Reverse Gear: Dragging Hunza back to the darker times with indiscrimate cultral restoration

Roshan Bano 

Darker times of Hunza were not too distant ! just as recent as  1970s and  before. The worst thing about Darker Times of  Hunza was that Darkness ruled not just one or only few aspects of Hunza society, but each and every aspect was wrapped in DARKNESS !

Deprived of education, Hunza Society  was in darkness intellectually, economically,technologically,religiously, politically; just name any aspect the list is endless.

Politically Hunza was a Principality ruled by a hereditary dynastic monarch.The ruler was called Tham. Let’s call that system Thamship/Thamdom. (Mir for ruler  and Mirdom for the system are used as alternative by so many others). Only Tham and  his dear and near ones had access to education,  freedom of movement/traveling out of Hunza , and so many other special privileges. Every case was headed by Tham, who was also the self-appointed judge; his decision was final and ultimate in every matter. Every ceremony/celebration/festival used to be inaugurated by Tham !

Bofao, a festival to celebrate spring season sowing, like other festivals, used to be inaugurated by Tham in the village where his Palace was located.  only then could the spring sowing start  all over the Hunza – Kilik to Mayon.

Thamship in Hunza ended in 1974. With its dissolution all the authority associated with Thamship automatically ended !

This year Bofoa festival was celebrated after a gap of 54 years as part of a cultural restoration programme in Hunza. The  arrangements were made by few local/national NGOs working in Hunza. Mr.Ghazanfar Ali Khan, son of last Tham of Hunza Principality, was invited to preside and inaugurate the event. Mr. Ghazanfar mounted on a horse , clad in dress/ attire  worn by Thams when Hunza was a principality (till 1974) and inaugurated the ceremony. Mr.Ghazanfar and the community members performed all the formalities/activities traditionally as used to be performed in past. Everyone was filled with spirit of celebrations!

The event got vast media coverage,  huge applause, utmost appreciation. The event was termed as  step towards cultural restoration , cultural preservation, cultural glorification etc…. all the sweet terms irrespective of their relevance.


What do you want? Which aspect of your culture is  revived or restored? Tham system, hereditary  dynastic monarch , absolute authority  entailed in Tham System and many more other ignorant things of Tham System?

Why don’t you start reintroducing Darbars/ Maraka to solve every social problem, custom of Zengaoin, Osham , Jerpa, Bap too  in the name of cultural restoration?

Come On !

Either you have misunderstood cultural restoration or you have distorted it for your own marketing, profiteering. Whatsoever be the reason, stop misusing,  infact abusing,  concept of cultural restoration!

Cultural restoration  does not mean  indiscriminately and uncritically  preservation of every aspect of culture . Blind restoration of culture is nothing short of ignorance. It is a disastrous act and attitude.

Cultural restoration is all about innovative restoration of  cultural heritage, traditions, customs that involve analysis and modification to make the culture applicable to fulfill needs of the community members for their progress and development.

Take inspiration from AKTC (Aga Khan Trust for Culture), which has set examples of cultural restoration and preservation-Khapulu Fort, Shigar Fort, Ganish settlement etc. Look at Altit Fort and Baltit Fort. AKTC has inventively restored the forts. Now they are thriving tourist destination, laden with reference libraries, museums, spots for musical concerts. In name of cultural restoration AKTC does not  amke offspring of Thams sit on Takht, arrange Maraka, as was used to be  done in those forts when  Hunza was principality.

Other organization and institutions too are supposed to be highly  cautious and sensitive while  arranging and mobilizing community about restoration of any of cultural aspect. Because this is something with  community wide  and  generational impact.  One must ensure positive impact !

Yes, if you want to show  young generation about how their ancestors  lived, then you can arrange for mock displays and demonstrations instead of actually reliving the ignorant traditional customs based on class systems!

Indiscriminate restoration of cultural heritage  will  definitely make Hunza prison of the old traditions.

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  1. Well, i think the criticism of this particular event, ‘the restoration of the festival of Bofao, is baseless because it doesn’t restore the tham’s rule but only just the ritual. You asked the question, why don’t you restore the tham’s rule and the Maraka… Well, who is doing so? No one. The restoration is not indiscriminate, it is only reinacting the ritual…

    1. I don’t criticize celebration of Bofoa, It must be restored and celebrated . I criticized the reliving of the ritual ! demo of the ritual could have been done by playing role of Tham by any community member . Family member of Thams of Hunza Principality was not necessary at all for demonstration of the ritual !

  2. Agree with some points but overall article is not well organized hence it seems like an overnight conclusion of an individual to express his or her feelings/emotions about a culture/tradition

  3. If we go by your way then we must shun with all identities of being hunzukutz, lest thamkuś is not got revived.

  4. Dear Roshan,
    I agree with “darkness”, you mentioned, and now revolutionized in many perspectives of life especially in education. However, knowing history and culture is very imperative for someone as vital element of identity being the nation of hunzkuz. Particularly, in this modern era, if we do not know our own culture, and in fact most of us are not interested to follow customs and costumes, then we will have lost our identity. As far as, Mir Sb was presiding that festival, that doesn’t mean, the “darkness” in hunza once again has evolved because of that festival. You need to be optimistic, and think that these are indicators of a history oriented nation

  5. someone should educate these type of só called writers, before even bother to say or think about origin of people. we can change our clothes not our origin , this is who we are , these. festivals are as unique as huzukuz’ you are not modern or developed than Britiian. I can’t believe this mentality do exist in our society,

    1. Keep your mentality open and wide- there exist diverse mentalities.One should show tolerance ,maturity and politeness. My opinion is not dependent on approval by others,I prefer rationality, logic ,reasoning ,evidence over approval, conformity , acceptance by others ! no one can stop me from expressing and sharing my opinion in any form, written or oral ! Britain is not my yard stick or role model for modernity,development( as u mentioned) , nor for enlightenment ,civility etc. No where in my note I said to change origin,, history- infact not even mentioned origin .Nor I am against celebrating Bofao , I just opposed a single feature of the way it was celebrated. All I said is no to indiscriminate cultural restoration !

  6. A beacon of light.A pakistani showing signs of maturity and dare i say enlightenment.a long story how i’ve ended up here but i shall visit again.well done

  7. good to be together for such events; must be together for our rights. We have been suffering for the last few years e.g. law and order situations and killing of two Hunzukuch’ by Pakistani police in Aliabad. In the history of Hunza, this was the first ever case, and no actions was taken. Isn’t it a challenge for us?

  8. Looks Like the article is carved by upper Hunza resident who always highlight negative points related to Mir Family and their activities since their Ruling. Just Grow Up its 2016 Now. An highly negative carved article on history since this blog starts.

  9. The writer seems to have merely a partial understanding of culture of Hunza. Suffice to mention here that we had much more cultural and social harmony in Hunza during our history before the influx of a religion that came with the sluggish baggage of its own – religious ritualism and sectarian divide. In a bid to lead us to the divine, the religion has alienated us from the very roots of our identity. The only way to get rid of the tyranny of the religion is to revive our ancient culture that is more inclusive and tolerant.

    Probably, no one likes Mir, but he is just one piece in the greater tapestry of our culture. The writer says by celebrating and reviving our cultural festivities we going into the dark ages. But it is the other way round – escaping from the darkness of religion towards the illumination of our very cultural roots, our very identity.

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