New Delhi: Thousands of Muslims thronged the 17th century Jama Masjid and other mosques in the capital on Eid-ul-Zuha on Monday, celebrating the festival with special prayers and the spirit of sacrifice.

Chants of "Allah ho Akbar" resonated in the narrow lanes of Delhi's old quarters from the loudspeakers of the Jama Masjid, one of the main centres for Eid festivities.

"The Jama Masjid was packed, thousands today (Monday) morning attended the namaz at 8.30 am The namaz is usually conducted after one hour 15 minutes of sun rise," Syed Ahmad Bhukari, Shahi Imam of the Jama Masjid, said.

Several other mosques like Fatepuri Masjid and Idgah Masjid in the national capital were also crowded as people offered prayers.

Eid-ul-Zuha is also known as Eid-e-Qurban or Bakr-Eid because of the spirit of sacrifice it entails. On this day, Muslims offer goats and sheep as sacrifice.

"The festival underlines the truth that sacrifice brings man and god close to each other. It is not about the sacrifice of goat or sheep, but a reminder of one's submission to god and the feeling of sacrifice and obedience attached to it," Mukarram Ahmed, a resident of Jamia Nagar in south Delhi said.

People hugged friends and relatives while exchanging greetings after the morning prayer. After prayers, the devotees sacrificed goats and other animals and shared the meat with their relatives, friends and the poor.

"In today's (Monday) sermon, the Imam gave an explanation for the celebration of Bakr-Eid. The celebration is to commemorate Prophet Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son Ismail as an act of obedience to god. Meanwhile Allah intervened to replace Ismail with a sheep," said 12-year-old Shaukat Ali, a resident of old Delhi.

The livestock markets in Delhi sold some of the popular breeds of goats like Mewati, Barbari, Desi and Totapuri which arrived from neighbouring sates like Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh and were mostly priced between Rs 5,000 and Rs 10,000.

"The meat was cooked for various lip-smacking dishes like biryani, kaleji and korma. We prepared sweets and desserts like sewaiyaan, phirni and kheer," said Nadia Shanaz, a homemaker.

Markets wore a festive look. Elaborate traffic and security arrangements were put in place for the festival.

India has the third highest Muslim population in the world after Indonesia and Pakistan.

(Agencies)