Eid-ul-Fitr (breaking of the fast) is a Muslim holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. It is a time of quiet reflection and worship. It is believed that more than 1,300 years ago, in the month of Ramadan, the prophet Muhammad received the Qur’an, the holy book of Muslims. Hence Ramadan is also knows as the ‘month of the Qur’an’.
Breaking the fast
A few dates and a glass of water is used to break the fast every day. Other foods consumed may vary from platters of fresh fruits, salads, nuts, legumes to fried savouries and kebabs. The meal with which the fast is broken every day is known as ‘iftar’. Iftars are often community gatherings, with people gathering to break their fast together. The meal is shared with family and friends, and it’s common for Muslims to invite non-Muslims over. Iftars in India have grown into mega banquets with politicians and celebrities throwing iftar parties all through the month.
At the end of Ramadan, Eid-ul-Fitr is heralded in with the sighting of the new moon. Most countries rely on news of an official sighting and it is common to see newspaper reports like this one: “Eid to be celebrated on Wednesday, moon spotted”. Since the time of the moon sighting varies according to which part of the world one is in, Eid celebrations can begin on different dates.
On Eid day, Muslims gather early morning in mosques or outdoor locations to perform the Eid prayer. After the prayer, new clothes are taken out and visits are made to relatives and friends. Colourful bazaars and malls are full of families doing their last-minute Eid shopping; women apply mehndi (henna) and wear colourful bangles. Children look forward to getting ‘eidi’ (money given by elders to children).
It is common for non-Muslims to visit their Muslim friends and neighbours on Eid to convey their good wishes. It’s also time for feasting on special Eid delicacies like sheer khurma – a sweet dish prepared with milk, roasted vermicelli and garnished with dry fruits. After a month of fasting, sheer khurma comes like a warm bowl of comfort.
Other mouthwatering items on the menu include biryani, kebabs and korma and the delicious haleem – a meat stew made with lentils. The nihari is another popular dish during Ramadan – a rich stew of goat meat or beef, it is cooked overnight for six to eight hours and served hot early morning. In south India, Muslims break their fast with nonbu kanji, a rich, filling rice dish of porridge consistency, cooked for hours with meat and vegetables.
Eid Hot Spots: Where to celebrate
Eid-ul-Fitr is a public holiday in India and government offices, businesses and schools remain closed. While Eid is celebrated all over India, there are some cities that are well-known for the scale and range of festivities. If you want to get a taste of the real thing, it is best to get an invite to a Muslim household. Here’s a list of places where you can get get a ringside view of Eid celebrations.
- Jama Masjid in New Delhi where huge crowds gather to pray
- Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad, another location where people come together for prayer
- Aishbagh Idgah (the biggest prayer ground in the city) in Lucknow
- Dargah Sharif in Ajmer
- The Red Road in Kolkata where thousands of Muslims gather for a community prayer on Eid – it is a sight to behold.
- Agra is another great place to witness Eid festivities. In 2011, the Taj Mahal was opened to all for free for three hours on the occasion of Eid.
- In, Mumbai, the place to be seen at is Mohammad Ali Road. The place comes alive after sunset every day during Ramadan when restaurants in the area stay open all night serving up sumptuous dishes like tikkas, kebabs, hot paya, deep-fried parathas, kheeri and kaleji and stuffed baida rotis.
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