Srinagar, During the dark hours of night drum beats and recitation of the Quranic verses reverberate the Down town locality of Srinagar during the holy month of Ramadhan to awaken people for “Sehri” or pre dawn meals.
The 25-year-old Mohammad Shaqoor beats the traditional drum, chants “Waqt-e-Sahar” (time for the pre-dawn meals), to wake people to keep fast for the day.
Popularly known as “Sahar Khan”, Shaqoor a resident of Kalaroose in frontier Kashmir district of Kupwara, accompanied by his fellow villager Rai Imtiyaz, who holds a long big Bamboo stick to prevent themselves from the stray dogs who often try to attack them during the beating of ‘Dholl’ for the past twenty years.
The duo daily during the months of Ramadhan started their journey to awaken people at 3 pm from Safakadal, Haftyarbal, Zadi Masjid, Chai Dubb, Poshwala and covered many other areas of down town Srinagar by walking around three kms daily on foot during the month of holy Ramadan.
The tradition of “Sahar Khan” waking people during the night for “sehri” is as old as the advent of Islam in the Valley, people believe.
“We are doing this job happily during the month of Ramadan just to earn rewards from the Almighty Allah”, Shaqoor said.
He said that no doubt during the end of the month people pay us whatever they like which helps us a lot to manage our family affairs.
He said it helps us to offer all prayers at time including the special prayer “Tarawe” during this month also.
He said, ‘earlier we were leaving around 1 am in the night to awaken the people as a lot of area had to be covered for the call but this year the time table has changed as there is change in time for the “sehri”.
Shakoor said “during the past several years we had to get permission from the police for this job as the situation was not as good as it is at present. Now the Mosque president allows us for “Sehri” awakening call”.
Shaqoor said a lot of stray dogs are there who start barking and try to bite us but we keep a bamboo stick for safety. He said there is no threat from any quarter whatsoever.
He said we are doing Labour work during the other part of the year to earn our livelihood.
While some of the “Sahar Khans” do this job primarily for monetary gains, there are many others who take up this work for earning heavenly rewards.
Many youths have started underestimating the significance and tradition of “Sahar Khan”as they say the technology has made the “Sahar Khan” tradition obsolete with the availability of modern gadgetry like cell phones, alarm clocks and radios available in the houses.
“I don’t think there is any need of “Sahar Khan” these days when I have an alarm in my cell phone,” says Ashraf, a youngster from Srinagar.
However, the view is not shared by other people, especially the elder community who feel this tradition, nevertheless, should continue.
“It’s a part of our culture. I still wait for Sahar Khan’s drum beats to wake me up,” says a 51-year-old, Khursheed Ahmad a resident of Hawal, Srinagar. “It takes me back to my childhood days when I would cheer up on hearing those drum beats.”
An elderly person Abdul Sattar said in the past the drum beats of “Sahar Khan ‘ were the only resource to awaken people for taking the predawn meals during the Ramadhan.
In many rural and urban areas the “Sahar Khan’s” are still voluntarily doing this traditional service and being liked by the community members in general.