Basant (Kite flying festival)
There was no place other than Lahore where Basant was celebrated with a lot of passion and enthusiasm. In fact it used to be worlds biggest kite flying festival and therefore Basant fever spread to other neighboring cities where mini Basant is still celebrated.
During my childhood days, people climb the roofs of their houses before sun rise and all day they were involved in “Paychay” (competition) until sunset. The competition involves having the strings (with glass powder pasted) of two flying kites to cross each other in the sky. Now both the parties have to keep the kites in the air so that strings are in maximum strength and in parallel kites demand release of more and more string at a faster pace. Sometimes the competition gets so long that kites are many kilometer away from the starting point and there is just a dot on the horizon. Winner party is the one who will cut the string of the other party and then their will be shouting “Bo Kata, Bo Kata”. Winner is so excited that he will not realize that his hands are bleeding as a result of cuts by the string. In addition to the competitors, there is another party who is there to catch the kite that has its string cut, it will drift in the air and gradually come down where several boys on the roads are chasing to catch it with their funny tools. The sky looks like surface of a lake scattered with the petals of flowers, breath-taking scenery on the large canvass of the sky. What a peaceful and soothing affect to the soul and the eyes it used to be.
With the passage of time, people tried to be more innovative that paved the way for night Basant. Competitors had high capacity spot lights installed on their roofs with dozens and dozens of white kites in their stocks that illuminate in the lights. All night and the next day this was coupled with loud music played to fuel the passion. Just before sunset final round of competitions used to start when huge kites were soared in the sky with thick and double strings. Then it was followed by fireworks and the worst part was when people started using guns and pistols for firing in the air. But there was check and balance as local authorities never supported this event. There have been frequent raids by the police all day long.
Basant is banned for the last two years:
“Enlightened” government officially started backing this festival; rules and regulations were softened. Flights to Lahore and hotels in the city were fully booked. People have gathered on the roof tops, shouting, wild music, fireworks, pounding of the drums, honking of the horns and blasting sounds of loud-speakers is giving a picture as if Lahore is on war. Falling over from rooftop, getting hit by stray bullets, road accidents, use of banned strings and gunfire lead to massive death toll. Electric power was interrupted and power generation companies faced burning of their installations worth millions. The festival was then contested in the Lahore High Court and consequently “our”government had no option but to ban. However it is still celebrated in neighboring cities though can not be compared with real Basant in Lahore.
I was so excited when VT friend “Jumpingnorman” shared with me photos of a mini Basant in Arizona last month. Hopefully one day ban will be lifted and as in the past there will be controlled celebration and I will enjoy with my family. So wait for a separate page until the good old days to come back.
Update: March 11, 2009
Stop this monkey business plzzz!
Government has announced Basant celebration on the 14th and 15th of March. Opposition party had originally announced a protest rally against ruling party on the 14th. In order to neutralize the impact of the rally, government has given green signal for celebration to keep the people away from the protest.
Mela (celebration) Data Durbar
Commonly known as “Data Durbar”, is the shrine of Hazrat Syed Ali Al-Hajweri, the famed Sufi Saint of the 11th century. Every year there is a three days festival. From all over Pakistan, hundreds of thousands of people flock the city of Lahore to pay their respect to the Saint. You will therefore find a lot of cultural diversity in one place that will for sure fascinate you. There will be a lot of other amazing activating; mobile entertainment establishments that are on the wheels through out the year performing in the villages all across Pakistan rush to Lahore to have their share in the festival. You can jump into a circus or can watch a guy who is cycling in a circle non stop for the last two days (can you believe?). Next door is “Mot ka koonwa” (death well) where a girl can drive motorcycle on the walls of well followed by a guy who will drive the car. There are host of other interesting activities to watch including but not limited to live theater, mini zoo etc. And not to forget variety of street food is available in abundance that reflects Pakistani village taste.
Eid Ul Azha
Eid Ul-Azha is a religious festival celebrated by Muslims worldwide to commemorate the willingness of Ibrahim (Prophet) to sacrifice his son Ishmail as an act of obedience to God. However, God provided a sheep in place once Ibrahim demonstrated his willingness to follow God's commands.
Men, women, and children are expected to dress in their finest clothing to perform Eid prayer ideally in a large congregation in open area. Muslims who can afford to do so sacrifice best sheep, camel, cow, bull or goat as a symbol of Ibrahim's sacrifice. The sacrificed animals have to meet certain age and quality standards or else the animal is considered an unacceptable sacrifice.
At the time of sacrifice, God's name is recited. Meat is then divided into three shares, one share for the poor, one share for the relatives and neighbors and the last to keep to oneself. A large portion of the meat must be given towards the poor and hungry people so they can all join in the Eid Ul-Azha feast. The remainder is cooked for the family celebration meal in which relatives and friends are invited to share.
Eid Ul Azha is approximately 70 days after Eid Ul Fitr.
Eid Ul Fitr
Eid Ul Fitr or Eid (Arabic word for festivity) marks the end of holy month of Ramadan. During the morning, men, women and children wear new clothes. Men head to the mosques for the Eid prayer, after which people greet each other. After this many will go to local cemeteries to pay respect and to remember the deceased. When they return home they will greet the family, friends and visit relatives across the city.
Lahore portrays picture of deserted city on the day of Eid as a big chunk of city population represents people from other cities who either have temporarily or permanently relocated here; they leave the city during Eid holidays for their ancestral homes. For me Lahore is “cool” during those days; low traffic, peaceful and festivity mood all around.
Shopping in Lahore a couple of weeks before Eid is not recommended, prices are touching the sky. While a week after Eid prices are competitive.
“Ramadan” is holy month for Muslims all over the world. Muslims fast during the entire month by not eating or drinking any thing from true dawn until sunset, and to offer more prayer than usual. During Ramadan, Muslims ask forgiveness for past sins, pray for guidance and help in refraining from everyday evils, and try to purify themselves through self-restraint and good deeds. Muslims are also required to distribute 2.5% of their “surplus wealth” among poor.
While in Lahore during the month of Ramadan, do not expect food to be readily available from the morning until afternoon. However you can eat in the shops around bus/railway stations, hospitals and inside hotels.
In the year 2009, Ramadan will start from September 20th. Every year date falls 10 days behind, therefore first day of Ramadan for 2010 would be September 10th.
All over parts of Lahore people will be waiting and asking you to shine your shoes. It's really quite cheap and it's a way to help out some of the younger poor people who are able to work. You will find many Afghan refugees doing this work as well as Pakistani poor.
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In case of women their z a stole or shawl also with it .
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