In the wee hours of the morning, as the Valley is cloaked in darkness, its residents fast asleep, the sound of drums pierces the silence and a voice rings out in the air: “Waqhtey Sahar!” (It’s time for sahar).
These are the Sehar Khans – the human alarm clocks for residents of Kashmir – who roam the streets before daylight, beating their drums and diligently reminding Muslims in the Valley to wake up for their pre-dawn mean, or sahar, so that they can brace themselves for hours of fasting ahead during the holy month of Ramzan.
Ramzan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar and begins with the sighting of the crescent moon, which, in the Valley, was June 7.
Sawm, or fasting, is one of the five pillars of Islam and is an integral part of Ramzan the world over. Muslims believe that the reward of every good deed is multiplied during this month, so Ramzan is also a time for prayer, charity, reflection and abstaining from bad thoughts and deeds.
Life in the Valley
Prayers, charity and food characterise the Muslim-dominated Valley for the month of Ramzan. The streets are lit up in festive colours and mosques reverberate with prayers.
After the pre-drawn meal, the air is filled with calls for prayers and scores of people fill up the mosques and shrines dotting the Valley’s landscape.
Then, it is business as usual for the working population – except that lunch hour becomes a time for noon prayers.
If someone disturbs the peace at work, everyone protests saying: “It is Ramzan. Let’s do this peacefully.”
In fact, “It is Ramzan” is a common refrain in the Valley – “it is Ramzan and you are making us wait?” or “How can you overcharge during Ramzan?” or “I do not want to fight, it's Ramzan."
Meal fit for a king
For Kashmiris who are fasting, iftar – the evening meal with which the Ramzan fast is broken – is a chance to feast on local delicacies such as Babribyoltresh (a drink made of basil seeds), firi’en (made of semolina and milk), qateer (a drink of tragacanth), custards, fruit juices, dates and dishes made with mutton and chicken.
To keep the table ready for iftar, residents start queuing up around noon outside the shops of the kandur, the local bread makers of Kashmir. The kandur take special orders – so visitors can get customised bread made with extra ghee, poppy and sesame seeds.
Street food vendors, conspicuous by their absence in the day, line the markets in the evening to offer food and water to passersby and there's a flurry of activity as people try to rush home to break their fasts with family or friends. Those stuck in transit at iftar time can rest assured that co-passengers or passersby will offer them dates or fruit so that they can symbolically break their fast.
Most mosques and shrines also spread sheets and lay out an inviting iftar meal – typically including a plate of fruits, dates and something to drink.
Keeping the Ramzan celebrations going into the night is a food festival at Kashmir Haat in Srinagar. The festival, organised by LoudBeetle, is an initiative by the ministry of culture to revive the nightlife in Kashmir and stalls of popular eating joints are in business from iftar to sahar.
Religion and charity
During Ramzan, Muslims offer five prayers through the day. The last prayer at night is called Isha. The grand mosque, or Jama Masjid, in downtown Srinagar sees a throng of visitors, particularly on Akhir Jumah, the last Friday of Ramzan, when people from all corners of the city come here to pray. The Hazratbal shrine on the banks of Dal Lake, which is believed to house a relic of Prophet Muhammad, is also popular.
Since charity is an integral part of this month, beggars often come knocking at houses in the Valley, seeking alms. Zakat and Sadqah are two forms of charity that are obligatory for all Muslims. Zakat, a pillar of Islam, is a fixed percentage of total wealth that a person of means needs to give to the poor, while Sadqah is voluntary charity.
Activity in the Valley peaks on Shab-i-Qadr, which is held on one of the odd-numbered nights (according to the Ramzan calendar) during the last 10 days of the holy month. Mosques are brightly lit and packed with visitors for night-long prayers. It is believed that the first verses of the Holy Quran were revealed to the Prophet on this night. Nowadays, Shab-i-Qadr is usually held on the 27th night of Ramzan.
