The holy month of fasting or Ramadan will begin in a majority of the states in India on Tuesday, although Muslims in southern state of Kerala began Ramadan (also referred to as Ramzan) fasting on Monday.
Ramadan is also observed in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, United States, Kuwait, Jordan, Singapore and Egypt among many other countries. Muslims in India, Pakistan and Iran would observe their fast for the holy month from Tuesday.
Each country has its separate moon-sighting committee, which declares the beginning of holy month after sighting the crescent. The 30-day intense dawn to dusk fasting, which is mandatory for all adult healthy Muslims, is followed by two days of Eid-ul-Fitr celebrations. Only children and adults who are sick, pregnant and menstruating women are exempt from the fast.
Muslims spend the days fasting and offering mandatory prayers, whereas post the fast break (also called Iftaar), special Ramadan prayers or Taraweeh are held seeking forgiveness and mercy from God.
The tradition goes back 1400 years, when Prophet Muhammad observed the month of fasting. He used to breakfast with dates and a sip of water, a practice still followed by a majority of the Muslims worldwide.
The Indian markets, especially food joints, are a visual treat during Ramadan and offer special delicacies.
Meanwhile U.S President Barrack Obama, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi among other world leaders conveyed Ramadan greetings to Muslims worldwide.
Obama assured American Muslims of their safety while greeting them on the beginning of the auspicious month.
"As Muslim Americans celebrate the holy month, I am reminded that we are one American family. I stand firmly with Muslim American communities in rejection of the voices that seek to divide us or limit our religious freedoms or civil rights," Obama said in a statement on Sunday, the Press Trust of India reported.
Obama further said that in this month of reflection, one should remember the millions of lives that have been displaced by conflict and struggle, across the world and in the U.S.
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is currently on a five-nation tour also offered greetings to 1.7 billion Muslims worldwide.
"My warmest greetings to the people of Afghanistan and all Muslims across the world for the holy month of Ramadan," Modi said in Afghanistan on Saturday, the Indo-Asian News Service reported.