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Pakistan's Festivals - Celebrating our Celebrations!

By Vanya Naqvi


Pakistan is home to a huge variety of communities, and a rich culture spanning through decades of historical development. While the country celebrates many cultural festivals, there are also many religious festivals observed! This week, we have rounded up the most significant Pakistani festivals for you all to enjoy.


14th of August

This is a significant date as it’s the day of the annual celebration of Pakistan’s independence. Pakistan’s independence day was originally decreed to be the 15th of August and remained that way for its early days as a nation. However in 1948, a year after it was founded, Pakistan advanced its Independence Day to the 14th of August. The national holiday is celebrated around the country by holding parades, air shows, fireworks, etc. Many people decorate their homes by stringing up green and white buntings on their doors and balconies, hanging flags from windows, and putting up fairy lights as a way of celebration. Government buildings, supermarkets, and restaurants also honour this day by arranging festive displays and playing the national anthem!



Image via VOA

Eid Milad un Nabi

Every year on the 12th of Rabi ul Awal Pakistan’s bustling bazaars, houses, mosques, buildings, and streets are tastefully decorated and glisten with lights. On this day, we all come warmly together to celebrate the auspicious birth of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). An official 31-gun salute in Islamabad, the federal capital of Pakistan, marks the start of this holy day. Above the hum of naats (poetry written in praise of the Prophet (PBUH)) and spiritual chants, the national flag alongside a green flag, which is symbolic to Islam, is hoisted up on all major mosques and buildings. It is a public holiday on the 12th of Rabi ul Awal in Pakistan so milaads (gatherings) are organized for the general public. During a milaad, light is shed on the life of the Prophet to understand his virtues, teachings, and philosophies. On this day people take the opportunity to donate, typically, to orphanages, asylums, and other charities. As early as eight in the morning, competitions are held where people recite naats and win recognition as well as prizes.


Diwali

Diwali, Deepawali, or festival of lights is celebrated every year in October or November by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists. Pakistanis who celebrate Diwali, light firecrackers during the celebrations at Lahore’s Krishna Mandir. While children wear new clothes and clutch their bags of sweets and gifts close, they visit temples and use this as a time of worship and reflection.

In Pakistan, Hindus are the largest religious minority with approximately five million in Karachi. As marigold and mango leaves are hung at the flower markets, Christians and Muslims are also invited to join in with the preparation for Diwali. Bhajans are sung with joy and devotion. Serenity, peace, and contentment are derived from sharing music while the people bond with each other and their religious identity. Chiraghs (oil lamps) are lit to honor and celebrate the return of Rama to his people after the fourteenth day of exile, during which he fought and defeated demons and the demon king (Ravana).





Baisakhi

Even when the tension between India and Pakistan is still heated, hundreds of Indian Sikhs come to northern Pakistan to visit one of their religions' holiest shrines. Men and women, dressed in colourful clothes, crowd the entrance of the gurdwara (shrine) to witness the reading of the last passages of the Guru Granth Sahib, Sikhism’s holy book. Baisakhi is celebrated every year but the 2020 celebrations were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. On November 9th, 2019 Imran Khan advocated the opening of a corridor that will link Pakistan’s Darbar Sahib shrine to India’s Dera Baba Nanak shrine. This was to allow the visa-free movement of Indian Sikhs, who had to apply for a permit in order to visit Darbar Sahib in the past. “Pakistan is all set to open its doors for Sikhs from all across the globe.” Imran Khan said in a Facebook post, clarifying that the corridor will be open before the 550th birth anniversary of the Sikh faith founder Guru Nanak Dev next on November 12. He also went on to say that “This will become a major religious hub for the Sikh community, and will boost the local economy.”


Basant

Basant is an annual kite-flying event celebrated mainly in the Punjabi region of Lahore, Pakistan when the skies are lit up with hundreds of colourful kites. This festival is held during the early days of Spring and indicates the start of a new season. Unfortunately, Basant has declined in recent years due to a blanket ban imposed on the manufacture, trade, or even flying of kites in Pakistan by the Supreme Court in 2005.

Before the ban, Basant was a major source of income for households and is still remembered for the great food, folk art, and musical performances.

The word ‘Basant’ is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Vasanta’ which refers to the Indian spring.

Although this festival was celebrated in Pakistan, a majority Muslim nation, Basant is actually of Hindu origin and is still celebrated in India as Basant Panchami. This is a very similar celebration that heralds the start of Spring and the end of Winter but is also dedicated to the Hindu goddess of water and rivers, Saraswati.


Quaid E Azam Day + Christmas

This holiday is celebrated annually on December 25th. It commemorates the birthday of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who was a notable politician, founder of Pakistan, and Pakistan's first Governor-General. Muhammad Ali Jinnah is revered in Pakistan as Quaid-E-Azam which means “Great Leader”, and as Baba-E-Qaum which means “Father of the Nation”. The celebrations tie in with Christmas, giving everyone twice as much joy!



Image via Dawn News

We love our festivals! Pakistan's extremely diverse population makes the country home to a variety of celebrations, all of which symbolise the same few values: hope and unity. As we move forward, it is important that we work to integrate the various communities further into our society, so that Pakistan is truly the Land of the Pure.


Happy Diwali to all those celebrating!


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