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Hilal Kids English

The Spring Delight Festivals of Pakistan

April 2024

“Let’s go to Mela!”
    Imagine a fun filled, special day out with family and friends where you can enjoy colours of life, delicious foods, fun activities, shopping stalls, exciting games, folk music, and much more. It sounds great, right? A ‘mela’ (the local name that means festival) is a cultural event that offers all these entertainments. In fact, it is a whole new experience of happiness and joy. 



Importance of Festivals
Festival means an event and a place for celebration and joy where people happily gather. Such fairs or festivals play pivotal role in establishing an atmosphere of harmony and unity, brotherhood and affection. Festivals have tremendous social impacts. Through traditional, cultural and ethnic themes of festivals, elders pass on their splendid history, heritage and experience to the new generation.
     Our beloved country Pakistan is rich in cultural diversity, local customs and traditions. From the colourful “Mela Chiraghan”, Lahore to the beautiful “Lok Versa” Islamabad folk festival, from Balochistan’s Sibi Mela to Kelash festivals in Kohistan, from Lal Shahbaz Mela to Urs Data Gunj Bukhsh, and from Horse & Cattle Show to Shandur Polo Festival, the width and breadth of Pakistan presents a noteworthy range of cultural, traditional and religious festivals. 
    Each and every incredible festival has distinctive charisma, delight and flavour, and the true depiction of our rich heritage and history. The sociocultural and religious importance of a mela makes it unique from other events and throws an excellent party for tourists to witness the richness of our culture, traditional and societal values.
    We can divide these festivals in three categories: religious, cultural and traditional. In local religious cultures, a sufi saint’s demise is not counted as death, rather it is considered as a happy moment of meeting one’s soul to God. So the death anniversary of a saint is called ‘Urs” or “Mela” – meaning celebrations. Here are some festivals relating to sufi saints’ death anniversary:
“Mela Chiraghan”– (The Festival of Lights) 
It’s a 3-day annual festival arranged on the death anniversary of Shah Hussain, a sufi saint who happened to be the pioneer of spiritual “Kafi” rhymes – a unique branch of Punjabi poetry. Shah Hussain was an exceptional poet of the 16th century. His Mela is held every Spring by end March at Madho Lal Hussain’s shrine in Baghbanpura, Lahore. This is one of the largest Punjabi fairs. Shah Hussain’s admirers, carrying oil lamps in hands, gather here to participate. They enjoy kafi music with dhamal (meditative dance), and special food. 



Urs Data Ganj Bakhsh
It is also a cherished mela that is held to celebrate the death anniversary of great sufi saint and scholar Ali Hajveri, known as Data Ganj Bakhsh. He lived in the 11th century. His shrine is called “Data Darbar”. Thousands of devotees from all over Pakistan attend the 3-day urs and revive the soulful teachings of Ali Hajveri whose book “Kashful Mahjoob” is a masterpiece of wisdom.
Urs Lal Shahbaz Qalandar 
Lal Shahbaz was the esteemed saint and a respected scholar who preached religious tolerance. He lived from 1177 to 1274. His 3-day mela is attended by thousands of devotees from all over the world at Sehwan Sharif, Sindh. Dhamal is the most dominant traditional dance that is performed by malangs (the wandering sufi men and women). An event of traditional Sindhi wrestling is also held during the mela. 
Urs Baba Fareed Ganj Shakar
This 13th century Punjabi poet, mystic and scholar is undoubtedly the most esteemed spiritual personality of the Chishti order. His 10-day urs is celebrated with great zeal at Pakpattan, Punjab, from 1-10 Muharram. Thousands of devotees from every nook and corner take part and eulogize Baba Fareed’s spiritual elevations and contributions.
Urs Baba Bulleh Shah
Bulleh Shah was a famous sufi poet, a revolutionary philosopher of early 1700’s. He is rightly regarded as “the Father of Punjabi Enlightenment” and “the Poet of the People”.  He is also considered the Shakespeare of Punjabi language. His poetry urges upon social, religious and political reforms, and pleads for nonviolent and peaceful coexistence. He gained popularity across religions and cultures. His urs takes place at his shrine in Kasur, Punjab.
    There are also cultural and traditional festivals, which are as under:
The Lok Versa Mela 
This is the largest cultural festival celebrated in the federal capital of Pakistan, at Shakarparian Islamabad. It is held annually in October. This is meant to cherish diverse cultures and traditions. Various cultural activities like folk music, traditional dance performances, art and handicrafts exhibition and regional foods are an essential part of the 10-day festival that displays multi-ethnic work of artists thrived under the banner of Heritage Museum. It is organized by the National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage. The mela attracts a large number of international performers and artists from over 20 countries. Lok Versa in collaboration with provincial cultural departments also arranges music concerts and regional dance performances.



