Guwahati: From exotic dates and seviyan (vermicelli) to exceptional Mughlai spread such as biryani and kebabs, shopkeepers of Guwahati in Assam are leaving no stone unturned to cater to the faithfuls during ‘iftaar’, perhaps the most ‘delicious’ time of the day when the fast is broken.
Just take a walk around Fancy Bazaar in the heart of Guwahati, and you’ll realise that Ramadan (also spelt as Ramzan), the holy month of the Islamic calendar, is as much about feasting as it is about fasting. Huge crowds can be seen in and around the commercial hub of the city as locals line up to shop for delicacies.
At Iftaar time, the crowd surges to the special stalls that have been set up for the holy month. One such vendor is Madina Sweets House that has come down all the way from Lucknow to Machkhowa to sell Lucknowi specialties to the faithfuls during Ramadan. They are offering an assortment of delicacies ranging from the aromatic halwa and snacks, to biryani, besides the humongous 1.75-kg Mughlai parantha.
Bablu Siddiqui, the owner of the sweet house, said that they first came to the state during an Ijtema [an Islamic congregation] in Hojai 10 years ago, following which they saw the scope for their products. They have been religiously coming to Assam and setting the sweet house during Ramadan ever since.
They come two days before Ramadan starts and leave after reading the namaz on Eid-ul-Fitr; and just like the others, the entire team of Madina Sweets House keeps their dawn-to-dusk fast throughout the holy month.
The shop which has gained significant traction in the past decade is known for its delicacies. People from far and wide, irrespective of their religion, come to shop and eat. It opens at 1 pm, but is usually sold out by 5 pm on most of the days.
The landlady of the sweet house, Nazneen Rasul Munin, said that the shop is “beneficial for all faithfuls, especially the ladies. Since they have to cook, they get very less time for roza and ibadat [praying]. But with this sweet house, all the required food is here, it becomes really convenient for them.”
She said, “We are thankful to these Lucknowis for helping the rozedaars [faithfuls], and the ladies.”
Likewise, a 40-year-old stall in Fancy Bazaar’s fruit market area is brimming with variations of dates and seviyan [vermicelli]. Gulam Mustafa, its owner, said that when he initially set up the kiosk, people didn’t know what seviyan was, but today it is sold widely.
“But khajoor [dates] was always sold here,] he said stating that when the business started it was sold for Rs 15-20 per kg, but exotic varieties today go up to Rs 3,800 per kg,” he added.
To promote the core value of brotherhood, iftar is enjoyed at the Lakhtokia No. 1 Jama Masjid as a community event. Almost 300-350 faithfuls go to the mosque to relish the feasts post sunset.
Mohammad Khalil a member at the mosque, said, “Every day, faithfuls come to the mosque, whether rich, poor, traveller or special guest, all come here.”
Another frequenter at the century-old Lakhtokia No. 1 Jama Masjid, Faizuddin Ahmed said, “We have seen iftar being orgnaised here since our childhood. It is open to all.”
While Ramadan may last only for a month, the preparation for the holy month starts weeks and often months beforehand. The month-long celebration to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad ends with fun and frills on Eid, when the crescent-shaped moon finally makes an appearance.
Devotees, except those who are suffering from an illness, or are travelling, or are pregnant, breastfeeding, diabetic, chronically ill or menstruating, keep the fast from dawn until sunset.
Each day, before dawn, Muslims observe a pre-fast meal called the suhoor and after stopping for a short while before dawn, they begin the first prayer of the day, Fajr. At sunset, families hasten for the fast-breaking meal known as iftar. Dates are usually the first food consumed to break the fast; as according to tradition, Muhammad broke fast his with three dates. Following this, they adjourn for their daily prayers, followed by which the main meal is served.