Ramadan revelry: Breaking fast, building bonds

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Ramadan revelry: Breaking fast, building bonds

Sunday, 31 March 2024 | Gyaneshwar Dayal

Ramadan revelry: Breaking fast, building bonds

In the bustling lanes and bylanes of Old Delhi, the sacred month of Ramadan brings forth a spectacle of tradition, community, and culinary delights. Gyaneshwar Dayal savours the festivities while Pankaj Kumar captures the moment

Old Delhi, the pulsating heart of India’s capital, holds a special significance during the holy month of Ramadan. Steeped in tradition and vibrant culture, this historic enclave comes alive with fervour as the faithful observe the sacred rituals of fasting and prayer, and experience community dining. At the heart of these celebrations stands the majestic Jama Masjid, serving as a beacon of spiritual unity and culinary delight.

As the sun sets over the labyrinthine lanes of Old Delhi, a palpable sense of anticipation fills the air. Families, friends, and strangers alike converge upon the centuries-old Jama Masjid, drawn by the allure of the iftar, the evening meal that breaks the day-long fast. The sprawling courtyard of the mosque transforms into a bustling hub of activity, teeming with worshippers and diners eager to partake in the age-old tradition.

The scene is one of camaraderie and kinship, transcending barriers of caste, creed, and class. As Azaan, a call to prayer, resonates through the air, a hush descends upon the gathered throng, signalling the end of the day’s fast. With a collective sigh of relief and gratitude, the faithful begin their iftar, breaking their fast with dates and water by Islamic tradition.

But it is the community iftar spread that truly captures the essence of Ramadan in Old Delhi. Long rows of intricately woven mats are laid out on the mosque’s courtyard, adorned with an array of delectable dishes that showcase the rich culinary heritage of the region. Fragrant biryanis, succulent kebabs, piping hot samosas, and decadent sweets vie for attention, tantalising the taste buds and igniting the senses.  Roohafza sharbat is everywhere. This year, it’s being referred to as ‘mohabbat ka sharbat’ or the ‘love potion.’

Amidst the aromatic symphony of spices and flavours, a spirit of generosity and abundance prevails. Strangers become friends as they pass around plates heaped with delicacies, sharing laughter, stories, and blessings. The boundaries between rich and poor blur as all partake in the community feast, reaffirming their shared humanity and solidarity.

The iftar meal is not just a physical nourishment but a spiritual rejuvenation, a time for reflection, gratitude, and connection with the divine. As the faithful break bread together, they are reminded of the importance of empathy, compassion, and gratitude in their lives. It is a time to seek forgiveness, to mend broken relationships, and to strengthen bonds of love and fellowship.

As the night deepens and the festivities continue, the spirit of Ramadan permeates every corner of Old Delhi. The narrow streets come alive with the hustle and bustle of shoppers, vendors, and well-wishers, creating a kaleidoscope of sights, sounds, and smells. The twinkling fairy lights cast a magical spell over the ancient city, evoking a sense of wonder and enchantment. Jama Masjid is the same but wears a different look. Constructed by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan between 1644 and 1656, Jama Masjid stands as an architectural masterpiece and a symbol of India’s rich cultural heritage. Situated in the heart of Old Delhi, it was designed by the renowned architect of that time, Ustad Khalil, Jama Masjid is characterised by its imposing red sandstone and marble structure, adorned with intricate carvings, towering minarets, and three majestic domes. Serving as a beacon of Islamic faith, Jama Masjid has witnessed centuries of history, from Mughal grandeur to colonial rule and beyond, remaining a revered landmark and a testament to India’s pluralistic ethos. It thus aptly serves as the focal point of Ramadan and Eid celebrations.

Amid this joyous chaos, the true essence of Ramadan shines through – a time of spiritual renewal, communal harmony, and boundless compassion. In Old Delhi, as in countless cities and towns across the world, Ramadan is not just a religious observance but a celebration of the human spirit, a testament to the power of faith, love, and unity to transcend all barriers and divisions.

As the dawn approaches and the faithful prepare to begin another day of fasting, the echoes of laughter and prayer linger in the air, a poignant reminder of the enduring legacy of Ramadan in Old Delhi – a timeless tradition of faith, fellowship, and feasting that continues to inspire and uplift all who partake in its blessings.

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