Dubai, Dec 18: Over two million pilgrims including nearly 1.5 lakh Indian devotees, gathered today at the plains of Arafat east of Makkah marking the climax of Haj pilgrimage.
Men dressed in seamless white camped near Mount Arafat where the Prophet Mohammed gave his sermons in the year 632, the year of his death. It was a dream come true for the pilgrims as Haj is a pilgrimage every Muslim is required to perform once in a lifetime, finances and health permitting. Pilgrims were also housed at Mina as the authorities decided to spread out the devotees to avoid overcrowding at any one place at Haj, the largest annual international religious gathering in the world. They also performed the ritual of walking seven times around Kaaba in holy Makkah in whose direction the Muslims the over world offer daily prayers.
This year the annual quota of Indian Haj pilgrims has gone up to touch 157,000. Of this more than 105,000 pilgrims come through the Haj Committee of India while others come through private operators.
The Indian missions at Makkah and Riyadh have made extensive arrangements to look after the Indians. The Indian Haj delegation is on a visit to the kingdom led by Congress leader A R Antulay and includes among others Justice Allah-e-Rahim of the Allahabad High Court; Haroon Yusuf, minister of transport, government of Delhi; Mehbooba Mufti, MP, Lok Sabha; Professor K M Kader Mohideen, MP, Lok Sabha; Azeez Pasha, MP.