Srinagar, Dec 21: The Eid-ul-Zuha or Feast of the Sacrifice in Islam, which commemorates Prophet Ibrahim's willingness to kill his first born son Ismail for God, was celebrated with due solemnity and religious fervour across the Kashmir valley and Ladakh region today.
This year in Kashmir, Eid-ul-Azha or Bakra (Goat) Eid, as called in the sub-continent, coincided with the beginning of the coldest period of winter known as 'Chilai Kalan' in local parlance.
Eid-ul-Zuha is celebrated on the tenth day of Zul-Hijja, which is the last month of the lunar Islamic calendar, and also marks the end of the annual Haj pilgrimage.
The festival of sacrifice, also known as the Greater Eid, is the second most important festival in the Muslim calendar after Eid-ul-Fitr, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramzan.
Muslims in large numbers offered special Eid prayers in various mosques and shrines amid cold weather conditions. The main congregations in the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir were held at the historic Hazratbal shrine, housing the holy relic of the Prophet Mohammad, and also at the grand Jamia Mosque.
Reports of huge congregations have been received from all district headquarters, towns and villages of the Kashmir valley and the Ladakh division, including the Muslim-dominated Kargil area.
After the prayers, Muslims offered sacrifice of animals.
According to an estimate, thousands of animals, mostly sheep and goat, were sacrificed across the Kashmir valley on the occasion.
The sacrificed meat is then consumed and distributed among the relatives, friends and the poor.
Children, in colourful new dresses, exchanged gifts and visited their relatives and received Eidi (gifts mainly in cash) from their elders. Security forces were also seen greeting Muslims near their bunkers and on the roads.
In the Kashmir valley, Eid-ul-Zuha this year marked the beginning of the 70-day-long coldest period of winter, which has been divided into three 'Chilas'.
After 40 days of 'Chilai Kalan', which the locals describe as the worst part of winter in the Kashmir valley, 'Chilai Khurad' would mark its entry and stay for 20 days to be followed by 'Chilai Bacha' for ten days. The period would come to an end on March one.