International Literature Festival
Literary festivals offer a golden chance to writers, poets, critics, intellects, and social activists. They engage in intellectual dialogues and artistic expressions. Lahore is considered the “Cultural Heart of Pakistan”. Each year, it hosts “Lahore Literature Festival”, “Think Festival”, and “Pakistan Literature Festival”. “Sindh Literature Festival” is held in Karachi. Annual literature festivals are also held in Faisalabad and Multan. “Islamabad Literature Festival” and “Faiz International Festival” are held in the federal capital, which provide a platform to showcase creativity in the form of intellectual discussions, short films, poetry, performing art, folk dances, and debates on prevailing social and political issues. 
Kitab Mela (Book Fair)
In Karachi, too, an International Book Fair is annually held, which attracts a large number of book lovers from every walk of life. Visitors can have books of their choice at discount, and enjoy meeting with their favourite writers and authors.
Jashn-e-Nauruz
It’s a 3-day socio-religious festival traditionally held in Gilgit-Baltistan from 21st March to 23rd March. In fact, its celebrations last for weeks comprising traditional musical evenings, wearing new dresses, presenting coloured eggs to friends and family, playing polo game, etc.  Special prayers and rituals are offered for the prosperity of country. 
Sibi Mela
This 5-day mela is held in Sibi, Balochistan on 24-28 February. This is an outstanding opportunity to experience Balochistan’s cultural and traditional richness. The mela is also called the Horse & Cattle Show because it is known for its animal market, camel racing, etc. It includes the horse parade of Cadet College students, Army bands march past, National Anthem of children, Flower show by school children, parade of different breeds of animals including Sibi bhagnari cattle breed, horse dance, folk dances, tent pegging, motor cycle jump, and distribution of prizes among the cattle breeders. 
Kalash Festivals
Kalash, in Chitral, has gained immense recognition for its vibrant culture, religious rituals and traditional dances and dresses. Kalashis celebrate three exciting festivals each year: Chilam Joshi is a festival to welcome spring with music, food, religious rituals and dancing. For tourists this is the most popular Kalash festival; Uchal is another mela that acknowledges the harvesting season. Traditional music, dance, parties and special food is integral part of the celebrations; Choimus is the most sacred festival of Kalashi people that is held in December to celebrate the heroic demigod of the Kalash people.
Shandur Polo Festival
It’s one of the famous and splendid festivals held in Shandur on 7-9 July every year. Shandur Top is the world’s highest polo ground at an altitude of 12,000 feet above sea level. The ground sits in the shadow of the towering Hindukash mountain range. The unique location of the polo ground makes it a popular destination for adventure seekers and polo enthusiasts. In this festival, polo players, usually from Gilgit and Chitral, hold a polo tournament that attracts tourists from all over the world. The mela includes folk music and dancing. A camping village is also set up here.
Mela Maveshiyan Lahore
To herald the Spring season, Horse & Cattle Show is held at Fortress Stadium Lahore. It’s one of the most famous annual festivals. It is a persuasive expression of Pakistan’s heritage and agricultural richness. This show is cherished by a large number of foreign visitors interested in the valuable livestock. A week-long activity includes horse and camel dancing, parade of animals, tent pegging, folk games, cultural floats, display of the premium livestock, and folk dances from all regions of Pakistan. A similar like festival is also held in Sargodha. 
 Silk Route Festival 
This festival held in Gilgit-Baltistan is a fanciful blend of culture, landscape and exploration. It is an international festival celebrated in many countries and in different seasons. In G-B, it is a feast to discover the glorified glaciers, lush green valleys, and mesmerizing snow peaks. Silk route festival is usually held in September-October. 

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