In my last post, I wrote that mapping Shia (and by inversion Sunni) Lucknow will be fairly difficult - and so it is. There surely are plenty of mental maps1 - an important part of my research (see my methodology) - and thinking about Shia or Sunni dominated areas is a favorite timepass for some of my contacts (especially Shia ones). But hard data? Almost impossible to find. It is thus befitting that it took me all my time in Lucknow - today being my second last post from the field - to come up with something seemingly as plebeian as even an experimental map of the Shia population of the city. In fact, I found only one single other such map in all of the material which I read about Lucknow - in a paper by Mushirul Hassan,2 based on a 1961 Census monograph3...:

But something could be done. Using the same strategy developed to create my Muslim map - i.e. inferring population share from Muslim sounding names on the electoral rolls - I prepared my own experimental map of Shia Lucknow. As discussed in detail in my last post, this is a fairly risky undertaking, since names might be good to distinguish Muslims from non-Muslims - but they are a far worse shortcut to sectarian difference. My hunch is, that the following map slightly over-estimates Shia population percentage, for instance. But importantly, such an overestimation would likely apply to all areas in similar ways - so differences between areas become more reliable again. It might not be that in one area 40% of all Muslims are Shia and in another 80% (the real figure might be more around 30% vs 60%) - but the ratio would be similar.

The following map thus fairly reliably shows Shia strongholds - even if it doesn't necessarily reflect how strong these strongholds are. It shows Shia population as share of overall Muslim population (rather than of general population), based on the data subset determined to be comparatively most reliable in my last comment to my last post. Still, I wanted to convey the vagueness of even this dataset in the map. Firstly, I thus only give the Shia share in rough wording - and not in seemingly precise percentages. Secondly, no data is shown at all for the 20% areas with fewest Muslims (the probabilistic approximation becoming too unreliable then), a grid is overlaid for the next 20%, and saturation is drastically reduced for areas with less than 25% Muslim population (since sectarian issues are likely to be irrelevant in an overall minority setting - and also since sectarian population shares are less reliably estimable in such areas, again due to the small n). With all these qualifications and caveats, here is my experimental Shia map after 15 months of fieldwork (larger version):

What does this map show and how does it compare to the 1961 Census map? As expected, it shows two major areas of Shia concentration: Hussainabad and Kashmiri Mohalla. It also shows some fairly Shia pockets around where I myself live (the red dot), which I can largely confirm from experience. In comparison to the old map, it also seems to confirm current research in that the concentration in Kashmiri Mohalla and Hussainabad increased over the last fifty years at the expsense of other areas in Chowk such as Saadatganj or Daulatganj.4 But otherwise it is dangerous to draw quick conclusions. It took me fifteen months to come up with this map. I expect it will take at least as much time until I decided whether it is of any use, and which story it really tells. But it is a nice primer to Muharram, which started on Friday and will occupy me (and most of Lucknow) for the next weeks to come...

I would like to acknowledge the use of the Oxford Supercomputing Centre (OSC) in carrying out this work.

  • 1. Gould, P, White, R. (1986). Mental maps. 2nd ed. Boston: Allen & UNWIN.
  • 2. Hasan, M. (1997). Traditional rites and contested meanings: Sectarian strife in colonial Lucknow. In V. Graff (Ed.), Lucknow: Memories of a city. Delhi: Oxford Univ. Press.
  • 3. ...which subsequently went missing from the Census library in Lucknow - at least they claimed that before they threw me out; the reference is Census of India. (1961). Moharram in two cities (Lucknow and Delhi). In: Census monograph series, part VII-B: Fairs and festivals.
  • 4. Verniers, G. (2012). A minority within a minority: The Shias of Kashmiri Mohalla, Lucknow. In L. Gayer, C. Jaffrelot (Eds.), Muslims in Indian cities: Trajectories of marginalisation. London: Hurst.