By Karim Jan
May21 Sherqilla Ghizar.
The World Day of Cultural Diversity was celebrated at Aga Khan School, Sherqilla, Gilgit-Baltistan, with performances by students and teachers, highlighting various cultural practices of Gilgit-Baltistan. Jahangir Khan, principal of the school, was the guest of honor for the day.
Dressed in traditional Gilgiti attire of shalwar qameez and dupatta, their heads adorned with handcrafted, elaborately patterned caps, two girl students, whose mother tongue was Sheena, spoke English and served as narrators. They called upon another participant to recite a few verses from the Holy Quran, thus giving Arabic a place on the stage. Then it was Urdu’s turn, when they invited another participant on stage to present Naat, an Ode to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). But the showcasing of different cultures did not stop with these three grand languages. How could any stage performance in Gilgit-Baltistan end without acknowledgment of the multicolored cultures of its various valleys? Soon the floor of the stage was filled with student-participants from the five valleys of Yasin, Gupi, Poniyal, Hunza, and Gojal, representing their different cultural traditions.
Two practices from Poniyal – cutting the hair of newborn children and Du Mun Kha (“eat as much as you can”) were presented to the multicultural audience. Du Mun Kha is a festival which is celebrated when the house is full of every type of food from fruit to grains. During this festival seven types of dishes are prepared. These are then eaten together with neighbors and relatives. Then together they make horrible noises to frighten yashole, the elf, said to be dwelling in their home, forcing him out of the house. This is done because the presence of the yashol might otherwise be a risk to the stored food.
Audience members from other parts of the region (Gupis, Gojal, Yasin, and Hunza) responded with laughter to the presentation of this Poniyal tradition. But the giggling was all in good fun and more an expression of harmony between the regions than of sarcasm or irony.
Students of Gupis and Yasin followed the Poniyali students in presenting a practice from their culture. Their presentation was on marriage celebration rituals. These are still practiced in the region with little influence from globalization. The rituals are slightly different from those of other valleys of the region.
The rituals of childbirth celebrations were presented by students coming from Ishkoman valley. Many things about the rituals celebrating these happy occasions were unique and different. Some customs were met with laughter from the audience, reflecting a deep sense of acceptance.
A traditional dance – Apisho Nutt, or Grandmother Dance – was performed by ten students from the Hunza valley. They were dressed in white and wore men’s caps made of wool. Their movements were uniform, keeping time with the beat of drum and tune of the flute.
There were many unique features in the presentations of customs and traditions from the different regions. The items themselves and the languages in which these rituals were presented were different. Even the grand languages of the world — English, Urdu, and Arabic, – along with their various aspects of cultural diversity, were represented there under the small roof of the school auditorium.
There was much to laugh at. There was much to ponder. There was much to be amazed at. But the basic fact remains that the purpose of all of us, the reason why we are here, is to LIVE. Our style and approaches to life, in the form of culture, may be different, but our objectives are same…..LIFE. We can live in peace, in harmony, and in prosperity only when we look at each other’s cultural diversity with respect and acceptance. This is what this DAY demands from us.