It is that time of year when Muslims across the globe fast from dawn to dusk for the entire month of Ramadan (also spelt as Ramzan). Perhaps the most delicious time of the day is 'iftaar', when the fast is broken on delicacies prepared for just that purpose. Apart from dates, the meal includes biryani, succulent kebabs, hot parathas, fruits, hot tea — the list can go on.

People in India fast for around 14-16 hours during Ramzan. Places of worship remain decorated through the month; masjids are crowded through the day.

A huge crowd can be seen in and around Jama Masjid in old Delhi and the Nizamuddin Dargah in South Delhi at this time. At iftaar time, the crowd surges to the restaurants and street food vendors in the vicinity. The atmosphere turns serene, as people sit down for their meal just as the sun goes down in the horizon.

In the courtyard of Jama Masjid, people sit in long lines on dastarkhwan (table cloths) and are served fruits, namkeen, dates, juice and sweets. Visitors here make contributions for the food items served at iftaar time, while others volunteer to serve the food. A similar sight can be witnessed at almost every religious place, including the Nizamudin Dargah.

Text and photos by Sameer Mushtaq.


The water pond in the middle of this 17th century mosque is used for ablution by the devotees. The mosque is said to be capable of accommodating up to 25,000-30,000 worshippers.

Mohammad Jameel, 71, has been volunteering at iftaar time during Ramadan for last 33 years in Jama Masjid. He says, "Every day we prepare iftaar plates for 250-300 people."

Muslims during Ramadan recite the holy Quran and consider it sunnah (doings of the Prophet) to complete reciting the entire Quran within 30 days.

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Basit and Huzaifa, siblings, often come to Jama Masjid to pray during Ramzan. They say, "We like it here."

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The presence of children accompanying families add to the festive air of the Jama Masjid.

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Thousand of devotees break their fasts with the food served free during iftaar. The food is donated to the management by anonymous donors daily.

There are many voluntary groups in Jama Masjid who organise iftaar for visitors to this traditional Mughal mosque, one of the largest in India.

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The iftaar feast includes fruits like banana, apples, water melon, and also snacks like samosa, channa apart from juices and sharbat — and sometimes, biryani.

During Ramadan, families throng the Jama Masjid. Children can be seen playing in the front courtyard of the mosque.

Apart from food served free to devotees, families and visitors also bring their own to break the fast.

Thousands of devotees, cutting across religious lines, also visit the dargah Hazrat Nizamuddin during iftaar time.

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This is the last great architectural work of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. Jama Masjid has many sections where devotees offer prayers.

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Dates are considered a rich and delicious fruit to break the fast with. During Ramadan, a variety of dates comes to the markets as people break their fasts with these.

Both men and women visit Jama Masjid, which was originally called Masjid-i-Jahan-Numa — meaning ‘mosque commanding view of the world’, for prayers.

The holy month of Ramadan is considered very important by Muslims, as a time of prayer and remembering God.

In the jam-packed dargah of Nizamuddin, one is lucky to even get space to stand.

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