Annual celebrations of the Durbar festival are held in a number of northern Nigerian cities, including Kano, Katsina, Sokoto, Zazzau, Bauchi, Bida, and Ilorin. The celebration signifies the conclusion of Ramadan and falls on the same weekend as the Muslim holidays of Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitri.
The term “Durbar,” which has Persian roots, was initially used to refer to ceremonial gatherings commemorating Queen Victoria’s coronation as the Empress of British India in 1877. However, the indigenous Hausa refer to the celebration as “Hawan Sallah” since Hawan is Arabic for “Mount of Eid,” which alludes to the actual mounting of the horse.
The customs have been practiced for more than 200 years in Northern Nigeria. At the conclusion of the Muslim holidays of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, it is observed. It starts with prayers, then the Emir and his entourage ride in a procession with musicians playing, stopping at the Emir’s palace at the end.
In the latter half of the fourteenth century, sarki Muhammadu Rumfa of Kano invented it as a means of showcasing military might and expertise prior to battle. During the jahi cheering, local authorities can honor the emir as part of the event.
The festival’s original meaning involved a horsemanship display before the Emir to demonstrate the readiness and allegiance of his battalions throughout the conflict. The Durbar Festival is now an energetic and joyous celebration of Eid el-Kabir. The festival offers a variety of intriguing events, and the sheer visual feast of it all adds to the Durbar’s grandeur. The event frequently kicks off with Islamic prayers, which are followed by the Emir and his entourage riding in a colorful procession.
Musicians frequently accompany the emir to the town square in front of his palace. To signal the beginning of the festival, thousands of warrior horsemen charge onto a dusty parade ground in front of the Emir’s palace while raging muskets fire salutes. The horses are lavishly dressed, festively swathed in cobalt blue and blood red tapestries, and have gold fringes hanging from their elaborate helmets. Horsemen adorned with vibrant robes, blue turbans, ostrich feathers, and gleaming swords congregate to pay respect to the Emir, who enters the parade under the protection of a huge, whirling parasol. The only participants in the procession are men, who wear gorgeous turbans, usually with one or two protruding ears to indicate their royal ancestry.
All riders enter the observation stands during the celebration while raising their fist and cheering “Ranka ya Dede,” then they proudly ride to the parade ground. Trumpeters’ shrills and the chatting and traditional drummers’ rhythms fill the air. While musicians and warriors riding vibrantly armored horses make their way to congregate along the parade grounds, acrobat performers flip and catch one another. The Emir’s procession, which includes his guards, sons, wives, and camels, starts from the center when there are hundreds of horsemen on the parade grounds. Frequently, the Durbar Festival is a sight to behold.