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- The commencement of the Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, with millions of Muslims participating from around the world.
- The Hajj pilgrimage, one of the largest religious gatherings in the world, began in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, with millions of Muslims participating.
- Saudi Arabia faces significant logistical challenges in housing, feeding, and ensuring safe pilgrimages for the immense number of pilgrims from around the world.
- Quotas are allotted to countries to determine the number of pilgrims they can send, based on their Muslim population.
Allotment of Hajj Quotas
- Quotas are broadly allotted based on the number of Muslims in each country, following the agreement made at the 1987 Organization of the Islamic Conference.
- The general rule is one pilgrim per every 1,000 Muslims in Muslim-majority countries.
- Countries often lobby Saudi Arabia for more slots, leading to diplomatic negotiations.
Distribution of Hajj Slots in India
- India signed the Haj 2023 bilateral agreement with Saudi Arabia, allowing for a record-high number of Indian Hajj pilgrims.
- The Indian consulate in Jeddah announced that 175,025 Indian pilgrims would be able to perform Hajj, the highest number in history.
- The distribution of slots in India is traditionally managed by the Ministry of Minority Affairs and the Haj Committee of India (HCoI).
- The HCoI receives 70% of India's total quota, while the remaining 30% goes to private operators.
- Private operators have the freedom to charge their own fees and accommodate pilgrims who pay.
- The majority of pilgrims typically go through the HCoI, which organizes a subsidized tour on behalf of the government, although the subsidy is being phased out.
- The Government discretionary quota, which used to hold 500 slots, was abolished in January, and those seats were added back to the general pool.
- To determine who gets to go on Hajj when the number of applicants exceeds available slots, a draw of lots is conducted in each state.
About Hajj Pilgrimage
The Hajj pilgrimage is a significant religious event in Islam, and Saudi Arabia plays a central role in hosting and organizing this annual pilgrimage. The following points provide an overview of the Hajj pilgrimage and Saudi Arabia's involvement.
Significance of Hajj
- Hajj is considered one of the Five Pillars of Islam, making it obligatory for all financially and physically capable Muslims to perform it at least once in their lifetime.
- It is a profound spiritual journey aimed at seeking forgiveness, purification, and spiritual renewal, as well as a demonstration of unity and equality among Muslims worldwide.
Duration and Timing
- The Hajj pilgrimage takes place over several days during the 12th month of the Islamic lunar calendar, known as Dhu al-Hijjah.
- It consists of specific rituals and activities performed at various holy sites in and around Mecca, the holiest city in Islam.
Hosting the Hajj
- Saudi Arabia is the host country for the Hajj pilgrimage, as it is home to Mecca and Medina, the two holiest cities in Islam.
- The Saudi government takes on the responsibility of organizing and managing the logistics of the pilgrimage to ensure the safety, comfort, and well-being of millions of pilgrims.
Infrastructure and Accommodation
- Saudi Arabia has made significant investments in developing infrastructure to cater to the needs of pilgrims during the Hajj season.
- This includes constructing and maintaining vast pilgrimage sites, such as the Masjid al-Haram (Grand Mosque) in Mecca and the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, as well as providing accommodation facilities, transportation, and medical services.
Hajj Quotas and Regulations
- Due to the enormous number of pilgrims, Saudi Arabia imposes quotas on the number of pilgrims each country can send, based on their Muslim population.
- The Saudi government collaborates with other nations to ensure the smooth facilitation of pilgrims' travel, entry, and stay during the pilgrimage.
Security and Safety Measures
- Saudi Arabia takes extensive security measures to ensure the safety and well-being of pilgrims during the Hajj pilgrimage.
- These measures include crowd control, emergency medical services, and continuous monitoring to prevent accidents or any potential threats.
Economic and Social Impact
- The Hajj pilgrimage contributes significantly to Saudi Arabia's economy, as it brings in millions of visitors annually, generating revenue from tourism, accommodation, transportation, and other related services.
- It also serves as a platform for Muslims from diverse backgrounds to come together, fostering cultural exchange, understanding, and strengthening the bonds of the global Muslim community.
About Saudi Arabia
- Saudi Arabia is situated on the Arabian Peninsula, bordering the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf (Persian Gulf).
- It shares land borders with several countries, including Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Yemen.
Topography and Climate
- The country's terrain is diverse, encompassing deserts, plateaus, mountains, and coastal areas.
- The climate is predominantly arid, with hot summers and mild winters, though temperature variations can occur due to regional variations.
Population and Demographics
- Saudi Arabia has a population of approximately 35 million people, with a majority of Saudi nationals and a significant expatriate community.
- The society is predominantly Muslim, and Islam plays a central role in shaping the country's culture, customs, and way of life.
- Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam and holds deep religious significance for Muslims worldwide due to the presence of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.
- The country's cultural heritage is strongly rooted in Islamic traditions, which influence various aspects of daily life, including language, dress, cuisine, and social norms.
Oil and Petroleum Industry
- Saudi Arabia is one of the world's largest oil producers and holds significant reserves of petroleum.
- The oil sector plays a crucial role in the country's economy, accounting for a significant portion of government revenue and export earnings.
- In recent years, Saudi Arabia has embarked on an economic diversification program known as Vision 2030, aiming to reduce dependency on oil and promote sectors such as tourism, entertainment, technology, and renewable energy.
- Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy, with the King serving as the head of state and the highest authority in the country.
- The government operates based on Islamic law (Sharia) and the country's constitution, the Basic Law of Governance.
- The country is divided into 13 administrative regions, each headed by a governor appointed by the King.
- The Consultative Assembly, known as the Shura Council, serves as an advisory body to the King and participates in policy discussions and decision-making.
- Saudi Arabia holds strategic significance in regional and international politics, maintaining diplomatic relations with various countries and actively engaging in regional initiatives and organizations.
Q) Discuss the key dimensions and evolving nature of the India-Saudi Arabia relationship. (150 words)