Hundreds of thousands of Hindus and Muslims prayed in Hyderabad on Sunday, seeking rain and a respite from a killer heat wave that has claimed 884 lives. Approximately 100,000 Muslims offered special prayers for rain in Hyderabad on Sunday following a tradition set by the Prophet Mohammed, who is believed to have led similar prayers for rain more than 14 centuries ago.
In another part of the city, more than 5,000 Hindus gathered on the bed of a dried out lake, chanting sacred hymns and prayers from ancient Hindu texts for a reprieve from the blazing heat that has gripped the state.
At least 884 people have died in the past three weeks in the heat wave, D.C. Roshaiah, the state's chief relief official, said Sunday. Sunstroke and dehydration claimed 89 lives over the past 24 hours, he said.
Temperatures as high as 47 degrees Celsius (116 Fahrenheit) were accompanied by dry hot winds on Sunday. Roshaiah said no change in the weather was expected in the next few days.
Last year, a heat wave killed more than 1,000 people in the state, most of them elderly and unable to bear temperatures which reached up to 50 C (122 F).
Hundreds of people were being treated for dehydration and sunstroke, complaining of high fevers and vomiting, at hospitals in 20 of the 23 districts in the state, Roshaiah said. With an acute water shortage turning the state into a dry furnace, people of different beliefs were turning to prayer, religious leaders said.
"Water is a common need of everybody irrespective of religion and we should pray for everybody," said Mufti Ahmed, an official at Jamia Nizamai, Hyderabad's Islamic university.
"You pray from the depth of your heart and the heavens will open up," Abdullah Qureshi Al-Azhari told the crowd as he recited verses from the Muslim holy book, the Quran.
Two reservoirs which are the main source of Hyderabad's water supply have dried up.
Water from nearby towns is being supplied to the city's 5 million people on alternate days.