The first batch of 340 pilgrims left from Telangana for Saudi Arabia on Sunday to perform the Haj pilgrimage. The Air India flight carrying the pilgrims, clad in “Ihram" or special white clothing for Haj and amid chanting of prayers, took off from the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport here. Deputy Chief Minister Mohammed Mehmood Ali and Haj Committee of India chairman Choudhary Mehboob Ali Kaiser flagged off the first flight for Jeddah.
Earlier, Ali also flagged off the buses carrying the pilgrims from Haj House to the airport. The pilgrims, including 146 from Hyderabad, boarded the buses after completing customs, luggage and immigration formalities at Haj House. Emotional scenes were witnessed as relatives and well-wishers bid adieu to the pilgrims with requests to pray for them at the holy places.
Hyderabad is the embarkation point for Haj pilgrims from three states. Air India will operate daily two flights from August 22 to August 27 and one flight on August 28 to carry a total of 5,000 pilgrims from Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and four districts of Karnataka.
Seven flights were arranged for the pilgrims leaving from Telangana, four for Andhra Pradesh and one flight for Karnataka. The other three flights would have pilgrims from all three states. Haj House is serving as the transit and boarding point for the pilgrims. The authorities have made boarding and lodging arrangements for the pilgrims. All arrangements have been made under one roof for safe departure of pilgrims.
All the flights from Hyderabad will leave for Jeddah and on the return journey they will take off from Madinah. The pilgrims are scheduled to return from Madinah between October 4 and October 8. Over 1.56 lakh Indians will perform Haj pilgrimage this year. According to the central Haj committee, 36,000 pilgrims will be going through private operators.