“Bustling Ramadan Night Markets in Kashmir”

Muscat – In our series – Ramadan Around the World, today we explore the celebrations, community iftars and prayers observed in Kashmir, India.

The people there not only preserve the traditions but also advance them.

Lateef Shahdad, Muscat-based Managing Director of Mass International, born in Srinagar, Kashmir, India, said: “Kashmir is where you see bustling food and night markets during this holy month of Ramadan. It’s like a sacred carnival. The whole place takes on a shimmering festival hue where people throng the markets to get their favorite and traditional food.

“During the iftar period, people rush to the mosques and usually break the fast because they are served food there. The night market remains open and the whole environment remains jubilant with the bustle of the streets, which marks the spirit of Ramadan,” he added.

On what is unique to Kashmir, Shahdad said: “One of the most memorable traditions is that of the Sahar Khans (drummers calling to wake people up for Sahoor). Every night during the month of Ramadan, when most people remain in a deep sleep, drummers, known as Sahar Khans, roam the empty streets of Kashmir, especially in the city of Srinagar, to wake up Muslims for meals before dawn.

This centuries-old tradition has remained relevant in the valley despite the availability of modern gadgets, he added. “Drummers sing Waqt-e-sahar (it’s pre-dawn meal time) loudly, waking everyone in the neighborhood, moving from lane to lane beating drums. “

On the importance of the holy month, Shahdad said that it is a holy month. “It recharges our spiritual self and helps assimilate Islamic teachings into our daily lives. Life in the month is in a state of spiritual bliss, which makes me feel peaceful and compassionate.

Shahdad said it’s important to prepare ahead for the month, a lesson taught to him by his late mother. “From childhood, my mother prepared us well mentally before Ramadan. So it was easy for us to get in the mood and join the spiritual journey with our parents.

Fasting, he said, does not make him sluggish, but rather he finds himself more energetic and passionate about his daily activities during Ramadan.

Shahdad said his Ramadan day is well defined, right from the preparation of suhoor followed by Fajar prayers and joining work according to the schedule. “After work, I help prepare iftar and the whole family joins in breaking the fast, making it a precious time,” he said.

Food is always center stage during the month of Ramadan and menu selection for iftar and suhoor always remains a high priority. “The family decides on the dishes, with everyone having the opportunity to choose their favorite dishes, which makes everyone happy,” he added.

Shahdad likes to break the fast with the traditional drink Rooh Afza mixed with basil seeds with a mixture of fruits. “And later I prefer to eat rice, either traditional Pilaf or Uzbek Plov (Lamb Pilaf) with famous Kashmiri mutton Yakhni similar to Mansaf (traditional Arabic dish). Desserts like fruit puddings are also greatly appreciated,” he said.

During the weekends, Shahdad organizes iftars in front of his house and chooses a place where friends are invited to break the fast together. “Usually after breaking the fast and prayers, I go for a walk or to the gym to keep fit.”