Drawing the curtain on the auspicious month is the festival of Eid-ul-Fitr.
And what happens in Kashmir on Eid? That’s another story for another day.
Top picks, best deals and all that you need to know for the Amazon Great Indian Festival
We’ve done the hard work so you can get right to what you want amongst the 40,000+ offers across 4 days.
The Great Indian Festival (21st-24th September) by Amazon is back and it’s more tempting than ever. This edition will cater to everyone, with offers on a range of products from electronics, home appliances, apparel for men and women, personal care, toys, pet products, gourmet foods, gardening accessories and more. With such overwhelming choice of products and a dozen types of offers, it’s not the easiest to find the best deals in time to buy before your find gets sold out. You need a strategy to make sure you avail the best deals. Here’s your guide on how to make the most out of the Great Indian Festival:
Make use of the Amazon trio – Amazon Prime, Amazon Pay and Amazon app
Though the festival officially starts on 21st, Amazon Prime members will have early access starting at 12 noon on 20th September itself, enabling them to grab the best deals first. Sign up for an Amazon Prime account to not miss out on exclusive deals and products. Throughout the festival, Prime members will 30-minute early access to top deals before non-Prime members. At Rs 499/- a year, the Prime membership also brings unlimited Amazon Prime video streaming and quick delivery benefits.
Load your Amazon pay wallet; there’s assured 10% cashback (up to Rs 500). Amazon will also offer incremental cashbacks over and above bank cashbacks on select brands as a part of its Amazon Pay Offers. Shopping from the app would bring to you a whole world of benefits not available to non-app shoppers. App-only deals include flat Rs 1,250 off on hotels on shopping for more than Rs 500, and flat Rs 1,000 off on flights on a roundtrip booking of Rs 5,000 booking from Yatra. Ten lucky shoppers can also win one year of free travel worth Rs 1.5 lakhs.
Plan your shopping
The Great Indian Sale has a wide range of products, offers, flash sales and lightning deals. To make sure you don’t miss out on the best deals, or lose your mind, plan first. Make a list of things you really need or have been putting off buying. If you plan to buy electronics or appliances, do your research on the specs and shortlist the models or features you prefer. Even better, add them to your wishlist so you’re better able to track your preferred products.
Track the deals
There will be lightning deals and golden hour deals throughout the festival period. Keep track to avail the best of them. Golden-hour deals will be active on the Amazon app from 9.00pm-12.00am, while Prime users will have access to exclusive lightning deals. For example, Prime-only flash sales for Redmi 4 will start at 2.00pm and Redmi 4A at 6.00pm on 20th, while Nokia 6 will be available at Rs 1,000 off. There will be BOGO Offers (Buy One Get One free) and Bundle Offers (helping customers convert their TVs to Smart TVs at a fraction of the cost by using Fire TV Stick). Expect exclusive product launches from brands like Xiaomi (Mi Band 2 HRX 32 GB), HP (HP Sprocket Printer) and other launches from Samsung and Apple. The Half-Price Electronics Store (minimum 50% off) and stores offering minimum Rs 15,000 off will allow deal seekers to discover the top discounts.
Big discounts and top picks
The Great Indian Festival is especially a bonanza for those looking to buy electronics and home appliances. Consumers can enjoy a minimum of 25% off on washing machines, 20% off on refrigerators and 20% off on microwaves, besides deals on other appliances. Expect up to 40% off on TVs, along with No-Cost EMI and up to Rs 20,000 off on exchange.
Our favorite pick on refrigerators is the large-sized Samsung 545 L at 26% off so you can save Rs 22,710.
There are big savings to be made on UV water purifiers as well (up to 35% off), while several 5-star ACs from big brands will be available at greater than 30% discount. Our top pick is the Carrier 1.5 Ton 5-star split AC at 32% off.
