An Ashurkhana (also called Imambara) is a place where Shia Muslims gather during Moharram to mourn the death of Imam Hussain, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, in the battle of Karbala. Moharram is the first month in the Islamic calendar, and the day of Ashura, the 10th day of Muharram, was when Imam Hussain was martyred in Karbala, and is observed as a day of grief and mourning.
The Badshahi Ashurkhana was built by Sultan Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah, the founder of Hyderabad. This was the second building he built in Hyderabad, just a couple of years after he built the Charminar. The two monuments are located about a kilometer apart. Additions were made to the original structure later in the Qutb Shahi reign, as well as by the Asaf Jahi rulers.
The Ashurkhana's interiors are covered with enameled tiles covered in beautiful calligraphy, that still retain their original colours and shine. The caretaker there, whose name was Hussain, was extremely friendly and knowledgeable, and gave us heaps of information about the monument. The Ashurkhana houses several relics or Alams of the martyrs of Karbala, that are displayed only during Moharram.
|The very simple entrance that you will miss if you are not careful|
|Stunning enamelled tile work on the walls|
|Images from Shia monuments around the world|
|A cluster of switches and regulators|
|A framed image of the Ashurkhana's Alams displayed during Moharram|
The other Ashurkhana we saw was the Alawa-e-Bibi, also called Bibi ka Alawa, built by the Asaf Jahi rulers. We found this quite by chance. We were looking for the Badshahi Ashoorkhana, when a gentleman on the road wrongly directed us to this one. It was a happy mistake, as we got to see two beautiful Ashurkhanas instead of just one.
Hazrat Fatima-e-Zehra, the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad and the mother of Imam Hussain, is called Bibi. The holy relic in this Ashurkhana is a piece of the wooden plank on which she was given her final ablution by her husband, before she was buried. This Alam came to Golconda from Karbala during the rule of the Qutb Shahi sultans, but was housed in the Bibi-ka-Alawa only when it was built by the Asaf Jahi rulers.
PS: If I have any facts wrong, please correct me, I'll be glad to learn.