What is 'Marfa'? The dangerous dagger dance that killed a Hyderabad teen

Last week, a 16-year-old boy, Syed Hameed, died after his throat was slit during a dagger dance performance at a wedding in Shaikpet, Hyderabad. Reportedly, Hameed sustained a deep gash when he walked too close to his cousin, who was staging ‘Marfa’ — a dance performed with swords and daggers. As dangerous as it is, ‘Marfa’ is an important part of Hyderabadi celebrations.

‘Arabi Marfa’, as it is known, is a Hyderabadi music and dance form, which was adapted from Afro-Arab music during the 18th century. It has been kept alive by the Siddi community — an ethnic group of African descent — as they passed it on from one generation to the next. Dancers are hired for celebratory occasions, especially weddings.

Following the rise in the recent trend of ‘Marfa’ performers, several similar complaints have surfaced. In the last six months, three incidents were reported where individuals sustained injuries during the dagger dance.

Hameed’s cousin, Mohammed Junaid (19), has now been arrested after a complaint was filed.