Bangladesh Slideshow

18 August, 2008

The Night when Fates are Decided

Shab-E-Barat was celebrated in Bangladesh this weekend. It is perhaps the most auspicious night of the year for Muslims who believe that the fate of all living creatures for the coming year is decided on this night. The festival is celebrated either on the 13th or on the 14th day of Shaban, the eighth month of the Muslim year. This day also heralds the coming of Ramadan. Shab-E-Barat means the Night of Forgiveness. Muslims fast during the day, and offer prayers throughout the night, hold milads (religious programs) and visit the graves of family and friends to pray for peace for the departed souls. The night of Shab-E-Barat also commemorates the entry of Prophet Muhammad into the city of Mecca.

It is also the occasion for us to share sweets with family, friends and neighbours. We also make sure that the poor don’t miss out. Frenzied activities in the kitchen, making halwa and roti for distribution, are a common enough scene. The streets are thronged with the less fortunate, going from house to house for a share of the treats.

Children celebrate by lighting firecrackers and candles. Although the use of firecrackers is officially banned now, some manage to find their way into young hands, and it is not uncommon to be so startled in the middle of one’s prayers by a sudden ‘boom’ that one forgets up to which point one had recited the surah, and has to begin all over again. Frustrating. But when one imagines the rascals breaking up in glee, one cannot but forgive.

This year the day fell on a Saturday, and the blogging girl took full advantage of the weekend to go all out with her Shab-E-Barat cookout. She planned, consulted cookbooks and her mother, and decided on a very ambitious menu. She planned to make five kinds of halwa, a firni and vermicelli. She bought little bamboo trays from Aarong, to add a unique touch to her distribution. The compulsive list-maker that she is, she made lists of grocery items, and also a task list of when to do what. Yes, she is rather compulsive.

Three trips were made to the grocery store - she couldn’t carry all her shopping in one go, you see. Friday and Saturday she spent in the kitchen, cooking up a storm!

She also made a quick trip to Ananda to buy their special raisin bread. It looked great and tasted yummy!

Saturday afternoon saw her dining table laden with mouth-watering goodies.

There was Firni. Semolina Halwa. Paper thin roti.

Egg Halwa garnished with silver tabak. Coconut Barfi. Daal Halwa.

There was Carrot Halwa. The pistachio garnish lent it more color and it looked oh so pretty!

And vermicelli with raisins and almond.

Candy was ecstatic. She loved sweets, and never had she seen such an array. But she was only allowed a tiny taste of each.

So she sulked.

The items were arranged on the bamboo trays and wrapped in cellophane. They looked very nice and were much appreciated by all those (well, only a lucky few actually) who received them.

Sweets and bread were also distributed to the less fortunate. At the end of the day, the blogging girl retired tired but content. She said heartfelt prayers to Allah for all His blessings.

I end this post with verses from the Holy Qur'an. The seven verses of Surah Al Fatiha are a prayer for Allah's guidance and stress the lordship and mercy of Allah.

Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Universe.
The Most Gracious. The Most Merciful.
Master of the Day of Judgment.
You alone we worship, and You alone we ask for help.
Guide us to the straight path.
The path of those whom You have favored.
Not of those who have deserved Your anger, nor of those who stray.


Anonymous said...

nice to know about the festival ... n the sweets were sooo tempting !!!

Rosemary Armao said...

You have my mouth watering back in the states. This is a great account! Cheers. Rosemary

Tuttie said...

I am confused, I thought our fates were decided before we were even born. The sweets do look yummy though