Just adjacent to the fabulous Mughal monument “Shalimar Gardens” in Lahore, is the shrine of a famous Sufi saint Shah Hussain, which is the venue of an annual traditional celebrations full of cultural vehemence and zeal. The festival is locally called as “Mela Chiraghan (the festival of lights)” and it is one of the largest traditional events in the province of Punjab, Pakistan. Mela Chiraghan is three day event full of holy rituals, colors, joy, music and folk dances. One of the most attractive features is the traditional food stalls that are specially designed for this carnival and mark the medieval time food items.
According to an estimate, more than 500,000 pilgrims come to Lahore to attend this impressive annual Urs and the major part of the historic Grand Trunk Road near to the shrineare decorated withstalls, toy shops and food outlets.The most significant ritual is the gathering of the devotees who carry Chiraghs (Light Lamps) in the honor of Shah Hussain and some of the pilgrims also toss the lamps into a huge bonfire. The legend associated with this activity is that the prayers of the devotees will be heard soon by the Almighty and they’ll get the reward.
Shah Hussain is also known as Madhu Lal Hussain who was actually the closest Hindu companion of this saint. Shah Hussain is particularly known for his Sufi poetry and his verses in form of short poems are called as Kafis of Shah Hussain. A number of renowned singers and Qawwals of India and Pakistan feel pride to perform the Kafis of Shah Hussain. The nights of Mela Chiraghan of Lahore, the festival of lights are celebrated with Qawwalis and folk dances and these performances are truly spectacular and mirthful.
In the Indian Subcontinent, a weapon based Punjabimartial art sport is very popular which is typically associated with the Sikh community. This is known as “Gatka” which is also practiced in some parts of Pakistani Punjab. The weapons are obviously not guns or swords but the wooden sticks that were traditionally being used for sparring. Gatka is mainly a part of many Sikh festivals as combat sport and it has rarely been used in original fights.
Gatka: The Indian Martial Art ( Image: Sanzen )
The participants harmonize their body parts like feet and hands with the sticks that are used as the weapons so this makes the every movement of Gatka very rhythmic. Gatka becomes a ritual exercise when the players also chant the holy verses during their practice. The other skills of Gutka apart from the defensive techniques include the mind alertness and responsiveness in attitude.
The Gatka performer must be fully conversant with the spiritual, physical and mind techniques that are primary requisites of this combat sport of Punjab. Gatka, the Punjabi Martial Art is the phenomenal feature of the Sikh heritage and the Sikh community has also used it in many battles as well.
Have you ever experienced the Mangoes of Pakistan? I am sure, some of you have done it and the most of you……… only would have dreamt about it ! The only reason is that the Mangoes of Pakistan are enriched with pulpous and imaginary taste. The King of fruits are grown in the provinces of Punjab and Sindh on a very large scale. According to an estimate, there are more than 160 varieties of mangoes that are grown in Pakistan with distinct aroma, sweetness, sizes and colors. Obviously, the same qualities fall within the criterions for the best mangoes, their scent, size, color and taste. Many growers from Pakistan are only associated with the cultivation of Mangoes and their only identity is Mango. They have a very tough competition with each other and this is ultimately promoting this fruit throughout the world.
Mangoes are found in abundance in the fruit markets of Pakistan from May to September. Even in the month of May and June, the young mangoes are also used in the preparation of Mango Chutneys and Pickles. And similarly, the ripe mangoes are also the main source for making the squashes and jams. Mango is also the national fruit of Pakistan and the mango tree is a long living plant on the lovely planet. Mango is the best fruit full of dietary fibers with low calories. This is the most extensively used fruit for food, juice, flavor, fragrance, and color.
The mangoes are full of iron having the phenol compounds which act as powerful antioxidants and anti-cancer agents. Mangoes are also useful in relieving the clogged pores of the skin, and are also valuable in combating acidity and poor digestion. Mango is high in antioxidants and low in carbohydrates. It is a rich source of Vitamin A (beta-carotene), Vit.E, Vit.C , selenium, niacin, quercitin, and astragalin. Mangoes also provide Vit. K, phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, and glutamine which is known as a memory booster. Although, mangoes are grown all over the world with tremendous amount of varieties specially in Mexico, USA, Latin America, South America, Caribbean, Philippines, Indonesia, India and many countries of Africa, but the Mangoes of Pakistan are rated on the top for their amazing taste. The most famous mangoes of Pakistan include Sindhri, Neelum, Chaunsa, Langra, Siroli, Bengan Pali, Alphansa, Saleh Bhai, Gulab Khasa, Zafran, Swarnarica, Dusheri, Anwar Ratool, Collector, Desi etc. These all varaities are very delicious and popular and the most of them are exported to all of Europe, Middle East and various other countries.
