The festival of Ginani was celebrated in Karimabad Hunza a few days ago. The event was organised by the Karimabad Town Management Society, and the GB Tourism Department.
After the abolition of Hunza State, the festival was abandoned owing to the changed politico economic conditions; lack of patronising institution and later the extinction of the barley crop, central to the Ginani festival, itself. However, after a quarter of century, it was revived as part of the community’s attempt for the revival of traditional festivals and promotion of tourism in 2001.
Although, as a society, we have nostalgia and love to celebrate our festivals, but the vagaries of time have changed many things. Celebrating Ginani, or any other festival, is a welcome step that signifies the heritage and cultural identity of a community. This festival needs to be reviewed in the light of new realities; economic, political and social. We need to adopt a democratic approach viable in the present age. We need to deliberate over the questions such as, is it compulsory to be performed by a virtual king?
Lost in the monarchical past, we enthrone a personality (heir of deposed last ruler) in full regalia of the past for an hour or so and desolate the theater thereafter.
To the disappointment of many, I have to say that, to me, it seemed more a staged drama than a living festival. We altogether forget the political meaning of monarchy. Isn’t it a drama staged every year, a mockery of our own society?
We decorate a person as sovereign monarch whose state has lost its sovereignty 126 years ago, and lost the state, ceremonial powers and internal autonomy, 43 years ago. The event is an undemocratic and apartheid decoration of the otherwise inept progeny of the few personalities bequeathed by the Mir for different reasons in the yesteryear. It tends to discriminate and fragment the society, instead of bonding.
Materially, in earlier days, barley used to be the first crop to ripe in the season and the harvest used to start with it. There is no barley crop anymore in Hunza. Secondly, Mir used to be the head of state or authority then, which is not the case anymore. Why are we hostage of the past? Or do we wish to revive monarchy in Hunza?
There is a heritage, and emotional value, attached to the festival. The gist is to celebrate the happiness of harvesting the yield of the harsh labour of peasants in the mountainous, agrarian, society, and initiating the harvest, and offering a thanksgiving of sorts. The festival was initiated by the elder of that time; the monarch.
Now, when the conditions have changed altogether, we need to modify the festivity keeping to its spirit but making it attuned to the socio-economic conditions and incorporating the ethos of human equality and democratic values. For instance, the rite can be performed by the elders in the families as usual, but sticking to the making of bouquets of barley is no more viable and needs modification. Important is the spirit of thanksgiving, celebration of festivity and carrying on the heritage. Every family can celebrate the festival with traditional food at home. The public festivity (Tamasha) should not reflect pseudo-classes and discrimination based thereon.
It must be democratic and an all-inclusive event, celebrated at a place accessible to all, say the Shabaran.