A Shi’a Ritual Transplanted from India to Minangkabau’s North Coast
This chapter examines an elaborate Shi'a mourning festival of music and spectacle of Persian and Indian origins known as tabut, which was transplanted, probably more than three centuries ago, from India to Pariaman and some other coastal Sumatran towns. Tabut had such an impact in Pariaman's hinterland that aspects of it were absorbed into its indigenous non-Muslim arts. Shi'a Islam is not officially allowed in Indonesia today, yet a few families of Shi'a believers who claim descent from British Indian sepoys live in the west-coast Sumatran towns of Pariaman and Bengkulu, where tabut festivals are held, if the government gives permission, every year. The chapter first provides a historical and legendary background on the tabuik myth as well as tabuik proceedings at Pariaman before discussing a tabuik performance, which was part of a dol-tasa competition. It then considers tabuik's impact on the hinterland and the survival of the tabuik festival in Pariaman, although the element of passion—the distinguishing feature of Shi'ism—is lost.
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