Hyderabad: The Muslim holy month of Ramadan began here Monday with the devout observing first 'roza' or fast.
This followed the sighting of moon of Ramadan. Moon sighting committee comprising Islamic scholars announced sighting of the new moon Sunday. The month is also called Ramzan in India.
Sirens blared from hundreds of mosques across the city early Monday for 'sahr' or pre-dawn meals.
The Muslim-majority old city and other neighbourhoods have been abuzz with activity since Sunday night as thousands thronged the mosques for 'Namaz-e-Taraveeh' or special prayers offered daily during which priests recite the Holy Koran.
Attired in their best and wearing skull caps, men and children were seen heading to the mosques to mark the beginning of the fasting month in this city of five million. Muslims constitute about 40 percent of the city population.
The biggest congregation was at the historic Mecca Masjid near Charminar. Special arrangements were made at some mosques and function halls for women to offer the prayers.
Shopping for groceries and other items for the month continued till late night. Some were seen buying clothes for the 'Eid' to avoid festival rush. "We do Eid shopping before the beginning of Ramadan to ensure that we spend more time in prayers during the month," said Syed Khaleel, a businessman.
The historic city with a rich Muslim heritage comes alive during the holy month. Almost every hotel sells lip-smacking 'Haleem', a dish preferred by the people after 'Iftar' or breaking the daylong fast.
The eateries in the old city, Nampally, Mehdipatnam, Toli Chowki, Masab Tank and other areas do a brisk business.
It is the time for unprecedented business activity. Truck loads of dates and fruits are sold every day. The old city never sleeps during the month as shopping continues till the early hours of the day.
Like the governments of the undivided Andhra Pradesh in the past, the first government of the newly-created Telangana state has made special arrangements for Ramadan. As Mecca Masjid and Shahi Masjid at Public Garden are under the state control, the authorities have made all necessary arrangements for the convenience of the worshippers.
Muslim employees in government offices have been permitted to return home at 4 p.m, an hour before the scheduled time. Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao has asked electricity department to ensure uninterrupted power supply during night time.
On the representation of Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM), a major political force in the city, the police have promised to permit hotels and shops to remain open till late in the night.
Elaborate security arrangements have been made for Ramadan and also Bonalu, a local festival which began Sunday. Bonalu, which has been declared a state festival by the Telangana government, will also continue for a month.
Hyderabad Police Commissioner M. Mahendra Reddy said 13,000 policemen, including 40 companies of paramilitary forces, have been deployed to maintain law and order during the twin festivals.