Where Muslim Tailors Still Stitch Ram Navami Flags!

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Muslim tailors at Godown Market in Gaya, Bihar are busy stitching flags for the Ram Navami festival.

Godown Market is an oasis of communal harmony in an otherwise communally surcharged atmosphere in India. Here customers flock the street, selecting the sewn flags while some sit with the tailors to get their flags stitched as per their specifications.

Syed Ali Mujtaba | Clarion India

AT a time when economic boycott is being imposed on Muslims in Karnataka, Muslim tailors at Godown Market in Gaya, Bihar are busy stitching flags for the Ram Navami festival that falls on April 10. These are the two pictures of India that stand in stark contrast to each other.

The tradition of making Ram Navami flags by the Muslim tailors is centuries old which remained untouched to date. Even the poisonous campaign by Hindutva hardliners to hit the Muslim hard in their belly failed to change the age-old tradition.

Ram Navami, essentially a spring festival, is celebrated as birthday of Lord Rama, the mythical hero of epic Ramayana. On this day, Hindus, after performing puja (worship of the deity) at home, flock to temples to celebrate the occasion with gusto.

It’s for this celebration, Muhammad Rashid, 62, is pedaling his sewing machine in the Godown Market Gaya stitching Ram Navami flags. Rashid, who fasts during the day in the holy month of Ramadan, is working assiduously to complete the orders of Ram Navami flags. His customers are making a beeline at his shop located in the densely populated Godown Market.

Hundreds of flags, big and small, are kept neatly folded in Rashid’s small shop. Some are plain; some have golden frills and sequins, some bear pictures of Lord Hanuman while many others have “Jai Shri Ram” stitched on them.

Some of the flags are huge, used in processions or fixed atop temples; the smaller flags are meant to decorate homes.

Rashid, who is stitching the flags since the age of 15, says his father and grandfather used to stitch Ram Navami flags and he has inherited it from them.

The Godown Market and its neighborhood is a manufacturing hub for Ram Navami flags in Bihar. The flags are known for their impeccable finish and are sent to districts across Bihar Jharkhand and eastern Uttar Pradesh districts.

Stitching of the Ram Navami flag begins a day after Holi and goes on till the first week of April when the festival day arrives.

“The bulk orders are dispatched first, and then flags are stitched for individual buyers,” Rashid said while sewing a flag.

Like Rashid, there are hundreds of Muslim tailors at the Godown Market making Ram Navami flags. Here the tailors may be Muslim but they work for the Hindu community’s festivities. The Hindu community too has had faith in the Muslim tailors for ages and they have never discriminated against them on the basis of their religion.

The Godown Market is an oasis of communal harmony in an otherwise communally surcharged atmosphere in India. Here customers right now are flocking the street, selecting the sewn flags while some sit with the tailors to get their flags stitched as per their specifications.

Well, this piece of India based on interfaith harmony thriving for centuries is now being eroded by divisive elements in the country. There are many antisocial elements working hard to rupture these are patches of interfaith dependence in the country.

This is the narrative of ‘Post-Truth India’, ‘The Brand New Republic’.  Will this narrative win the battle against the tried and tested narrative of  ‘Unity in Diversity’, that remains to be seen?
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Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist. His forthcoming book is ‘Post-Truth India, The Brand New Republic.’ He can be contacted at [email protected]

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