Muharram, the first month of Islamic calendar is considered the second holiest month, after Ramadan among Muslims. The importance of this religious festival in a secular country like India is shown by it being marked as a gazetted holiday. As such, post offices, banks and government offices remain closed as a mark of respect for this religious occasion. Shia and Sunni Muslims mourn the death of Hussain Ibn Ali, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad and his family. Shia's begin mourning from the first night of Muharram and continue for ten nights.
Although Imam Hussain was killed in the Battle of Karbala, his message lives on, hence pronouncing his victory. He is believed to have died suffering a great deal while dying for the rights of whole Muslim community. Hence, the mourning.
Significance of Muharram
Hussain Ibn Ali and 72 of his followers were killed by the army of Yazid at the Battle of Karbala on Yazid's orders. The surviving members of Hussain’s family and those of his followers were taken captive, marched to Damascus, and imprisoned there.
How do Muslims observe Muharram
Both Sunni and Shia Muslims mourn during Muharram, although Sunni Muslims do so to a lesser extent. Shias mourn by weeping and self-flagellation of the Battle of Karbala. Acts of flagellation are a symbolic re-enacting of the blood-shedding of Hussain ibn Ali. One of the most important and symbolic objects used at mourning rituals is Alam. It is the ensign of Hussain ibn Ali in the Battle of Karbala and a sign of truth and bravery.