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Making sacrifices, feeding poor, Indian Muslims mark Eid-ul-Azha

Wednesday November 17, 2010 05:41:37 PM, IANS

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New Delhi: If there was sporadic violence in Kashmir Valley, there was also the heartwarming gesture of Muslims in a Maharashtra town deferring the traditional goat sacrifice as a mark of respect to Hindus. As millions of Indian Muslims celebrated Eid-ul-Azha, its spirit came alive in many splendoured ways.

Be it in open grounds, at home or in the 17th century Jama Masjid - one of Asia's largest mosques - it was a day of prayers and piety.

"We prayed to Allah to protect us from evil. I also prayed for the longevity of my parents and friends," Naeem Ansari, who offered namaz at Aishbagh Eidgah in Lucknow, told IANS.

Dressed in colourful clothes, people visited each other, exchanged gifts and greetings and shared delicacies. Eid-ul-Azha, popularly known as Bakr-Eid, is a festival of sacrifice. And from commoners to celebrities, it left none untouched.

"This is one of the rare days that I take a day off from my busy schedule because I want to be with my family, besides attending prayers," Malayalam superstar Mammootty said in Kerala.

Many women offered namaz at home or in specially erected quarters at open grounds.

India has a Muslim population of more than 140 million, one of the largest in the world. And it showed as people turned up in large numbers across the country - from the deep south to the Himalayan north - at mosques to offer prayers.

In Jammu and Kashmir, the only Muslim dominated state, youths at some places clashed with security forces, pelting stones and raising pro-freedom slogans.

"But the security forces exercised absolute restraint to avoid any civilian casualty on the holy occasion," said Shafqat Ahmad Watali, deputy inspector general of police (DIG), south Kashmir range.

Prominent separatist leaders like Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Umer Farooq were placed under house arrest to prevent them from inciting the youth to violence. But hundreds of thousands offered prayers peacefully.

At the Eidgah grounds of Delhi, the imam, Mufti Haneef, said peace and harmony should prevail in the country.

Eid-ul-Azha commemorates Prophet Ibrahim's great act of faith many centuries ago. Legend has it that Allah asked him to sacrifice his only Ismail and he agreed. But when he opened his eyes after the sacrifice, he found his son alive and a slaughtered lamb at the altar instead.

In a symbolic gesture, meat is, therefore, distributed on the festival among neighbours, relatives and the poor. And goats are specially reared for it.

A giant four-feet tall goat, weighing 180 kg, nearly four times a normal goat, grabbed attention in Nagpur, Maharashtra.

"I used to spend over Rs.400 per day on its food and milk. It has been sold to a customer for around Rs.1.75 lakh," said its owner Nadeem Khan.

In the state's temple town of Pandharpur, Muslims lived up to the spirit of sacrifice.

As nearly half a million people converged there for the Hindu festival of Kartiki Ekadashi, Muslim community elders said they did not want to hurt the religious sentiments of the pilgrims and decided to postpone the goat sacrifice till Friday.

In Hyderabad, over 200,000 people offered prayers at the historic Mir Alam Eidgah, making for the biggest Eid-ul-Azha congregation in the city.

But no Bakr-Eid is complete without mutton dishes and mouthwatering sweets. "A dish made of liver is usually eaten before other delicacies," old Delhi resident Zahir Abbas Khan, who sacrificed 10 goats, told IANS.

Women cooked up a feast in their kitchens.

"I am preparing fried liver, mutton stew and sevaiyan for the festival. Our neighbours and friends will bring homemade dishes and it will be like a community meal," said Parveen Nasreen, a homemaker in Azad Market.

Of course, there was no dearth of takers. It was Eid-ul-Azha, after all!





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