Sita is Fatima and Fatima is Sita: Performing Sita and Fatima in a Muslim Public Ritual

How to Cite

Afsar Mohammad. (2022). Sita is Fatima and Fatima is Sita: Performing Sita and Fatima in a Muslim Public Ritual: Journal of Vaishnava Studies. Journal of Vaishnava Studies, 20(1), 177–200. Retrieved from


When I started taking note of the narratives as sung by a local women’s group, both Abdul Quddus and Janagama Lakshmayya cautioned me continually to, “just ignore it!” and gave the above statement. Before I could properly heed their words, the emotionality of the songs had completely drawn me to the women’s performing group. This paper is about the emotionality of this performance.
As mentioned in the Abstract of this article, I will focus on the narrativization of Sita and Fatima in a public Muslim ritual of Muharram in Telugu-Urdu speaking Andhra Pradesh of South India. Muharram is the first month of the Islamic calendar. In the history of Islam, the first ten days of Muharram’s public rituals are known for their emphasis on aspects of Shi’i religious identity. However, in public religious performance of Muharram in Andhra, this event becomes a point of ritual and narrative interface between Muslims and various non-Muslim caste groups in Andhra. In several of these Muharram narratives, Sita, the consort of Rama, and Fatima, the mother of the Karbala martyrs merge into a single character—as the mother of martyrs. In these local narratives, the characterization of Sita and Fatima transgresses the boundaries of domesticity, and both of these characters are portrayed as public figures in these local narratives. This paper discusses how these two characters, drawn from two different religious contexts and traditions are blended in a single narrative and single public ritual. I argue that they represent a pluralized religious context where this hybrid narrative functions as a tool for redefining the subjectivity of Sita and Fatima. However, the performative element, which makes this redefinition
possible, is the focus of this paper.

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