There’s good news for Apple fans. The Apple MacBook Air 13.3-inch Laptop 2017 will be available at Rs 55,990, while the iPad will be available at 20% off. Laptops from Lenovo, Dell and HP will be available in the discount range of 20% to 26%. Top deals are LenovoTab3 and Yoga Tab at 41% to 38% off. Apple fans wishing to upgrade to the latest in wearable technology can enjoy Rs 8,000 off on the Apple Watch series 2 smartwatch. For those of you just looking for a high quality fitness tracker, the Fitbit Charge has Rs. 4500 off on 22nd September.
If you’re looking for mobile phones, our top deal pick is the LG V20 at Rs 24,999, more than Rs 5000 off from its pre-sale price.
Home printers are a good investment for frequent flyers and those with kids at home. The discounted prices of home printers at the festival means you will never worry about boarding passes and ID documents again. The HP Deskjet basic printer will be available for Rs 1,579 at 40% off and multi-function (printer/ scanner/ Wi-Fi enabled) printers from HP Deskjet and Canon will also available at 33% off.
The sale is a great time to buy Amazon’s native products. Kindle E-readers and Fire TV Stick will be on sale with offers worth Rs 5,000 and Rs 1,000 respectively.
For those of you who have a bottomless collection of movies, music and photos, there is up to 60% off on hard drives and other storage devices. Our top picks are Rs 15,000 and Rs 12,000 off on Seagate Slim 5TB and 4TB hard drives respectively, available from 8.00am to 4.00pm on 21st September.
Cameras (up to 55% off) and camera accessories such as tripods, flash lights etc. are available at a good discount. Home surveillance cameras too will be cheaper. These include bullet cameras, dome cameras, simulated cameras, spy cameras and trail and game cameras.
For home medical supplies and equipment, keep an eye on the grooming and personal care section. Weighing scales, blood pressure monitors, glucometers, body fat monitors etc. will be available at a cheaper price.
The sale is also a good time to invest in home and kitchen supplies. Mixer-grinders and juicers could see lightning deals. Don’t ignore essentials like floor mops with wheels, rotating mop replacements, utensils, crockery etc. Tupperware sets, for example, will be more affordable. There are attractive discounts on bags, especially laptop bags, backpacks, diaper bags and luggage carriers.
While Amazon is extremely convenient for need-based shopping and daily essentials, it is also full of hidden treasures. During the festival, you can find deals on telescopes, polaroid cameras, smoothie makers, gym equipment, gaming consoles and more. So you’ll be able to allow yourself some indulgences!
If you have children, the festival is good time to stock up on gifts for Diwali, Christmas, return gifts etc. On offer are gaming gadgets such as Xbox, dough sets, Touching Tom Cat, Barbies, classic board games such as Life and more. There are also some products that you don’t really need, but kind of do too, such as smartphone and tablet holders, magnetic car mounts for smartphones and mobile charging station wall stands. If you’re looking for enhanced functionality in daily life, do take a look at the Amazon Basics page. On it you’ll find USB cables, kitchen shears, HDMI cables, notebooks, travel cases and other useful things you don’t realise you need.
Check-out process and payment options
Amazon is also offering an entire ecosystem to make shopping more convenient and hassle-free. For the festival duration, Amazon is offering No-Cost EMIs (zero interest EMIs) on consumer durables, appliances and smartphones, plus exchange schemes and easy installation services in 65 cities. HDFC card holders can avail additional 10% cashback on HDFC credit and debit cards. Customers will also get to “Buy Now and Pay in 2018” with HDFC Credit Cards, as the bank offers a 3 Month EMI Holiday during the days of the sale. Use Amazon Pay balance for fast and easy checkouts, quicker refunds and a secured shopping experience.
Sales are fun and with The Great Indian Festival offering big deals on big brands, it definitely calls for at least window shopping. There’s so much more than the above categories, like minimum 50% off on American Tourister luggage! To start the treasure hunt, click here.
This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Amazon.in and not by the Scroll editorial team.