Friday, July 29, 2011

If Ramzan is here, can Justice be far behind?

The Holy month of Ramzan is upon us, and hence, this repost from earlier.  
All religious festivals carry great wisdom and learning for all of us, regardless of our religion or lack of religion. Precisely because we, as a race and not as religions, are looking at a future overrun by our excesses of greed and ignorance is it essential that we resolve to leave intolerance and anger aside and imbibe the wisdom that life offers to us. All the strife that we have been witness to in the name of religions and gods and righteousness should only make our determination to build a peaceful future stronger.

The Quran says, "O, ye who believe, strengthen yourselves with resolution and prayer, for Allah is with those who persevere in adversity." Mankind today is dealing with adversity most specifically from religious and spiritual intolerance. Frequently, this intolerance builds up to the point of hatred and desire for vengeance. It is easy to understand this on a personal level when we look at personal friendships and enmities, and then the global perspective becomes clearer as we try and multiply our hatred and love several billion times over.

Ramzan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar commemorating the revelation of the first verses of the Quran to the Prophet. On the Gregorian calendar, this kind of slides backwards a little every year; the last couple of years, Ramzan has been the August-September month.

Like all religious festivals, there are various interpretations of the meaning of the name Ramzan, various spellings, and various ways of celebrating it.  Some say that the name Ramzan is derived from the Arabic root word 'ramida' or 'arramad' that means intense heat and dryness. Ramzan is so called to indicate the heating sensation in the stomach as a result of thirst. Others said it is so called because Ramzan or Ramadan scorches out the sins as it burns the ground. Some said it is so called because the hearts and souls are more readily receptive to the admonition and remembrance of Allah during Ramzan, as the sand and stones are receptive to the sun's heat.

During Ramzan, practicing muslims fast from dawn (sehri) to dusk (iftar), and attempt to keep their thoughts focused on the teachings in their scriptures, and refrain from harboring negative thoughts, and as the wikipedia says, ask forgiveness for past sins, pray for guidance and help in refraining from everyday evils, and try to purify themselves through self-restraint and good deeds.


In Hyderabad, as in many parts of India, Ramzan is a major festive month, ending in Eid Ul Fitr.   This Eid is not the Eid which is Bakr Eid, which you can read about here.  The night bazar for festive shoppers in the old city is a major attraction as it sets out after the break of fast, and builds up not only through the night as sehri preparations beckon, but also as the month progresses towards Eid. Some of the finest glassware, attars, imitation jewelry, and clothes are up for sale and real cool bargains are the highlights for the diligent shopper. It is very crowded and you should take great care not to get separated from your companions. As you move from Madina Bazaar to Machli Kaman on Pathergatti Road, you will find shops set up on carts, spilling out of the sidewalks into the street, consuming two thirds of the road, the remaining one third is for pedestrians and vehicles to find harmony in. On the last couple of days before Eid, vehicles are not allowed, since the crowds grow too large.

Ramzan is also the time when haleem is prepared and sold at numerous outlets across the city as a sustaining food for the fasting. However, for the religionless foodie in me, it is a major attraction that makes Ramzan all the more sacred. You will want to find out more about haleem, the variations of it (vegetable, chicken, mutton, beef) and harees, and how tasty it is!! While Pista House has acquired a lot of fame, I like the ones at Shadaab, Sarvi, Garden, and Bawarchi too. The chicken harees stall at the mosque opposite Bajaj Electronics at Punjagutta is one of my favorites over years, as is the Kalyani Haleem set up just outside the mosque in the lane beside Y2K restaurant at the Punjagutta junction.

All religions are ways of disciplining ourselves to find that which we were created for, to be able to live and express ourselves to our fullest potential. As we have evolved, we have learned to question, and religions are also an attempt to provide us with workable and satisfactory answers. However, with this attempt to provide answers came the temptation of control and power, and that is how Men of God or Godmen came into being. In simple terms, these are priests, pujaris, padres, maulvis, acharyas and all other such people who claim to be intermediaries or representatives of the divine. The divine, whether you call him God, Thakur, Allah, Buddha, nothingness, whatever, has neither appointed these commission agents nor has the need to. It is merely our ignorance and our fear that give these men power to claim to be intermediaries.  To know more about how similar we are even in our festivities, read this post by Sridhar Patel.

But this post is about enjoying festivals, so take out your shiny new clothes, put on your dancing shoes, and let the music play!! And as for Pastor Jones' and his Quran burning, that was all a huge misunderstanding, it appears, he only meant to burn the Quran on to DVD so that it could be made available to people easily!!
Other traditions make music too.

5 comments:

  1. Ramadan Mubarak...this read makes me miss Hyd all the more!

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  2. Regardless of religion they all carry certain beliefs and each culture has its own.

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  3. If one understands religion properly there will be no clash in its name. Unfortunately people go by feelings rather than understanding when it comes to religion. Your post is another attempt to increase the understanding. Very nice.

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  4. It is a fun month, and I see a lot of goodwill in the city. The ordinary folks too enjoy the fasting and the festivities.

    Religion apart, a get together festival, shopping sprees, make it worthwhile.

    A nice post on Ramzan, Thanks.

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  5. A beautiful post, Shubhorup. As someone said, "Religion is a beautiful thing in the hands of the right people."
    And you proved him right! Brilliant!

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