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THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The holy month is here. The busy thoroughfares in front of the mosques come alive with grand Iftar spreads in the evenings.Believers stream in to break their fast, offer prayers and the city gets steeped in a pious aura. City Express takes a look at the festivities that the city bears witness to at sundown as the devotees break their fast.

Breaking the day-long fast is more than just a routine for the believers at Chalai Juma Masjid. Their spiritual efforts, seeking the blessings of Allah and forgiveness for their sins, are rewarded by a simple bowl of porridge and ‘khajurs’ (dates) but the mealtime is a small celebration in itself. Enriched with badam,cardamom and other spices, the simple porridge has cut across manmade boundaries of

Steaming samosas and bhajis in glass cabinets await people who are late for Iftar.“We have people from all religions joining us during Iftar,” said Imam Hafis Al Ameen Moulavi of Chalai Juma Masjid.

“We practice what our religion preaches. In this age of growing religious intolerance, this practice should serve as an example for others,” he added. Left-overs are also given away to passerby on the busy markets of Chalai.

The mosque receives several donations from believers during the holy season. “We don’t ask for donations but we have people insisting that we take it. Even communities sponsor a day’s meal for all,” said a believer who is also a member of the Islamic Muslim Charitable Trust. Ramadans at Chalai Juma Masjid have always been the same. The messages of the holy Quran resonate the most among

As dusk sets in and Azaan resonates, the air outside the Masjid-i Jahan-Numa at Palayam is rich with the essence of Ramadan.While the believers rush into the mosque for prayer, the place stands soaked in the aroma of food prepared for Iftar.Ansar and Mubashir have no time to spare as customers flock to their stalls outside the mosque which sells hot samosas, cutlets, kebabs and dates.

Besides, they also serve an array of homemade Malabar snacks such as mutta surka, ottada, irachi patthiri, unnakaya and kozhi madakku. “We have been setting up these stalls here during Ramadan for the past six years. We bring hot snacks at around 3 pm, and almost everything gets over before Maghrib (evening prayer)”, says Ansar. “Most of the people who come for the prayer break their fast here at the mosque where they serve dates, lime juice, kanji (porridge), kappa, idiyappam and patthiri, and other things”, adds Mubashir.

Every evening, the mosque here feeds hundreds of people, Muslims and others. For Najeeba, who has been living in a hostel in the city for the past two years, Iftar at the mosque brings back fond memories of the Ramadan feasts back home in Wayanad. When asked about the regional differences in Ramadan special dishes, she responded, “The kanji served in this mosque is very different from what we make at home. Here they serve jeerakakanji (cumin-infused porridge), which is rarely prepared during Ramadan in North Kerala.”

Restaurants around the area also prepare exotic dishes during this season. The ‘Iftar kit’ is quite popular. This is one of the fastest selling items in the restaurants here and this kit packs cut fruits, thari kanji, juices, chicken curry, shawarma, snacks and chicken biriyani. A restaurant here has set up a separate counter exclusively to sell the Ramadan specials. In addition to a plethora of snacks and juices offered, this restaurant is also one of the very few places in the city to serve haleem, a celebrated

In Beemapally Mosque, people break their fast by eating dates along with juice and milk. “We also give fruit items which include grapes,apples, and bananas. In addition to fruits, we also serve vegetable and chicken samosas. After breaking the fast we go for prayers, then we have Iftar feast where we serve nombu kanji,” says Gulam Muhammad, Jamaat President, Beemapally Mosque.

Nonbu Kanji is a wildly popular Iftar food in Kerala. It is a lightly spiced rice and high-protein porridge. The reason behind the popularity of Nonbu kanji is that it is simple-yet-very healthy dish. The drink is easy on the stomach, aids digestion, prevents acid reflux and is excellent to ease into a heavy feast after a day of fasting,” says A Hazen, Jamaat secretary, Beemapally Mosque.

“We break the roza (fast) by eating fruits, small cakes and samosas. After the prayer we mostly have nonbu kanji. Some days there will be ghee rice, kappa (tapioca) and appam. During the 17th day and 27th day of Ramadan, the Iftar menu becomes even grander. There will be biriyani, ghee rice and chicken,” says Hussain, a native of Muttattara, who had come for prayers at Beemapally Mosque.