These are some of the images of the popular Mangoes of Pakistan :-
1- Chaunsa Mango is famous for its sweatness. White Chaunsa is specially liked generally in Pakistan.
The Chaunsa Mango - One of the best grown mangoes in Pakistan
An image of White Chaunsa ( Image: Afzaal53 )
2- Dusehri mangoes are equally pouplar in Pakistan and India
Dusehri mangoes are equally pouplar in Pakistan and India
3- Langra Mango or Langra Aam
4- Anwar Ratol or Anwar Rattaul Mango
Anwar Rattaul Mango
5- Sindhri Mangoes are the favorite for the people around the globe
An image of Sindhri Mangoes ( Image Courtesy: Express Tribune )
Sindhri Mango ( An image by MURAD ALI SHAH BUKERAI )
In the cold winters of Pakistan, people love a traditionaldessert which is commonly known as “Gaajar Ka Halva”. Gaajar ka Halva or Carrot Pudding is full of nuts and dried fruits (specially dried raisins, almonds and pistachios) and it is eaten warm. Gaajar Ka Halva is equally popular in some parts of India as well.
Gaajar ka Halva or Carrot Pudding ( Courtesy : flickr )
Gaajar Ka Halva is not a tough ask to be made but it requires lots of hard work and time. Firstly the carrots are grated after getting washed and peeled and then these carrots are mixed with condensed milk, normal milk and sugar in a large pan. The whole stuff is cooked on a medium flame till all the milk thickens and shrinks. When all it becomes tendered, then Desi Ghee is added to the material and it is continuously stirred on high heat till the mixture leaves the sides of the pan. Now this is the time to add Khoya which is prepared with cream milk and it actually adds the richness of taste unlike any other ingredient. Khoya may also be replaced with the dry milk powder if it is not available. Furthermore the dried fruit stuff is the other important ingredients to be added with Gaajar ka Halva. The whole material of Gaajar ka Halva is mixed up well finally and it is covered for at least 20 minutes. Some people also love Gaajar ka Halva with the slices of boiled eggs and extra Khoya.
You’ll hardly find any marriage function in the province of Punjab, Pakistan where Gaajar ka Halva or Carrot Pudding is not served as dessert with the meal. As Gaajar ka Halva is full of energy and power, the mothers specially prepare this for their children. Gaajar ka Halva is an ultimate dessert of winter in Pakistan and it is served hot in most of the restaurants. To enjoy the wet evenings of winters, the families come out specially to enjoy Gaajar ka Halva, which is available on many food corners.
The Land of the Desert is located in the southern part of the province of Punjab, Pakistan. This is called “Cholistan” commonly and it is known locally as “Rohi“. This arid zone is spread over an area of 27,000 Sq. Km which is mainly the part of Bahawalpur, Bahawalnagar and Rahim Yar Khan districts. Cholistan has very harsh climate with a very low rain fall annually and this has resulted the most of its part to remain barren. The people of Cholistan pass a nomadic life and they move continuously in search of water and feed for their cattle. They are mostly dependent upon the domesticated animals including camels, sheep and goats.
The people of Cholistan speak Saraiki language and their main wealth is their livestock. The livestock breeding helps to overcome the need of the milk and meat of the surrounding region. However, the Cholistani people have some other professional activities like clay pottery, weaving, creating the wool products and leather works. Sculpturing and pottery is actually the gift from the nearby Indus civilization to the people of Cholistan. The wool produced in Cholistan is considered very refined which is mainly used in the carpet knitting. They also prepare many other woolen goods. The local textile industry of Cholistan is involved in the making of the traditional clothing items like Ajrak, Chunri, Sufi, Gargas, turbans and shawls which are designed on tremendous patterns and colors. Another famous product of Cholistan is “Khussa” which is prepared by the local shoemakers with exquisite compositions. The women of Cholistan are particularly famous for their traditional ornaments which are also their specialty. The bangles, nose pins, necklaces and anklets are the fundamental feature of the Cholistani fashion.
