Indians enjoy celebrating Eid free of Covid restrictions

Muslims across the country offer their prayers in mosques and attend gatherings in person

Hundreds of millions of Indian Muslims have celebrated Eid Al Fitr in style, following two years of low-key celebrations due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Muslims across India offered prayers in mosques and greeted each other in person after the coronavirus pandemic cast a shadow over the religious holiday.

For the past two years, most mosques in the country have been closed as a nationwide ban on all gatherings was in place. Family gatherings and reunions were also prohibited.

But on April 1, as the number of Covid-19 cases dropped and more people were vaccinated, the government relaxed restrictions, allowing public celebrations to be held.

In the capital Delhi, a large number of devotees offered special prayers at Jama Masjid — a 16th century mosque in the heart of the city.

“We are ecstatic today because for the last two years, Eid did not feel like a festival. It was very dull but today, it feels wonderful. There was namaz everywhere. People are meeting each other. We are wearing new clothes,” Rehana Siddique, 24, a resident of Churiwalan, near Jama Masjid in the walled city of Old Delhi, told The National.

Children play after Eid Al Fitr prayers at Jama Masjid, in Delhi. Reuters

“My sister and her children will visit us in the evening. We have made all the special dishes today. There is a sense of exuberance. Everyone is happy. I thank God for this day,” she said.

In the city's Jahangirpur area, where violent communal clashes broke out last month, Hindus and Muslims celebrated the festival together by exchanging sweets and hugs to spread a message of communal harmony.

On Tuesday morning in Lucknow, in Uttar Pradesh, devotees offered namaz at the Eidgah ground and other mosques. The Old City market, meanwhile, was brimming with buyers doing last-minute shopping and feasting on special Eid delicacies.

In Indian-controlled Kashmir, the festival was marred by minor clashes in Anantnag district after authorities disallowed congregation prayers at the Eidgah — the prime Eid ground and the valley’s largest mosque Jamia Masjid in the capital Srinagar — citing law and order issues.

The region has been wracked by a decades-long armed rebellion against New Delhi’s rule, particularly in the Muslim-dominated Himalayan Kashmir valley where anti-India sentiment runs high.

Eid celebrations have been subdued in the region since 2019, when New Delhi stripped the autonomy of the former state, followed by the pandemic.

There was a rise in violence in the valley during Ramadan, with at least 20 militants, two civilians and five police and soldiers killed.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his Eid wishes in a tweet and prayed the occasion would enhance “togetherness and brotherhood in our society”.

With more than 200 million Muslims, the South Asian nation has the second-largest Muslim population in the world.

India celebrated the festival a day after it was celebrated in Saudi Arabia.

Updated: May 03, 2022, 11:10 AM