Navroz festivities in Gilgit and Baltistan

By Nisar Ali

Aqeeb Hussain, 9, a resident of Khaplu returned to his home weeping at 11am on Wednesday. He was crying because he had ‘lost’ four colored eggs, while egg-fighting with his friends, as part of the traditional Navorz Festival.

Aqeeb is one of the tens of thousands of people celebrating Navruz in Gilgit-Baltistan. Marking the arrival of spring, the Persian new year, Navroz (New Day), brings happiness and smiles, and occassionaly tears, when the painstakingly decorated eggs break!!

21st of March is, thus, marked as a holiday in Gilgit-Baltistan, because majority of the residents celebrate Navruz Festival.

In Baltistan, especial cuisines, like Prapoo, Rxap khoor, Zan, Kiseer, Baale and sweets are cooked and presented to neighbors, and family members.

In Baltistan and some part of Gilgit, eggs are boiled and colored at home and the people specially children bring it to out on the 21st of March to strike the colored eggs prepared by friends villagers. The owner of the winning ‘colored-egg’ usually takes many eggs home!.

Nowadays, competitions of egg-race, rolling eggs down a wooden slope, are also being held. The egg reaching the bottom of the slope first is the winner.

Musical programs, Polo matches and other cultural events are also held on Navroz in every district of Gilgit-Baltistan.

In some parts of Gilgit-Baltistan, girls and women hang ropes on trees on Navroz and swing, marking the arrival of spring, and joys.

In district Ghanche, the administration has officially organized a three-day festival to mark the occasion of Navruz.

Talking to this scribe, Assistant Commissioner of Khaplu Fayyaz Ahmad said “In the past Navruz  was being observed as holiday; no official event was organized. But, now we have decided to mark the Nowruz festivity over a period of three days”.

The three-day festival will see competitions of egg-fighting, Tiakoo Polo, Freestyle Polo, Tug of War, cattle show, and much more. The festival started on the 21st of March, and will culminate on 23rd March, Pakistan Day.

Member of GB assembly Ghulam Hussain advocate was of the opinion that Navruz is actually an Iranian event, which is also celebrated in Gilgit-Baltistan as a seasonal event, marking the advent of farming.

“The main objective of celebrating of Nowruz is that we have to keep live our ancestor old tradition and values.

According to a scheduled shared by district administration, different stalls will also be arranged by various government departments, and civil society organizations. The main even will be held at High School Khaplu on 24th of March. A local literary body, Karwan-e-Abad also plans to hold a poetry recitation session, Mushaira at PTDCL hotel.

As part of faith, the Noor Bakhshia sect of Islam celebrates Navruz as an Eid, and on this day special prayers, “Lilat-ur-Raghayib” are offered at sunshine in different Masajid.

On other hand students hailing from GB, residing in other cities are also also celebrating this day with great festivity.

In this connection one of the largest student’s organization of Gilgit-baltistan, BSF (Baltistan Students federation) has announced to organize a musical night at a private marriage hall in Rawalpindi.

Background of Navruz, from Wikipedia: 

Nowruz is Persian word literally means “new day” is the name of the Iranian New Year also known as the Persian New Year,  which is celebrated worldwide by Iranians, along with some other ethno-linguistic groups, as the beginning of the New Year. Although having Iranian and religious Zoroastrian origins, Nowruz has been celebrated by people from diverse ethno-linguistic communities. It has been celebrated for over 3,000 years in Western AsiaCentral Asia, the Caucasus, the Black Sea Basin, and It is a secular holiday for most celebrants that is enjoyed by people of several different faiths. Nowruz is the day of the vernal equinox, and marks the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. It marks the first day of the first month in the Iranian calendar. It usually occurs on March 21 or the previous or following day, depending on where it is observed.

The countries including Afghanistan, Albania, Azerbaijan, GeorgiaIran, Iraqi Kurdistan, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, TajikistanTurkmenistan, Uzbekistan observe Nowruz as holiday.

It is believed that Nowruz has been commemorated in parts of Gilgit-Baltistas since the 15th century.

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