Hyderabad, May 25 : Muslims in Telugu states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh celebrated Eid-ul-Fitr on Monday sans the congregational prayers, traditional festivities, new clothes, handshakes, and warm hugs amid lockdown restrictions due to coronavirus outbreak.
Like the entire fasting month of Ramzan, lockdown restrictions loomed over Eid celebrations as the faithful remained indoors and offered prayers at home, avoiding visits to relatives and friends as a preventive measure.
Audio and video calls and greetings over social media apps replaced the warm handshakes and hugs, a key feature of the festivities every year in normal times.
The festive atmosphere was completely missing in Hyderabad, the historic city with a rich Muslim past. There was no usual hustle-bustle on the streets, which wore a deserted look.
Every Eid, in the past, people clad in new clothes and wearing skullcaps would head to Eidgahs or open grounds and mosques for congregational 'Namaz-e-Eid' amid enthusiasm and religious fervour, marking the beginning of day-long festivities.
After the prayers, people used to shake hands and embrace each other thrice. They then used to visit their relatives and friends to exchange greetings over 'sheerkhorma', a special sweet dish made on occasion with vermicelli, milk, and dry fruits.
Children too were disappointed this time as they missed their 'Eidi' or the gift of money they receive from their elder relatives. Attired in their best, the children eagerly used to wait for the visit by the relatives to receive the 'Eidi'.
"This is perhaps for the first time in history that Eid is being celebrated without congregational 'namaz', people hugging each other, and visiting their relatives and friends. I have neither seen such a muted celebration in my lifetime not heard about it from my parents or grandparents," 73-year-old Syed Ishtiaque Ahmed, a retired engineer, told IANS.
Following an appeal by Islamic scholars, people offered prayers at home. Hyderabad's historic Mir Alam Eidgah, which used to see the biggest Eid congregations, was deserted.
Mecca Masjid, the 17th century mosque near Charminar, too was out of bounds for people. The imam and few other members of the managing committee offered the prayers.
However, members of joint families or residents of some apartment buildings came together to offer the prayers in groups of 30 to 60 in their respective premises. However, they too avoided hugs and confined themselves to Islamic greeting of 'Assalamalaikum' and handshakes to ensure social distancing.
Ever since the lockdown began in March, mosques have remained closed for worshippers and only four to five people are allowed to offer daily five-time prayers in each mosque. The congregations are not allowed even on Fridays. The holy month of Ramzan also saw people offering prayers at their homes.
With the lockdown dampening the festive spirit, Eid was celebrated without new clothes. Hyderabad, which is famous in the entire country for shopping during Ramzan, hardly saw any shoppers this time. The centuries-old markets around Charminar, which used to buzz round the clock during the fasting month, were desolate.
The shopping used to be at its peak on Eid's eve as thousands thronged the stretch from Nayapul across Musi river to the Charminar. It was all dark and quiet this time over due to the night curfew in force as part of the lockdown.
The relaxation in lockdown since last week provided opportunity to some people to buy new clothes and shoes, though an overwhelming majority stayed away from shopping in view of the appeals made by Islamic scholars, community leaders, and activists.
People were urged to use the money to be spent on new clothes and shoes instead to provide food and other essentials to those facing severe hardships due to the lockdown. Many responded to the calls and contributed generously to help the poor and the needy.
"This period of lockdown has opened the eyes of so many of us who sit pretty with their filled pantries, while others struggle to find a proper meal for days on end. Humanity was united and it was heartwarming to see people from all walks of life coming forward to help others," said Nawab Najaf Ali Khan, grandson of Nizam VII Mir Osman Ali Khan, the last ruler of erstwhile Hyderabad state.
Latest updates on Eid al-Fitr 2020
-- The story has been published from a wire feed without any modifications to the text