Festivals and fairs inject life and vigour in the lives of the people living anywhere in the world. Be it tomato throwing or racing in front of fuming bull, despite the danger the show goes on with lots of fun and laughter. Likewise, people in Pakistan have their own way of sharing love and joy.
Islamic Religious Festivals
Eid ul Fitr and Eid ul Azha are the two major religious festivities celebrated throughout the country among its Muslim populace.
Thankfulness is one of the four qualities of a Muslim, others being truthfulness, modesty and good behaviour. Eid ul Fitr is the day of rejoicing and thanksgiving to Allah for giving the strength to the believers to fast for 29-30 days during the holy month of Ramadan. The day is celebrated at the end of the Ramadan on the first of Shawal (the 10th month of Islamic calendar). In the evening of 29th Ramadan, all men and women alike flock on the rooftops to witness the new moon. No sooner it is sited, a euphoria sets in and everyone rushes to market places to make the last day shopping. Girls flock the stalls to get their hands beautiful decorated with “henna”. On Eid day, women folk prepare delicious sweet dishes to celebrate the beginning of the day. Before going for the exclusive morning prayers, each head of the family is to give “fitrana” (alms) equal to 2 1/2 kilo of wheat in respect of each member of his family to the poor and needy so that they could also share the joy and happiness of the day. After the prayers children gather around the head of the family to receive “Eidi” – a sum of money as per the status and financial position of the head – a ritual in which everyone shares. A lot of fairs are organized for children while the elders call on to the relatives. More than men, women and children (specially girls) enjoy the festivities of the day by wearing colourful specially made-for-the-occasion clothes.
Eid ul Azha is celebrated on 10th day of the Zil Hajj (the 12th Islamic month). This day is celebrated in the memory of the sacrifice made by the prophet Abraham (Abraham) wherein he offered the life of his son Prophet Ismail to fulfill the decree of the Allah. On this day, all people who can afford sacrifice a sheep or a goat in the name of Allah as was done by prophet Abraham. Here too the poor are not forgotten. The meat of the sacrificed goat/sheep/lamb is divided into three parts; one for distribution among the poor, second for the relatives and third for self and own family.
In addition to the two Eids, the 12th of Rabi-al-Awwal (3rd month of Islamic calendar) is celebrated as the birthday of the prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon Him) with religious zeal and fervour. The roads, shops and other buildings are skillfully decorated with buntings and lights to express love and devotion to the Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon Him). Special conferences are held to project the peacefulness of the religion of Islam and the way the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) desired it to be followed. How sad it is that a faction of Muslim hardliners have given a new and ugly dimension to this peaceful religion by terrorizing the world. This certainly isn’t the Islam Allah and His Prophet wanted. Islam continues to be a religion of peaceful co-existence despite what some radicals are trying to portray it otherwise.
Non Muslim Religious Festivals
The Christian community celebrates Christmas, Easter and other religious festivals as are celebrated all over the world. Although the Christmas day coincides with the birthday celebrations of the father of the nation, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, on 25th December, Muslims also visit homes of Christian friends to celebrate Christmas with them. The other minorities like Hindus, Sikhs and Parsis also celebrate their religious days with equal enthusiasm. In fact the largest community that comes from all over the world to Pakistan are the Sikhs who flock their religious sites in thousands, specially the Baba Guru Nanak birthday celebrations, in November each year.
Spring always brings happiness and adds hues to life as flowers blossom and birds sing and chirp happily. Lahore, the city of gardens covers itself with multicolour flowers and it is then that the festivities of Spring Festival, locally known as the “Jashan-e-Baharan” get into their full swing. Likewise all over the country, the spring is welcomed with dance of men and trained animals and music. Some of the festivals worth mentioning are:
Basant The Basant or the Festival of Kite Flying is celebrated with much fanfare and pomp and show in mid February every year in Lahore. The kite flying is a favourite pastime of Lahorites who start preparing for the festivals much in advance. The main venue for kite flying is the old Lahore, where from dawn to next dawn (including night) flyers along with their families and friends flock on the roof tops and organize competitions.
