SRINIGAR - Anticipating the life-time spiritual journey, Kashmiri pilgrims have thronged shops to buy hajj-related goods, creating a noticeable increase in the sales of religious items.
With God's grace, I am very happy and I am enjoying every bit of shopping for religious item, Ali Muhammad, a Kashmiri would-be pilgrim, told Reuters on Saturday, September 15.
For our Hajj pilgrimage we purchase several items and this pilgrimage is a journey to heaven and that is why we purchase lot of items, Muhammad said.
He added that he enjoyed purchasing the religious items on highly discounted rates.
Muhammad was one of the Kashmiri pilgrims who throng shops to buy hajj-related goods such as clothes worn by pilgrims during the ritual.
They also buy goods as vacuumed pillow, leather pouches for currency and passports, mats, blankets, beads and small stone bags.
Muslims from around the world pour into Makkah every year to perform hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam.
Hajj consists of several ceremonies, which are meant to symbolize the essential concepts of the Islamic faith, and to commemorate the trials of Prophet Abraham and his family.
Every able-bodied adult Muslim who can financially afford the trip must perform hajj at least once in a lifetime.
Hajj starts on the eighth day of the lunar month of Dhul Hijjah, which falls this year October 24-29.
Most pilgrims come earlier to visit the holy mosques in Makkah and nearby Madinah, where Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him) was buried over 1,400 years ago.
Kashmiri shopkeepers were overjoyed with the boom the hajj season brought to their businesses.
For two-three months there is huge demand for religious items, Muhammad Rafiq Mir, a dealer of hajj items, told Reuters.
We sell lot of items for the pilgrims including passport bags, mats, pillow, sheets for prayers, traditional menswear, rosary etc, said Mir.
We provide them with every necessary item so that they do not have to wander.
Kashmir is divided into two parts and ruled by India and Pakistan, which have fought two of their three wars since the 1947 independence over the region.
Pakistan and the UN back the right of the Kashmir people for self-determination, an option opposed by New Delhi.