Dates : April / May. This is celebrated on the tenth day of Zilhijja.

Legend : The Id-ul-Azha commemorates the ordeal of Hazrat Ibrahim, who had been put to a terrible test by God when he was asked to sacrifice whatever was dearest to him and decided to sacrifice the life of his son. He blindfolded hiseyes and cut off his son's head, only to discover on opening his eyes, that his son was alive and a ram had been sacrificed instead. Since then, a ram or bakri is sacrificed in the name of Allah.

Practice : The Haj celebrations at Mecca are rounded off by the sacrifice of goats or camels. In India, too, goats and sheep are sacrificed all over the country and prayers are offered. The meat is then cooked and sent to friends and relatives.

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Dates : Shab-I-Barat is celebrated on the night of the 14th Shabaan, in April / May.

Legend : According to belief, the destinies of men for the coming year are recorded on this night.

Practice : All over India, Muslims stay awake all night. Sweets are sent to the houses of friends and relatives who died during the year, in their remembrance. Fatiha or blessings are recited over food in the name of the Prophet, his daughter Fatimah, and his son-in-law Ali. People also recite the Holy Koran. At night, the sky is ablaze with colourful fireworks that are set off in celebration.



Dates : Coming with the new moon, this festival marks the end of Ramzan,

the ninth month of the Muslim year, and is celebrated in April / May.

Legend : It was during this month that the holy Koran was revealed.

Practice : Muslims keep a fast every day during this month and on the completion of the period, which is decided by the appearance of the new moon, Id-ul-Fitr is celebrated with great éclat. Prayers are offered in mosques and Idgahs and elaborate festivities are held.

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Dates : Muharram is not a festival in the celebratory sense as it mourns the Karbala tragedy when Imam Husain, grandson of Prophet Muhammad, was martyred in the 61st year of the Hijra (A.H.). It takes place during the first month of the Muslim calendar in August /September. It is observed in different ways in various parts of India, but the theme of mourning is constant throughout.

Legend : After the death of the Prophet, questions of succession arose. There could be no successor of the spiritual head, because Islam believes in finality of Muhammad in the prophetic tradition. After him, the Koran was considered the final word in revelations and settlement of disputes and conflicts.

However, a successor to the position of Caliph was needed. Muhammad had named no successor, and had only one daughter Fatimah, who was married to Ali, and had two children - Hassan and Hussein. One camp believed that succession should remain within Mohammed's family, while another disagreed.

Finally,Abu Bakr, a loyal follower of Muhammad was elected Caliph. His reign was peaceful, as was that of his successors. However, during the reign of Ali, there was major opposition from the masses, and as a result of the aggression, Ali was assassinated. His son Hassan was poisoned, while his other son Hussein was killed in the battle of Karbala. This tragic circumstance divided the Muslim community into sects - the Shiahs and the Sunnis. The Shiahs consider Ali, Hassan and Hussein the rightful Caliphs and publicly mourn their death during Muharram.

Practice: Profusely decorated taziyas (bamboo and paper replicas of the martyr's tomb), embellished with gilt and mica, as well as green alams (standards of Hazrat Imam Hussain's army) made of silver, copper and brass, are carried through city streets. A horse is led in the procession in memory of Hussain's horse Dul Dul. Wrestlers and dancers enact scenes depicting the battle at Karbala. Every day, marsiyars (mourning verses) are recited in honour of the martyred, as young men beat their breasts crying "Husain! Husain!" in collective sorrow. On the tenth day, the processions carrying the taziyas and alams is called Ashura. It terminates in open spaces called Imambaras, where the taziyasare buried, or in the local burial ground known as the Karbala.

This tragedy is observed with great passion in Lucknow, in particular, as it is the centre of Shia culture and religious activities, and accordingly a large number of taziyas and the alams are taken out all over the city. In the village of Banagaon in the Jaunpur district of Uttar Pradesh, people wear black and celebrate the festival with grandeur.





Dates : The Prophet was born on the twelfth day of Rabi-ul-Awwal, the third month of the Muslim year, in September /October. His death anniversary also falls on the same day, the word barah standing for the twelve days of the Prophet's sickness.

Practice : During these days, learned men deliver sermons in mosques, focusing on the life and noble deeds of the Prophet. In some parts of the country, a ceremony known as sandal rite is performed over the symbolic footprints of the Prophet engraved in stone. Are presentation of buraq, a horse on which the Prophet is believed to have ascended to heaven, is kept near the footprints and anointed with sandal paste or scented powder, and the house and casket containing these are elaborately decorated. Elegies or marsiyas are sung in memory of the last days of the Prophet. The twelfth day or the urs is observed quietly, in prayers and alms-giving.

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