COVID-19 lockdown breaks 180-year-old Ramzan tradition in Lucknow

Chhota Imambara, Lucknow (file image)

Muhammad Ali Shah, the third king of Awadh, had created the Husainabad Endowment Deed in 1839, under which thousands of poor people were fed during Ramzan with food prepared at the historic ‘bawarchikhana’ (kitchen) of Lucknow’s Chhota Imambara.

Ever since then, feeding poor people during Ramazan here has been a tradition from the past 180 years except for a few days in 2015. However, this time in 2020 which is its 181st year, the nationwide lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic has put a break to this practice.

Every Ramzan, the community kitchen at the mosque would see black cauldrons on firewood with dal slowly simmering in them. The kitchen now lies empty.

This ritual was repeated every year during Ramzan and the months of Muharram when the kitchen would provide Iftar and dinner for over 3,000 people each day.

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As many as 12 mosques, including Asafi mosque of the Bara Imambara, Shahi mosque in Hazratganj, Jama Masjid in Husainabad and mosques at Chhota Imambara and Shahnajaf Imambara are under the ambit of the Husainabad & Allied Trust (HAT). Iftari was sent to these mosques for the poor to break their fast.

“Last year, a budget of Rs 19 lakh was passed to be used from HAT — the Nawab’s trust. But, this year, no funds were allocated or tender floated because of the lockdown,” said Habibul Hasan, an official at HAT.

“All the mosques are locked up and no iftari is being sent. We are not sure how the poor are getting their dinner in these tough times,” said another official of the trust.

To serve the rozedars (people who fast) who offered prayers in the 12 mosques under HAT, some items were outsourced from a private bakery. However, items such as dal, tandoori roti and fried potato curry were cooked in the historic Chhota Imambara kitchen in big black cauldrons.

In 2015, a movement against alleged corruption at the UP Shia Central Waqf Board spearheaded by Shia cleric Maulana Kalbe Jawad brought the Nawabi Ramzan tradition to a temporary halt for 12 days.

Now in 2020, the tradition is unlikely to resume as the nationwide lockdown due to coronavirus pandemic still in place, but we hope it will end soon.

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