Although the people of Cholistan are suffering from the basic necessities of life for centuries, they have amazing richness in their culture. Their life is full of colors as they use bright colors not only in formal but in normal wear. Their customs and traditions are also very unique and attractive for the outer world. The Colors of Cholistan are exceptionally prominent in the festive occasions where many musical and dancing theatres are organized. Special traditional food like “Saag – ( Spinach ) ” and ” Khunmbi ” are prepared. Camel Dancing and Snake Charming are also very enticing for the visitors. The craftsmanship of the artisans at work is very distinctive and it is expressly admired.
Here are some glimpses of the Colors of Cholistan which are captured in the eye of camera superbly by some eminent photographers.
Generally the Cholistani people live in the mud houses having walls of unbaked earth; The mud house is often constructed of molded sun-dried blocks of mud slush.
A mud house in Cholistan
Colors are so important in the clothing of the people of Cholistan. Even the males wear bright colors. Look at this Man from Cholistan ;
A Cholistani Man_( Image : Agha Waseem Ahmed )
The women of Cholistan remain busy in their household tasks. They also help their men in the daily business. This woman of Cholistan is engaged in her daily routine ;
A busy woman of Cholistan in her daily routine ( Image: TARIQ HAMEED SULEMANI )
Water scarcity is the main issue in Cholistan. Many ponds of water have dried up and the long dry spells are the main threat for the people of Cholistan. The women normally bring water from the water wells which are the underground water resources.
The women of Cholistan around a Water well ( Image : Agha Waseem Ahmed )
The women of Cholistan go to the water ponds together in form of groups, fill their pitchers with water and bring them back to their homes.
Water carrying women of Cholistan ( Image : Nadeem Khawar )
The livestock breeding is the main job of the Cholistani herders. Their herds normally consists of precious cattle genetics ;
A herd of sheep in Cholistan ( Image : AMEER HAMZA )
The inhabitants of Cholistan love camel. A special breed of camel is known as Mareecha breed and this name is associated with the local tribe, Mareccha.
The Camel dance in Cholistan ( Image : Iqbal Khatri )
The Snake Charmers of Cholistan travel and explore this fantastic desert; they visit different places and show their dancing snakes to the spectators. This is the main source of their earnings and they remain in the search of snakes during the entire summer.
A group of snake charmers in Cholistan ( Image : Muzammil Pasha )
Derawar Fort is a fortified structure in Cholistan which is famous for the tourists for its magnificent location. This glorified fort stands erected with its amazing towers in the golden sand of Cholistan but some parts of Derawar Fort are decaying rapidly due to negligence of authorities.
The famous Darawar Fort in Cholistan ( Image : Tariq Hameed Sulemani )
The City Mosque is also named after Darawar Fort.
City Mosque of Darawar Fort ( Image: Ahahita Hashmani )
The camels are used by the people of Cholistan as the main mode of transportation.
The local transportation of the people of Cholistan ( Image : Dr Ahsan )
The folk culture of Cholistan is very rich. The land of the desert has produced many legends in the fields of folk music and performing art. This is a photograph of the local Cholistani singer.
A folk singer from Cholistan ( Image : ENGINEER J )
Chanan Pir is a famous saint of Cholistan and his burial place is also named after him as Chanan Pir village. Annually, thousands of people from distant places come to celebrate the Chanan Pir Festival.
An image of the Chanan Pir Festival of Cholistan ( Image: Nadeem Khawar )
Colors of Cholistan
Colors of the Chanan Pir festival at Cholistan
The male folk dancers dress up themsleves as female while performing publically in many festivals. This is their thousands of years old tradition, as they dislike their females to perform as dancers.
A male folk dancer of Cholistan dressed up as a female ( Image : AWAIS YAQUB )
The ancient ruins of Mauj Garh Fort in Cholistan
The ruins of Mauj Garh fort in Cholistan ( Image: Nadeem Khawar )
In the Cholistan desert, an Annual Jeep Rally, known as Cholistan Desert Jeep Rally is also oganized. It is the biggest motor sports event in Pakistan.
Cholistan Desert Jeep Rally ( Image by Max Loxton )