By Shueb Sultan
Hunza and Nagar are two culturally rich regions of Gilgit-Baltistan, situated in the extreme north of Pakistan. Historically these regions were independent princely states. The physical features of these regions are mostly mountainous, where climatic conditions are extreme during the winters and remain moderate throughout the summers. The natives of these regions have hard but zealous life with full of joys and happiness. They celebrate number of festivals in every year, which bring joys and happiness on the faces of every young and old.
Whenever we talk about Muslims’ cultures and civilizations, we are inclined to portray the societies of Arab and Persian world. However, no body intentionally or unintentionally wants to bring in discussion the cultures and civilizations of Muslims living in the mountainous regions of Pakistan, where Muslims live for centuries. The rational of this topic was to invite the outsiders of these regions to ponder on these culturally rich societies. It is my utmost belief that these regions draw the actual image of the true Islam, which is hard to find in rest of the Islamic world. Moreover, it was my desire to find out answers of few questions like why festivals? Why do communities celebrate festivals? Do festivals play any role in the lives of communities? What impacts are of celebrations on lives of people of Hunza and Nagar? Finally, the biggest question, which compelled me to choose this topic, was why we ignore our own South Asian societies, when we talk about Muslims societies their culture and civilizations.
While reflecting and exploring the cultural festivals of these two districts, I learnt many good things like exploring the term festival, common festivals of Nagar and Hunza, importance of festivals in community lives and stories connect with all celebrations. Similarly, I came to know that festivals have many good connections with all time stories, particularly with the beliefs, tales and customs of older people of a society. In addition, festivals highlight various aspects of a society like the cultural heritage of people living in a particular region. I also realized that festivals bring people physically and emotionally closer to each other and lot of entertainments, joys and happiness in the lives of communities. Moreover, I found that festivals provide platforms for the people to express their joys individually as well as collectively. Furthermore, festivals have a pragmatic purpose also, which improve the social life of people living in a society and engage the people in healthy activities.
There is no doubt that festivals are those powerful tools which help in bridging the existing gaps between people in a community and hence, bring colorful joys in their lives. In the same way, festivals at national level help to promote solidarity and patriotic spirit in people, while removing ethnic racism from the societies.
One can easily observe the different festivals, celebrated throughout the year respectively in Hunza and Nagar indicate their social richness, concept of brotherhood, pluralism, diversity and efforts towards removing ethnic racism and material/financial statues of individuals from the society. Its actual demonstration can be observed when all people from all casts and backgrounds get together to celebrate New Year celebrations (Navroz), seed sowing festival (Bi/bo Fav), harvesting festival (Ganoni/Ginani) and meat festival (Nasalo/Yoshish). Where, young and old, rich and poor, men and women celebrate the events like a single body and single soul.
I found a very interesting thing, which really inspired me, is the connection and love of people for their work and every single activity. The people of these regions enjoy and celebrate every seasonal change and every activity they end. Simply, their celebration of different festivals are thanks giving and expressions of joys at the end of a particular activity or a season/climatic change and wishing events for a good outcome.
Like other parts of the world, the all forms of media and globalization has greatly influenced the local festivals of Hunza and Nagar that projects a good sign to understand the importance of festivals and celebrations in the lives of natives of these regions. Some festivals of Hunza and Nagar are recognized all over the world, which are unique at every angle. Thousands of the people from different countries usually come to enjoy these beautiful events which are staged by people of these regions. The important thing which is required nowadays is the proper celebration of festivals and their transformation to the younger generation. As, I believe these occasion are more connected to lives and happiness of the people. Moreover, these festivals may be helpful in creating a soft image about Muslims and Muslims’ societies across the globe, which has been badly damaged by religious extremism and fundamentalism since last many decades.
While summing up this reflection, few good things that can be extracted from our rich cultures, especially during this covid-19 pandemic, are the care and support for others. Like other parts of the world, the pandemic has badly affected many individuals’ life in these two regions. The very joyful festival of harvesting (ganoni/ginani) is expected in the next week and we should remember those people and families who have suffered due to this global disease. We should extent our helping hands to them, and it is the right time of thanks giving, carrying others and making good wishes for the future.
Please take care of yourselves and others. Keep physical distance, wear facemask in public places and wash hands regularly with soap.