Press Trust of India

Ramzan ‘seharkhwaans’ keep alive centuries-old tradition in digital age

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Srinagar: Hundreds of men of all ages from remote areas in Kashmir have taken up the role of drum beaters to wake up Muslims for their predawn ‘sehri’ before they start their day-long Ramzan fast.

Known as ‘seharkhwaans’, these men take up the job for several reasons — poverty being the most common.

A night in the life of a seharkhwaan involves getting up at 2.30 am and waking people by beating drums from 3.00 am to 4.30 am.

“The women wake up a little earlier than the men to cook or warm the food. So there has to be ample time between waking up and the end of the sehri, which is usually around 5.20 am,” Abdul Rehman Khatana, a veteran seharkhwaan in the city’s Barbarshah area, told PTI.

Rafiq Ahmad Khan, who hails from Uri in Baramulla district, works as a construction labourer for the rest of the year but prefers to beat the drums as a seharkhwaan during Ramzan.

“I have been doing this work for seven years. There are no wages as such but people are very generous, especially during Ramzan. I earn more during this month than the rest of the year,” Khan said.

Working as a seharkhwaan in the posh Hyderpora area, Khan said the work allows him to observe the fasts as well.

“It is tough to work as a construction labourer while fasting. As a seharkhwaan, I can fast as well, “he added.

Zahooruddin Shah, a resident of Kupwara, comes to Srinagar every year during Ramzan to work as a seharkhwaan.

“I get good money for it. The best part is that I don’t cook sehri for myself as the residents provide free food to me,” he said.

Seventy-year-old Ghulam Rasool Payar, who has been a drum beater for five decades, said, “Everyone needs money to live but I am not doing this for money. I do it for the hereafter.”

The advent of mobile phones and alarm clocks had initially diminished the seharkhwaans’ relevance.

“One can turn off the alarm clock or switch off the phone as giving up the night’s sleep is not easy. However, the seharkhwaan does not give you that option. He beats the drum long enough that you cannot go back to sleep,” said 61-year-old Manzoor Ahmad Dar, a resident of Gulberg Colony.

The tradition of Ramzan drum beaters is several centuries old and is still practised in several countries such as India, Pakistan, Turkey, Morocco and the Palestinian Territory.

Press Trust of India

Press Trust of India is lead news agency of India

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