The kite flying even continues during night in the flood lights and the whole old Lahore is lit up in a scene to be witnessed and not described.
When one cuts the cord of the other’s kite, drums are beaten and trumpets are blown. And the winner along with his friends and families dance. Sizzling traditional foods are served and everyone makes merry. Men wear yellow scarves while the ladies put on Gajras (traditional bangles made of flowers). Yellow is indeed the main colour in this event as it depicts the blossoming spring flowers in the fields of Punjab.
Not to mention that over the years, the Basant Festival has somewhat become synonymous to Lahore and now coincides with the annual Horse and Cattle Show which had been forgotten for some reasons in the past. More Pictures of Basant
Horse and Cattle Show This is held each year in March to celebrate the incoming spring, when there still some chill left in the air. The first Horse and Cattle Show was held in 1954 and since then the show has progressed gradually. It is held at the Fortress Stadium, in Lahore Cantonment. Basically a military fanfare, which by and by has included more of rural people who bring their well fed and high quality breed horses, cattle and other animals. Cattle races & dances, tent-pegging, folk music, dances, bands, cultural floats and folk games add colour to the festival. In the evening a special tattoo show is held by the Army which creates an atmosphere of is own with hundreds of torches lit in darkness and performed skilfully in many arrangements.
Silk Route Festival When the other provinces are enjoying their festivities, the Silk Route Festival on the Roof of the world attracts visitors from many a adjoining countries including Xingjian Province of China and Central Asia flock together in the highest mountains of the world amid some breathtaking spectacles of scenic beauty, wildlife and nature and awe-inspiring snow peaks. The festival included folklore, arts, crafts and display of cultural heritage.
Sibi Mela When people in the north tuck themselves under blankets all over the country, Sibi – which lies 163 kilometres to the south east of Quetta at the mouth of the famous â€œBolan Passâ€ almost sizzles. But this does not debar the Sibians to add colour to their lives and enjoy despite the weather odds. The traditional Sibi Mela traces its roots from the 15th century, when this town was the meeting place of all tribal chiefs of the area. The British carried on this tradition in the shape of an annual â€œDarbarâ€ or meeting, combining it with a â€˜Melaâ€ (fair) where thousands of Baluchi tribesmen gathered along with their animals in mid February. Even people from Sind and Punjab also participate with their animals.
Like the Horse and Cattle show in Lahore, horse and cattle and cultural shows, tent pegging, camel races, animal markets and exhibitions of handicrafts, tribal dresses and folk dances are the hallmark of Sibi Mela.
Sindh Horse & Cattle Show at Jacobabad and Jashan-e-Larkana are similar to Sibi Mela and are held in last week of February. Traditional sports, exhibition of handicrafts, folk music and dances are displayed. Likewise Jashan-e-Shikarpur in first week of April also includes cultural activities, local sports and handicrafts exhibition.
The Mela Cheraghan (the Festival of Candles) is a unique festival of Lahore. It is celebrated every year on the last Sunday of March near the historic Mughal era Shalamar Gardens. The celebration is in honour of Hazrat Madho La Hussain, a mystic folk poet. The great Mughal emperor Jalaluddin Akbar (1558 1605) was one of his devotees. The saint died in the 17th century; and a mausoleum over his grave was built by the Mughal emperor Jahangir. Madho Lal Hussain’ Mausoleum is fabulously illuminated on his death anniversary .
Shandur Polo Festival, a traditional polo tournament between the teams of Chitral and Gilgit is held every year at the Shandur Pass (Chitral district) – the highest polo ground of the world. Once the festival commences, it has lot many added attractions, like fold music, folk dances and other competitions, for the visitors and tourists who come to this rather difficult area from all over the world. A tent village along Shandur Lake is set up in cooperation with the local administration.