Bhopal Ijtima or Alami Tablighi Ijtima, held every year for three days at Bhopal is one of the world’s largest religious congregations. The event concluded on Monday the 20th November with offering prayers by more than 12 lakh Muslims. Previously this event used to be held at Taj-Ul-Masjid in Bhopal, but has been shifted out of city five years back, to a place called Ghasipura near Bhopal.
Almost every Bhopali of my generation remembers the fair that came to be associated with this Ijtima. The foreign delegates used to bring clothes which were sold in this fair at very attractive prize. Those were the days of pre-liberalization, pre-television. These clothes were probably discards of these foreign delegates. There are many rumors which claim that people who bought these clothes found foreign currency in the pockets! The hype and hoopla surrounding these clothes was such that most part of the city did not even know that the fair was actually just a by-product of a much bigger event, the actual Ijtima, which is reported to be the second biggest non-political gathering of Muslims after the Hajj!
Many Bhopalis used to avoid buying anything new during these days, for the fear of being labeled as bought from Ijtima. The taunt went “Kyun Ijtima se liya”? Many went to the extent of hiding the things purchased from Ijtima till well after the event was over. The charm and nostalgia associated with Ijtima started dwindling with free availability of high quality clothing and advent of television. The death blow was shifting the Ijtima site out of Bhopal, obviously for administrative reasons.