NEW DELHI - A 200-year-old tradition of firing canons to get Muslims prepared to iftar and suhoor (pre-dawn meal) during the holy fasting month of Ramadan is still prevalent in the Indian city of Raisen.
This is something unique which has been going on in our city for the last many years, Shehr Qazi, head of Zahiruddin city, told OnIslam.net.
The boom from the canon is a signal for the people of more than 35 nearby villages for suhoor and iftar, he said.
In Ramadan, adult Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.
The sick and those traveling are exempt from fasting especially if it poses health risks.
During the holy month, Raisen Muslims start fasting after hearing the boom of the canon, which helps residents know that the suhoor time has ended.
In the evening, Muslims break their fast after hearing the second boom of the day from the canon.
When the canon is fired, it is a signal for thousands of people from nearly 40 villages in the Raisen district of Madhya Pradesh to end their suhoor before dawn or to have iftar in the evening.
We are trying our best to preserve our tradition, said Qazi.
The tradition of firing canon during Ramadan started by erstwhile rulers- the begums of Bhopal -in the early 18th century.
Historically, military canons were originally used and the main priest or the Shehr Qazi used to decide everything about the operation and timing.
While the tradition faded away in Bhopal city, the Raisen residents have carried it forward.
From the year 1956 after the transfer of power to the provincial government, it is now the responsibility of the district administration.
City officials make special arrangements for canon firing during Ramadan, with Muslim residents helping in raising funds for the operation.
Before the sighting of the moon, we have to make arrangement for ammunition, Jamil Khan, the president of the Muslim Tehwar (festival) committee.
For each blast we have to use 500 grams of ammunition. We have to spend Rs 35000(US$700) for ammunition and payment to the person who operate the canon.
We collect the money from the Muslims in the city.
Kishwar Khan, a Muslim resident of Raisen city, has been operating the canon for the last ten years.
This is something I have been doing every year, Khan told OnIslam.net.
Earlier, my father used to do the same work. After he expired, Muslim Tehwar (festival) Committee assigned the work to me. They pay Rs 6000(US$120) for the whole month, he said.
During Ramadan, Muslims dedicate their time during the holy month to become closer to Allah through prayer, self-restraint and good deeds.
The majority of Muslims prefer to pay Zakah for the poor and needy during the month.There are some 140 million Muslims in Hindu-majority India, the world's third-largest Muslim population after those of Indonesia and Pakistan.