Imam Hussain’s veneration among Hindus: Who are Husaini Brahmins in India?

WordForPeace.com 
Perhaps the most interesting case of Hindu veneration of Imam Husain (A.S.), is to be found among the small Husaini Brahmin sect, located mostly in Punjab state in India, also known as Dutts.
Unlike other Brahmin clans, the Husaini Brahmins have had a long martial tradition, which they trace back to the event of Karbala. They believe that an ancestor named Rahab traveled all the way from Punjab to Arabia and there developed close relations with Imam Husain (A.S.). In the battle of Karbala, Rahab fought in the army of the Imam Husain (A.S.) against Yazid. His sons, too, joined him, and most of them were killed. Imam Husain, seeing Rahab’s love for him, bestowed upon him the title of sultan or king, and told him to go back to India. It is because of this close bond between their ancestor Rahab and Imam Husain (A.S.) that the Husaini Brahmins got their name.

After Rahab and those of his sons who survived the battle of Karbala reached India, they settled down in the western Punjab and gradually a community grew around them. This sect, the Husaini Brahmins, practiced a blend of Islamic and Hindu practices, because of which they were commonly known as ‘half Hindu, half Muslim’.

However, there is also another version of how the Dutts of Punjab came to be known as Husaini Brahmins. One of the wives of Imam Husain (A.S.), the Persian princess Shahr Banu, was the sister of Chandra Lekha or Mehr Banu, the wife of an Indian king called Chandragupta. When it became clear that Yazid was adamant on wiping out Imam Husain (A.S.), the Imam’s son Ali ibn Husain (A.S.) rushed off a letter to Chandragupta asking him for help against Yazid. When Chandragupta received the letter, he dispatched a large army to Iraq to assist the Imam. By the time they arrived, however, the Imam had been martyred. In the town of Kufa, in present-day Iraq, they met with one Mukhtar Saqaffi, a disciple of the Imam, who arranged for them to stay in a special part of the town, which even today is known by the name of Dair-i-Hindiya or ‘the Indian quarter’.

Some Dutt Brahmins, under the leadership of one Bhurya Dutt, got together with Mukhtar Saqaffi to avenge the death of the Imam. They stayed behind in Kufa, while the rest returned to India. Here they built up a community of their own, calling themselves Husaini Brahmins, and although they did not convert to Islam, they kept alive the memory of their links with Imam Husain.

The Husaini Brahmins believe that Krishna had foretold the event of the Imam’s death at Karbala in the Bhagwad Gita. According to them, the Kalanki Purana, the last of eighteen Puranas, as well as the Atharva Veda, the fourth Veda, refer to Imam Husain (A.S.) as the divine incarnation or avatar of the Kali Yug, the present age. They hold Imam Ali (A.S.), Imam Hussain’s father, and son-in-law and cousin of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, in particular reverence, referring to him with a honorific title.

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