India and Saudi Arabia Sign Bilateral Haj Agreement 2024 | 11 Jan 2024

Source: PIB

Why in News?

The Indian government has recently signed a Bilateral Haj Agreement for the year 2024 with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), marking a significant development in the facilitation of the annual Haj pilgrimage.

  • The agreement sets a total quota of 1,75,025 pilgrims from India for Haj 2024, with 1,40,020 seats reserved for the Haj Committee of India and 35,005 for Haj Group Operators.
  • The agreement also appreciates and supports the initiative of the Indian government to encourage the participation of women pilgrims without a Mehram(Male Companion).

What are the Key Highlights of the Haj Pilgrimage?

  • The Hajj is a sacred pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia that every adult Muslim must make at least once in their lifetime. It is one of the five pillars of Islam.
    • The Other Pillars of Islam:
      • Shahada (Faith): The declaration of faith in the oneness of God and the acceptance of Muhammad as God's prophet.
      • Salah (Prayer): Performing the five daily prayers facing the Kaaba in Mecca.
      • Zakat (Charity): Giving a portion of one's wealth to those in need.
      • Sawm (Fasting): Fasting during the month of Ramadan.
  • It takes place during Dhu'al-Hijjah, the final month of the Islamic calendar, and is performed over five to six days.
  • The pilgrims wear simple white garments (Ihram) to symbolize equality and purity.
  • The pilgrims circle the Kaaba, a black cubic structure at the Grand Mosque, seven times in a counter-clockwise direction, and kiss or touch the Black Stone on its corner.
    • This ritual is called Tawaf, which means "going round and round" in Arabic.

Haj pilgrimage for the Indian Pilgrims

  • Haj pilgrimage for the Indian Pilgrims is conducted either through Haj Committee of India (HCoI), which is a statutory organization under the administrative control of Ministry of Minority Affairs or through the Haj Group Organisers (HGOs) duly approved by Ministry.
    • The Ministry of Minority Affairs is the nodal ministry to conduct Haj pilgrimage in India.
  • The Haj Committee of India (HCI) was established in 2002 under the Haj Committee Act, 2002.
    • All aspects of the arrangements for the HCI pilgrims in Saudi Arabia are coordinated by the Consulate General of India (CGI), Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.