Gilgit, October 14: “Themshing” festival was celebrated at the picturesque Hundur village in the Yasin Valley of district Ghizar, Gilgit-Baltistan, in the northern most past of Pakistan. The well-attended festival is a seasonal event, held during autumn, presented very interesting insights about the lives of the people who depend on pastoral activities for food.
Majority of the activities during the Themishing festival were centered around the pastoral cycle and the shepherds. Being a mountainous region, with low landholding, the residents of this region have for centuries depended heavily on pastures and breeding sheep and goat, yaks, for earning their livelihood means.
The trends are changing with the passage of time, as a new generation of university graduates and entrepreneurs take control of the region’s economy, but still a large number of people are involved in pastoral activities.
One highlight of the festival was the traditional ritual of singing ‘Bingal’, a traditional song heralding the beginning of the pastoral cycle, and letting residents of the village know that the season has come, and those planning to send their sheep and goats to the pasture should ready the flocks. Bingal is also used for warning against an approaching danger. In the high mountain pastures there are a lot of tigers and other carnivores, which occasionally stroll into pastures for food. Bingal is performed in the face of such a threat to warn the other shepherds.
The traditional ritual of “Hashki” was also a very interesting item.During mid-summers, group of Sheppard’s come back to their village to collect items like sugar, tea, salt, fruits and other edibles which they could use in pastures. These people don’t knock on the doors. Instead, they climb and stand on the roof of the traditional house, around the rooftop opening constructed for allowing light inside – locally called “Somo”, and sing songs to lure the owners of the house into giving the needed edibles.
“Lobal” was another interesting item surrounding a shepherd. In Lobal, the Sheppard prays for the safety of his/her cattle, by singing a song. The sheep and goats, like humans, face many threats on the narrow mountain tracks. Lobal, thus, is a song of hope for the shepherd.
“Tug of War” was also played between Sheppard’s and farmers.
Another highlight of the event was “Sumla”, a wrestling match between shepherds. The winner of this ‘wrestling’ is selected as the next chief of the shepherds for the season.
The traditional ritual of “Duff Tamasha” singing competition among different village groups was also performed. The singers, standing in a circle, play duff and sing enthusiastically.
The traditional culinary food “Makuti” was another important feature of the festival. Makuti, basically, is a traditional cake made by the female head of the family. The major ingredient is maize flour. Makuti is baked on fire. Neighbors are invited to share Makuti. Brothers visit their sisters married in far away villages carrying Makuti, as a sign of goodwill. “Ghulmandi” was another delicious food exhibited during the festival.
This festival is part of a series of events being held across the mountainous Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistana. Hashoo Foundation, a development organization, and Centre for Culture and Development (CKU), have joined hands with local institutions and government departments to arrange the festivals. Deputy Speaker of the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly, Jafarullah Khan, along with several other government officials attended the festival.