There are only a few times when the colourful Old Delhi becomes even more colourful. This is partly the reason why Eid is the one of the most represented festivals in the media.
The morning namaz is the most important prayer of the year. Supplicants fill the mosques and flow out into the streets. Morning after, the papers are filled will pictures of Jama Masjid. One would think all the streets would lead to this mosque on the morning of Eid.
As it happens, it’s never that simple. One may wish to pray at the mosque his father went to, another may go to the closest one, some decide on the basis of who is going to give the sermon. As it happens, clerics from different countries are invited by mosques to lead the morning prayers. So, those known for their oratory prowess have people lining up to hear.
One of the most important factors is time. Not all mosques offer Eid prayers, and those that do, advertise their timings well in advance. So, you can choose a slot anywhere between six thirty in the morning to ten. If you are in Old Delhi, the ones you will be praying at are Idgah, the mosque at Turkman Gate (Masjid Faiz Ilahi), Kalan or Kali Masjid (which is, actually, blue) or the Jama Masjid. Quite a few people also go to Okhla or Nizamuddin depending on where the friends and family are.
The Kalan masjid dates back to the fourteenth century. That makes it older than Old Delhi itself, which was set up in the sixteenth century.
Sometimes, the reasons are very mundane. Let me give you an example. I have a Muslim friend in greater Noida who married a Hindu girl. Now, the mosque near his home is small and does not have a roof. As it was quite a rainy morning this Eid, he went over to his in-law’s in East Delhi who live closer to a better endowed mosque.
This time I saw something weird. Many youngsters, after finishing with the morning namaz, quickly drew out their phones and started taking photos. No one frowned. If someone is praying, you can’t walk in front of them. Not five feet, not ten feet. I have been rebuked twice in life I had done that, not intentionally, of course.
But phones and photography seems to have been accepted as a part of every little space in our lives. However, this time, I didn’t transgress. No photos inside the masjid.
Eid, as much as a day of festivity, is a day of rest. The celebrations start the night before when the moon is sighted and Eid is declared. The night before is, probably, the most happening time. The last minute shopping, buying delicacies for the next day etc etc, the highest tempo before the restful lull that Eid brings.
As much as you are tempted, if you are not from Old Delhi, don’t make that wishful trip. The streets are all choc a bloc, and the warmth of surging swelling humanity is not always so pleasant. But again, this is the night when everything stays open almost all night. On the day of the Eid, the markets close early. So, make your choice. And, if you are going, pack in a double dose of patience.
After the mandatory warning, this is the night like no other. No matter how spectacular a night you have seen in Old Delhi, it will always be second to the night before Eid.