Hosay is a commemoration not a festival, St James/Cocorite committee reminds the public

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

A female tassa drummer performs during Flag Night at Hosay celebrations in St James on Friday night. – Photo by Ayanna Kinsale

THE St James/Cocorite Hosay Association is pleased to invite members of the public to witness the event of Hosay, commemorated from Friday to Monday, but general secretary Jameel Bisnath politely reminded it was not a festivity but rather a solemn occasion that marks the deaths of two Islamic martyrs, Hussein and Abbas.

“It is a very peaceful, solemn festival.

“We want to plead with members of the public, ‘Don’t touch the tadjahs’. Observe it. It is something religious. Some with your family and take photos and videos. Come and witness it. “

Tassa drummers performed on Flag Night on Friday during the Hosay procession along the Western Main Road in St James. – Photo by Ayanna Kinsale

He said all were welcome to view Hosay, also known as Muharram.

“The reason it never died out in St James is that St James is a very close-knit community. It’s a melting pot of all religions, all races, it doesn’t really matter.”

Bisnath told Newsday on Sunday that the Hosay procession has been held annually since 1854, having arrived with the indentured labourers from India (from 1845-1917) as a Shia Muslim observance. He said that years ago Hosay was commemorated on virtually every plantation in Trinidad.

Bisnath said Friday was Flag Night, Saturday was Little Hosay, Sunday was Big Hosay Night, and Monday will be Big Hosay Day. The commemoration involves appearances by depictions of two large moons; five tadjahs which depict mosque-shaped tombs; flags; plus commemorative tassa drumming.

Drummers perform with colourful flags in the background at Flag Night during Hosay observances in St James on Friday. – Photo by Ayanna Kinsale

He said on Monday the tadjahs will proceed along the Western Main Road to QRC Grounds and will return along Serpentine Road back to the Western Main Road to go into the yards for 6.30 pm.

Rather than the depictions being thrown into the sea as in past years, Bisnath said they will be returned to the Hosay yards where they will be dismantled in line with an environmentally conscientious approach, with some parts available to be reused next year.

Told of old photos showing massive tadjahs, Bisnath said another change with the times had been a scaling down in size due to a requirement to have to comply with regulations imposed by having more electricity-supply cables overhead in the streets of St James. “Years ago there were no electricity lines so you could go to any height you wished. Now we obey the laws.”

Drummers perform with colourful flags in the background at Flag Night during Hosay observances in St James on Friday. – Photo by Ayanna Kinsale

Bisnath said that in line with traditions of Islamic mourning, some 40 days later a further commemoration is made involving a depiction of a black, green and silver coloured moon.