Bhopal, Oct 25: India's biggest Muslim congregation 'Ijtima' began on Saturday, Oct 25 with the 'Fajr' Namaz. Claiming to be one of Asia's biggest such gathering being organised for the last 61 years, Muslim faithfuls from different countries have converged here for the three-day event, which will draw a total of eight lakh devotees on the final day.
Devotees from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Philippines, South Africa, United Kingdom, Burma, Malaysia, Indonesia and Iran, besides all over India have been arriving at the congregation venue Intkhedi 11 km from the state capital, according to Ijtima Committee member Arif Gauhar, adding devotees from Iraq and Sri Lanka did not turn up this year.
Pointing out that people from neighbouring Pakistan did not arrive here as their government did not permit them, he said, adding they also organise Ijtima around the same time in their country.
''A total of 1.5 lakh people had already arrived and their number would increase to 2.5 to 3 lakh tomorrow, when about 400 couples would take the vow in a mass marriage ceremony. The number of devotees would swell to 8 lakh on the third day when special prayers for world peace would be offered'', Mr Gauhar said.
About 500 pilgrims from abroad had already arrived with the biggest 'jamat'of 40 from Russia ''Ijtima means gathering and it is observed to teach people to tread on the path of Allah,'' he added.
Notwithstanding the water crisis in the state capital due to scanty rains, about 22 lakh litre was being provided at the congregation venue daily. Huge tents have been erected for the stay of the pilgrims, who were also being assisted by several local volunteers.
Tight security arrangements with the deployment of 800 policemen and 25 senior officers have been made for the event.