Festivals are wonderful. They give people an opportunity to bond, share joy, make memories and, most importantly, they fill the atmosphere with positivity and good cheer. Festivals also provide a break from the normal rhythm of life and the holiday from work, school or college doesn't hurt either.
Living in a vibrant, multicultural society like India gives one the benefit of being able to enjoy multiple festivals. While Diwali and Holi are by far the most celebrated festivals in India, one can also experience the magic of Christmas and the exuberance of Eid in equal measure. Festivals go beyond religion and become an excuse for people of all faiths to enjoy themselves and have fun.
India not only has one of the world's largest Muslim populations, it has also had a Muslim presence for more than a thousand years. It is therefore natural for Eid to be a major festival in the country, observed with all its attendant customs and rituals.
It is true that food can unite people and nothing exemplifies that better than the large crowds of people of different religions partaking of the same delicacies...
An indicator of the scale on which Eid is observed in India, and the complete state support of the celebrations, is the fact that many public areas are earmarked to enable Muslims to congregate in large numbers and offer prayers on Eid. Azaad Maidan in Mumbai hosts thousands of devout worshippers. Similarly, a big stretch of a major national highway running through Gurgaon, near Delhi, is closed to traffic on the morning of Eid to allow namaz. The authorities have recently earmarked a big public park as an alternative site to minimize disruption and inconvenience to the huge volume of traffic between Delhi and Jaipur on that highway.
The celebration of Eid is not restricted to Muslims alone, of course. It has now become a major cultural event and its influence extends to non-Muslims, who experience it in many different ways.
The Gastronomic Experience
The preparation for Eid-ul-Fitr begins with Ramzan. While for Muslims this is a period of fasting, the time of iftaari becomes a time of feasting for all food lovers. Across the country, areas with large Muslim populations come alive with food stalls and bazaars as soon as the sun sets. The Jama Masjid area in Old Delhi, MA Road in Mumbai, Charminar and Toli Chowki in Hyderabad become hubs for enthusiastic eaters.
While Muslims break their fast and shop in preparation for Eid, others flock to these areas to join in the festivities and enjoy delights like kormas, kebabs, biryanis and sweets. Then there's haleem - stalls selling this meat-and-lentils delicacy sprout all over Hyderabad, and a couple of them like Pista House and Hyderabad House have a global following now.
Some enterprising folk also organize Ramzan food walks so that tourists can get a good taste of all the different types of food. It is true that food can unite people and nothing exemplifies that better than the large crowds of people of different religions partaking of the same delicacies and enjoying the festivities together.
The Iftar Party As A Political Event
Iftar parties have become major events for political parties and every leader worth their salt hosts lavish parties in which powerbrokers rub shoulders and make deals. A lot of political understanding is achieved in these gatherings, lubricating the way for forward movement on tricky issues. The newspapers carry stories of who was and wasn't invited and who did and did not attend.
Iftar parties are a bit of a barometer for the current standing and power of the host.
Iftar parties are a bit of a barometer for the current standing and power of the host. The latest news this year is that Sonia Gandhi's party has decided not to host an Iftar party this year. Apparently with her party's declining political fortunes and growing isolation, she were not sure if any distinguished invitees would show up at all, and she probably wished to avoid further embarrassment.
Salman Khan Blockbusters
Eid has been auspicious for Bollywood and several major films have been released on the occasion over the years. Of course since 2009, Salman Khan has pretty much booked the day for his movies and every single one of them has gone on to become a monstrous hit. Wanted, Dabangg, Bodyguard and many others have scored at the box office and even this year, Sultan looks all set to get the cash registers ringing.
It is a holiday for everyone and after a month of fasting and abstinence, people seek entertainment and what better way than a Bollywood blockbuster to indulge oneself and culminate the festivities on a high note!
Eid occupies a special place in India, where it is enjoyed and celebrated in all its glory. And why not? It is after all a celebration of humanity. While it symbolizes faith, it also is an occasion for introspection and self-discipline. Its essence therefore has universal appeal and applicability.
Wishing all readers a happy Eid and hope that in this time of growing conflict and sharpening divides, the essential message of brotherhood, patience, sharing, kindness and compassion shine through and peace prevails in the world.
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