Amid prayer and penance, Muslim holy month of Ramadan starts in Kashmir

By Sheikh Qayoom

Srinagar : The 30-day-long holy month of Ramadan began here Tuesday as Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir started their longest daily fasting period in three decades.

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The devout Muslims keeping fast this year will have to abstain from eating and drinking for 16 hours as the ‘Sehri’ (pre-dawn eating period) ended at 3.37 a.m. on Tuesday and ‘Iftaar’ (post sunset eating period) will start at 7.42 p.m. (Since Ramadan is observed according to the lunar calendar, it gets pushed up by 10 days every year.)

Very little vehicular and pedestrian movement was seen in summer capital Srinagar in the morning as locals normally prefer a post dawn prayer nap during the month of Ramadan.

Shops, public transport and other businesses also opened late in the city as compared to other months.

Most traffic that was seen in the city’s outskirts in the morning comprised of taxis and buses carrying tourists to hill stations like Pahalgam, Gulmarg, Sonamarg, Doodpathri, Kokarnag and the like.

Frustrating traffic jams and confusion was witnessed on city roads and markets on Monday evening as locals busied themselves with shopping for the fasting days.

The most sought after items included dates as traditionally Muslims believe breaking the daily fast with a date is auspicious since the Prophet and his Caliphs did so during Ramadan.

All eateries and hotels in Srinagar were closed in the morning except for those catering to non-local tourists.

Roadside tea-stalls, ice-cream parlours, and vendors carrying ready to eat items were out of business in the morning.

A relatively recent trend is the opening of ‘Iftaar’ facilities in the city in the evenings during Ramadan.

One such big facility had come up inside the exhibition grounds in Srinagar last year where families would go to break their daily fast.

The 7Cs, a modern, well-managed restaurant in the Sangarmaal complex here has also announced an ‘Iftaar’ festival where some of the choicest Muslim foods – mostly mutton and chicken based – would be available for Iftaar.

More youth now keep the fast during Ramadan in Kashmir than they did in the past.

A healthy development noticed since a decade or so in Kashmir has been setting up of some charitable institutions those are really doing good work to the help the needy and the poor.

This has only become possible because of the growing middle-class affluence in Kashmir.

Instead of tossing a fiver at a street beggar, well-to-do Kashmiris have now started contributing to orphanages and other social institutions those can bring some light into the darkness that surrounds the lives of orphans and widows in the local society.

Social activities, marriages, cultural functions and the will have to take the backseat for the 30-day period after which the local society will celebrate the Eid festival.

But that would be only after the month of prayer and penance has been successfully observed.

(Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at sheikh.abdul@ians)