Srinagar: Despite an alarming rise in Corona cases, the century-old tradition of waking people up for pre-dawn meals by beating drums during Ramazan remained unaffected with ‘Sahar Khans’ hitting the streets in Kashmir valley as the holy month of fasting began on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, with the commencement of Ramazan after sighting of moon, lakhs of people joined the special ‘Taraweeh’ prayers on Tuesday night in mosques, Khankhas and Jamia Masjids and other religious places in the valley, keeping in view COVID-19 guidelines, including wearing masks and maintaining social distancing.
Officials said that there was no restriction on the movement of ‘Sahar Khans’ in city, where night curfew was imposed earlier this month in view of rise in the number of COVID-19 cases.
Every night, during the month of Ramazan, when most of the people remain in deep slumber, drummers, known as ‘Sahar Khans’, walk the empty streets of Kashmir, particularly Srinagar city, to wake up Muslims for pre-dawn meals – ‘Sahar-Khwani’. This age-old tradition has remained relevant in the valley despite availability of modern gadgets, including alarms, clocks and mobile phones.
Last year, majority of the ‘Sahar Khans’ were confined to their homes in the absence of inter-district transportation and strict restrictions imposed on movement and assembly of people in the valley to curtail the spread of COVID-19 that left hundreds dead.
However, hundreds of men, ‘Sahar Khans’, belonging mostly to rural areas have migrated to Srinagar and other districts during Ramazan to earn their livelihood this year. These people wake up people by beating drums, reciting the verses of holy Quran and ‘Naat Khawani’ to praise Prophet Mohammad.
“We were really happy to wake up to the sound of drums of Sahar Khan. It is a part of our culture and despite modern gadgets, this century-old tradition has stayed alive. Last year, when most of the ‘Sahar Khans’ were confined to their homes due to restrictions, they were missed,” Shabir Ahmad, a resident of Budshah Nagar Srinagar said.
He said the century-old tradition was not affected even when militancy was at its peak in 90’s.
Mohammad Shakoor, a 22-year-old ‘Sahar Khan’ left his rented room in downtown Srinagar at around 0200 hrs on Wednesday with his drum to wake people up. Like Shakoor, hundreds of ‘Sahar Khans’ hit the streets on the first night of Ramazan to keep the century old tradition alive. ‘Sahar Khans’ were seen playing drums and shouting Wakhte Sahar (it is time to fast) in their respective ‘Mohallas’ in the city and other parts of the valley to wake the people up. Besides this, repeated announcements are made from mosques through loud speakers, asking people to eat Sahari.
“I have been doing this job from last five to six years. I initially started it for fun, but then I realized the importance of this job. I am really glad that I’m helping in keeping this tradition alive,” Shakoor, a resident of Kalaroos in the border district of Kupwara, said.
Shakoor said that he was really sad last year because he could not come to the city due to COVID-19 restrictions. “We don’t face any objection from security forces and police personnel deployed at different areas in the city,” he said.
“People pay us money and other gifts at the end of the month,” he added.
However, another Sahar Khan said that they are facing problems because of stray dogs. “Stray dogs are created problems as they are threat to our lives. On many occasions, stray dogs have attacked people in broad day light. So waking alone on such roads is a bit scary. But, we keep a stick handy so that we can protect ourselves,” he added.
Until 80s, ‘Sahar Khans’ were in demand as very less number of people had watches to know when the time of Sahari will start and end as not many mosques had loud speakers.