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Mythical Islamic steeds cast into sea in Indonesia festival

AFP  |  Pariaman (Indonesia) 

Huge models of mythical Islamic steeds were carried aloft amid crowds before being hurled into the sea today, at the peak of a colourful festival in Indonesia.

Thousands of people flocked to a picturesque stretch of coastline on western Sumatra island for Tabuik, an annual event that attracts hordes of foreign and local tourists.

The climax of festivities featured two models of a "buraq", a steed from Islamic mythology that transported the Prophet Mohammed, being carried through the streets of the city of Pariaman before being cast into the waters.

The buraq resembles a horse but has wings and a human head. Atop the steed sits an elaborately decorated coffin studded with umbrellas, with the model towering about 12 metres (40 feet) into the air.

Tabuik, which runs over about 10 days in Pariaman, started in the 19th century and has Shiite Muslim origins, as it was introduced by Shiites who came to Indonesia from

It takes place around Ashura, which fell last week and is a major date in the Shiite calendar.

The annual commemorations mark the seventh-century killing of the prophet's grandson, Imam Hussein, by the forces of the Caliph Yazid, a formative event in Shiite Islam.

Nowadays the population around Pariaman is almost entirely Sunni Muslim but they continue to celebrate Tabuik, as the festival has a long tradition and is now regarded as principally a cultural event.

Indonesia is a predominantly Sunni Muslim country and Shiites have faced growing persecution in recent years, as they have in many countries.

Tabuik is an example of how myriad different ethnic and religious influences often mix to form unique local cultures and festivals in Indonesia, a sprawling, diverse archipelago of over 17,000 islands.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, October 17 2016. 02:02 IST