Srinagar, July 21 (IANS) The holy month of Ramadan began Saturday with thousands of Muslims across Jammu and Kashmir thronging mosques to offer early morning prayers.
Shoppers busied themselves since morning to buy dates, a favourite fruit to break the daylong fast.
"Some of the better quality Saudi dates are exorbitantly priced. A packet containing around two dozen high-quality dates costs anything between Rs.400-700," said Imran Manzoor, a resident of Srinagar.
During the 30 days of fasting - which began here with the sighting of the crescent moon Friday - devout Muslims do not eat or drink during the day, as it has to be done between dusk and dawn.
The breaking of the daylong fast is known as 'Iftaar' and the pre-dawn meal before starting the fast is known as 'Sehri'.
Although the period of daily fasting lasts more than 12 hours, Kashmiris probably eat more during Ramadan than they do during other months of the year, say experts.
"Every household consumes mutton, chicken, fruit and the usual rice and vegetables during Ramadan.
"Special dishes like pherni and halwa are prepared for Iftaar. With an increase in average income, many Kashmiris consume more fat and protein during the holy month than they do during other months," said Nisar Ahmad, a doctor here.
Ahmad added that unless diet is properly controlled during Ramadan, one might end up gaining weight at the end of the month.
"You have to balance your calories. The medical advantages of Ramadan are many, but the same must be observed with self-control and discipline," Ahmad said.
He, however, warned people suffering from diabetes to avoid fasting.
"A diabetic must not fast and the same is not ordered by the 'Quran'. Fasting could be fatal for diabetics," the doctor said.
Hotels and restaurants were closed in Srinagar Saturday except those catering to the tourists presently visiting the Valley.
"Most locals prefer to eat with their families during Ramadan, which is why very few locals visit hotels and restaurants during the holy month," said Abdul Hamid, manager of a hotel in the city.