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Altit, Hunza: Bofao, an ancient agricultural festival, was celebrated today with full glory today in Altit village of the Hunza District. Mir Ghazanfar Ali Khan, the Governor of Gilgit-Baltistan, performed the ancient ritual.
Clad in the royal dress, Mir Ghazanfar rode a white horse to reach the Altit Polo Ground from the 1100 years old Altit Fort, the former seat of the rulers of Hunza. He symbolically ploughed with a pair of oxen and also addressed a large number of people who had gathered to celebrate the ancient festival.
‘Bo’, in Burushaski, means seed, and “Fao” means ‘throwing around or spreading grains’. Hence, Bo-fao, is the spreading of seeds, a symbolic ritual heralding the advent of farming season.
Ploughing with a pair of oxen
Historical photograph of the last Mir of Hunza, Mir Muhammad Jamal Khan, celebrating the Bofao festival in the late 60s. Courtesy: MGAK Facebook Page
The festival was last celebrated in 1968 under the leadership of Mir Jamal Khan, the then ruler of Hunza. A weeklong festival has been organized this year to revive the festival.
The land altitude, and the climate conditions, in Hunza vary as one travels up north. Therefore, the farming season in the upper parts of the former state starts on other dates.
Locals carrying a traditional dish as part of a procession
The festival was organized with the financial support of Hashoo Foundation. Hunza Arts Council and other local cultural bodies also supported the organizers in managing the ancient festival.
Speaking at the occasion, Mir Ghzanfar discussed a number of development projects which, he said, would help reduce the many sufferings of the people of Hunza. He has also expressed the resolve to support the Bofao festival and make it a calendar event, to be held annually with government support.
A local man dressed as a character during the festival