| Pilgrims outside Haj Bhavan in Patna on Monday. Picture by Ashok Sinha |
Hardinge Road in front of the Haj Bhavan has suddenly become a shopping hub with at least 30 shops doing brisk business this pilgrims’ season.
The makeshift shops, which have come up for the first time, are selling necessary items a Haj pilgrim needs before embarking on the journey to Medina. “We are providing important and necessary items to the pilgrims. This is for the first time that we have set up shops outside the Haj Bhavan,” Abdul Rehman, a shop owner, said.
About the items available, he said: “The pilgrims purchase products like ahram (soft towel compulsory for men to wear before conducting Haj), hijab for women, towels, airbags, passport bags, rosary beads, mats and slippers. Apart from these, even smaller items are available at these shops. While we are doing a good business, it is convenient even for the pilgrims, as they do not need to visit different places to get these items.”
Customers agreed. “Earlier, I had to visit many shops to collect the items necessary for Haj. It is extremely troublesome and time consuming. But when I reached this place with my travel documents, I found that everything is available under one roof from ahram to airbags,” Shoaib Alam, a Bhagalpur resident, who will fly to Mecca on September 26, said.
At least 400 people visit Haj Bhavan everyday as all pilgrims from the state have to report here first before proceeding to Gaya for the direct flight to Medina. As Hardinge Road is hardly a busy one, traffic is sparingly held up on the stretch.