Katri Bawa is a small area within the walled city of Lahore. Sitting near the Masti gate, the Mohalla is known for producing world-renowned Noha Khawans or elegy singers.
A Noha Khawan typically sings about the events of Karbala during Muharram. Their skill and talent helps showcase some of the most important lessons learned from events that took places close to 1,400 years ago.
Agha Hassan Raza Karbalayi recites elegies through the month of Muharram. He has to take time off from his busy schedule as a banker, as he participates in events that take place all over the world.
Hassan feels proud of being a resident of the Katri Bawa Mohalla. This area has produced big names such as Hamid Ali Bela, Ustaad Ghulam Hassan Shaggan, Rasheed Atray, Sain Akhtar Hussain and many more.
Katri Bawa consists of about 100 families and most of them have been reciting elegies for many generations. The residents of this Mohalla are called “Rubabis” because their forefather Bhai Mardana – a close associate of Baba Gurru Nanak who used to play the “Rubab”. The people living there migrated from Amritsar after the partition, and the first elegy to be recited in the area took place in 1948. The Noha Khawans from this Mohalla often go on tours in order to recite during Muharram.
Hassan has been reciting for the past 35 years and writes lyrics for the Al-Abbas Noha Party. He told Pakistan Today that he has visited Iran, Iraq and Syria to perform during Majalis. He added that every year his party prepares new pieces for Muharram and this year they have brought three new pieces in the market.
“The recitation was the tradition set by Imam Zain-ul-Abideen who was the son of Hazrat Imam Hussain (R.A) and was the only male member of his family that was not martyred in the battle of Karbala,” Hassan said.
Parvez Hassan Karbalyi who lives in the same Mohalla and has his own Noha party called Paigham-e-Hussain Pilla Party. He told Pakistan Today that his family has been reciting Nohas since the last four generations and everyone in this area has the skill in their blood.
He composes his tunes after getting lyrics from the poet and then rehearses it in a chorus with his other companions. Their chorus consists of five to ten people who recite during live mourning sessions. Mohsin Abbas, a former president of Government College University’s music society told Pakistan today that he originally lives in Samanabad but every year comes to Katri Bawa during Muharram because his ancestors used to live here. He was of the view that the mesmerising atmosphere of this Mohalla compels him to come here because every person of the Mohalla is a born artist.
Musheer Abbas, who came from Saudi Arabia to partake in the processions, told Pakistan Today that he comes to Katri Bawa to mourn because of his family’s association with the area. He further added that 80 per cent of the population of Mohalla is Shia but the remaining Sunnis also have great esteem for Taaziyas and Majalis.
Shahid Haider, nephew of legendary singer Hamid Ali Bela, told Pakistan Today that Mohalla Katri Bawa is famous even in England, Europe and America because the Shia community from those countries also ask for Noha Khawans from the area.
“Even this Muharram, five of our people are performing in England during Majalis,” he said and added: “It is not my profession as I regard this practice as a part of my religion.”
A huge meal is prepared in the Mohalla on Muharram 10 for the mourners of the main procession that come from Nisar Haveli.