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What is Hosay?

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Hosay (originally from Husayn) is a Muslim Indo-Caribbean commemoration that is popularly observed in Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Suriname, and Jamaica. In Trinidad and Tobago, multi-colored model mausoleums or Mosque shaped model tombs known as Tadjah are used to display the symbolic part of this commemoration. They are built and paraded, then ritually taken to the sea on last day of observance, and finally discarded into the water. The word ‘Tadjah’ derived from the Arabic word Ta’zieh and signifies different cultural meanings depending on the region, time period, occasion, and religion. In British Guiana, (now called Guyana), and Suriname, the festival was called Taziya or creolized into Tadjah in reference to these floats, argurably the most visible and decorative element of this festival.

Generally, Hosay lasts for 10 days and is observed in accordance with the Islamic lunar calendar and in line with ten days Ashura commemorated by Shia Muslims throughout the world. The last four days are the most popular as the first six days are days of fasting, prayer and building of the “Tadjahs” and “Moons”. Although Hosay was traditionally commemorated for Husain, its celebration in recent times has adopted all types of shades and characters from other religions including Roman Catholics, Hindus and Baptists, making the modern event a mixture of different cultures and religions. The event is attended by both Muslims and non-Muslims, depicting an environment of mutual respect and tolerance. A unique design of Tadja can be found during the Hosay celebrations in Cedros, a coastal village situated in the South-Western end of Trindad, that are built in an exclusive style that is not found anywhere else in the world, in terms of the art and style of construction. In nineteenth-century Trinidad newspapers as well as government reports called Hosay the “Coolie Carnival.”

This video footage by Siddique Kharim shows the celebration of Hosay in St. James, Port-Of-Spain, Trinidad.

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