iad dif­fer­ent eth­nic and re­li­gious in­flu­ences of­ten mix to form unique lo­cal cul­tures and fes­ti­vals in In­done­sia, a sprawl­ing, di­verse ar­chi­pel­ago of over 17,000 is­lands.

Photo: AFP

A ‘bu­raq’ splashes into the wa­ter.

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