Tadjah night hunting in St. James

This is the reaction I got tonight from the folks at home (note Trini English)…

  • <Dad> Where are you out to tonight?
  • <Me> Hosay
  • <Dad> Huh? Yuh mean in St. James? But it not safe down there … it have so much crime there
  • <Me> I’ll be fine …
  • <Dad> Who yuh meeting?
  • <Me> People ….

Anyway for years I’ve heard about Hosay in St. James, but it was one of those things you learnt about in your Social Studies class, but no one I knew ever went to Hosay, especially as it was in “North”.

In a nutshell, Hosay is observed with a parade full of colorful tadjahs in commemoration of the martyrdom of Hussain (Hussein), the grandson of Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, in the year 680 AD. There are 5 families in St. James that each make their own tadjah in their own idiosyncratic style.

Hosay parades take place in two Shiite communities in Trinidad: St. James, in the western section of Port-of-Spain, and Cedros, in the South. The colorful procession in St. James is the largest (five tadjahs) and draws thousands of spectators of all religions every year. The Shiites of St. James spend a considerable amount of time and money in the building of miniature temples (tadjahs, taziyas, hosays, mausoleums) with bamboo, wood, paper, and tinsel to depict the tomb of Hussain.

These tadjahs range in height from 10 to 30 feet and are hauled through the streets on parade days accompanied by the beating of drums (tassas) and two standards in the shape of half-moons, each carried separately on the shoulder of one man at a time. The half-moons (one red and one green) symbolize the deaths of both Hussain and his brother Hassan; red for the blood of Hussain that was shed at Karbala and green for the poisoning of Hassan, 11 years earlier. The drums and flags are symbolic of those used in wars in the 7th century. (I’ve lifted the history and account can read from Best of Trinidad)

So back to the hunt, so armed with knowledge for our local expert Anisa, we went walking through St. James for all the other Tadjahs. Some tadjahs were already locked up behind bars, but with Anisa’s help, we were able to stroll around and walk into people’s yards to take pictures.

Anisa also explained the family history and the order of the tadjahs in the parades. It’s based on longevity as follows:

  1. Panchayatee (Bay Road) Hosay – belonging to the entire Shiite community and located on Mathura Street (previously on Bay Road)
  2. Ghulam Hussein Hosay – named after one of the local icons of Hosay and located on Western Main Road
  3. Cocorite Hosay – belonging to the community of Cocorite at the western end of St. James
  4. Balma Hosay – belonging to the Emamali family and located on Clarence Street;
  5. Bisnath Hosay – belonging to the Bisnath family and located on Bournes Road.

Definitely enlightening to find out the process, the number of volunteers and the overall cost to upkeep this tradition. Each family raises money to build their particular Hosay – which is no mean feat in itself.

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About Rishiray

Rishi Sankar is a Cloud HRMS Project Manager/ Solution Architect. Over the past 15+ years, he has managed to combine his overwhelming wanderlust with a desire to stay employed, resulting in continuing stints with 3 major consulting firms (IBM, Deloitte, Accenture). He documents his adventures around the world on "Ah Trini Travelogue" with pictures and stories from the road/tuk-tuk/camel/rickshaw. You can follow him on Twitter at @rishiray and on Facebook at "Ah Trini Travelogue . He doesn't like Chicken Curry but loves Curry Chicken and is always trying to find the perfect Trinidadian roti on the road. He also doesn't like cheese and kittens ... and definitely not together. E-mail from his blog is appreciated like a 35 yr old Balvenie at rishi@rishiray.com

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