Festivals of India: Eid Ul Fitr in India
Eid-ul-Fitar in India starts on the first day of the month of Shawwal, just like any other country. Eid Ul Fitr marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims break their fast, with the sighting of new crescent moon in the evening, on the last day of Ramadan.
A secular country, home to people of many religions, India witnesses a vibrant variety of festivals being celebrated, in all their pomp and glory, each year. The large variety of religions and religious festivals offer a very colorful state of affairs in India, every single year. From the Hindu festivals of Diwali and Holi to Christian and Parsi festivals of Christmas and Navroz, and to Muslim festivals of Eid; India hosts a large spectrum of delightful traditions and festivities. Home to around 201 million Muslims, India sees the biggest Islamic festival, Eid Al-Fitr, being celebrated in all its splendor.
Not only is Eid about being happy and celebrate, but it is also about making others happy and nurture their desire. Muslims offer gifts to those in need, besides celebrating in affection and joy. They distribute alms and donate food and clothes. Sadaqah Fitr is a charitable gift given to the poor to break the fast. They give grains or cash as it is specified in the Holy Quran.
Eid Al-Fitr - The Festival of Breaking the Fast
Eid Ul Fitr is called Choti Eid or Ramadan Id in India. The Eid is a public holiday in India. It is a day off for most population, schools and most businesses. Muslims across the whole world have traditions to celebrate Eid Ul Fitr on the first day of Shawwal month. However, each country has its own traditions to celebrate Eid. Whereas Eid Ul Fitr lasts for three days in many countries, in India it calls for a one day holiday all across the country.
Eid Al-Fitr, when translated from Arabic, is also known as the Festival of Fast Breaking, and is a religious holiday celebrated by Muslims all around the world, succeeding a month-long fast. This fast which goes on from dawn-to-sunset is known as Ramzan. During this month, neither do people eat, nor do they drink, throughout the day. Eid Al-Fitr, also simply referred to as ‘Eid’, is the day the fast is broken, and it falls on the first day of the month of Shawwal. It is the only day when Muslims are literally not allowed to keep a fast!
Although the actual celebration begins on the first day of Shawwal month, there are prior preparations taken. Muslims do shopping for new clothes. They clean and decorate their homes and workplace, as a part of the celebration. There are special cuisines prepared to celebrate, such as a sweet dish called Sheer Khurma and a famous saviyaan with dates. On the day of Eid, they start the day by taking a bath in the morning, wear new clothes and eat some of the sweets before heading to the mosques. Then they gather in mosques and perform the Eid prayer in the early morning, in open areas under the sky. They recite Takbir, Du’a in the praise of the greatness of Allah. Men wear white clothes typically, symbolizing purity and austerity.
What is Ramzan?
Ramzan, also known as Ramadan, is a month considered holy by Muslims and is observed as a month of spiritual reflection and fasting. Ramadan, as part of the culture, is said to have been the first time that the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, who Muslims consider to be the final prophet, thus bestowing his memory with respect, and honouring him with the term, “peace be upon him”. It is, thus considered sacred, and is honoured by people who believe in the faith by fasting and practising abstinence, throughout the day, between sunrise and sunset.
When do Ramadan and Eid fall?
The Islamic calendar is based on the lunar calendar, wherein the months are shorter than in the solar calendar. According to the Islamic calendar, each new month begins with the new moon, due to which the date and time of the year that the festival falls on, vary each year. Ramzan occurs approximately 11 days earlier each year and occurs in the 9th month of the Islamic calendar.
Why do people fast during Ramzan?
The month of Ramadan, as mentioned before, is meant to be a holy month, characterized by self-control, abstinence, generosity and deep spiritual reflection. It is meant for believers of the faith to come closer to Allah, the Islamic God, owing to which Muslims distance themselves from earthly distractions, such as food and drinks. Of course, the intention, as mentioned in the Quran, is not for the followers of the faith to suffer, therefore they ingest modest meals before dawn, namely suhoor and after dusk, namely iftar; and not everyone fasts. For instance, someone who is sick, pregnant, mentally unwell, or the likes of these, is not required to fast.
Eid Al-Fitr in India
Marking the end of the month-long fast, you can hear Muslims greeting each other with the phrase, ‘Eid Mubarak!’ In India, it is a day-long national holiday, but the festival itself lasts three days; and is a great period for festivities.
Partaking in charitable activities and gifting
On the occasion of Eid, it is common for Indian Muslims to donate generously to charitable trusts and organizations, and partake in buying lavish gifts for family and friends. Many Muslims in India also attend prayers, listen to sermons (khutba), and give charity in the form of clothes, money and/or food (Zakat al-Fitr).
On the day of Eid, it is common for Muslims to eat sweets or dates, before heading to the congregational prayers and on their way to the same, they praise the god, Allah, in the phrase, “Allahu Akbar,” which means, “God is great.”
Visiting family and friends:
Eid is an occasion for people to dress up, wear perfume derived from natural botanical sources (ittar) and visit their friends and family. Men wear traditional kurta-pyjamas or sherwanis in white or subtle colours often accompanies with a Taqiyah (a brimless cap worn by Muslim men all around the world), and women wear shararas or salwar-kameez suits with ornate hijabs or niqabs. The clothes worn are typically purchased one day before Eid and are exquisitely designed, with intricate thread embroidery. Women also adorn their hands with beautiful, Arabesque henna designs. Children are given the ‘Eidi’, which refers to presents on the occasion of Eid.
Paying respect to the memories of the dead
On Eid, people also pay respect to those that have previously passed, by visiting graveyards; and honoring their memories.
Some of the most delicious Eid food can be found across India, and a few of the most popular types of Eid food are:
- Kaleji Curry from North India
- Haleem from Hyderabad
- Galouti Kebab from Lucknow
- Tangri Kebab from Lucknow
- Biryani from Kolkata
- Shahi Korma
- Zarda Pulao
Eid Al-Fitr in India is a beautiful depiction of the rich culture of the Muslims, and can be seen in the vibrancy of the people on the streets during the time of iftar during Ramadan, and the warmth of the Muslim people and their families during the three days of Eid!
Eid Ul Fitr signifies a special meaning for the Muslim community. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had laid down Eid Ul Fitr is a day of feasting for Muslims, in the remembrance of Allah. Since then, Muslims fast the whole month of Ramadan, offering spiritual devotions to Allah, believing that this gets them closer to God. Eid Ul Fitr is a celebration of breaking their fast and show God how grateful they are for everything they have.