Garamchishma people Celebrating Pathac festival
CHITRAL: The people of Garam Chashma valley are celebrating the traditional spring festival here to mark the end of winter and start of the arrival of spring. This year local astrologers cum khalifas have decided to celebrate the festival even in winter season before arrival of spring. This festival is celebrated in South and West Asia as spring festival and has been given different cultural names like ‘Basant’. In Garam Chashma it is called Pathak
According to folk heritage of Ismaili Muslims, who comprise majority of the population of Lotkuh sub tehsil, Pathak marks the successful conclusion of the 40 days (chilla) meditation of Nasir Khisraw, the legendary Fatimid period Ismaili mystic, who first preached Islam in this part of the world, and is believed to have lived here for some time before returning to his home town in Central Asia. The Pathak festival has been celebrated here as cultural event from time immemorial by all the local communities irrespective of their creed but since the rise of sectarianism in early 1980s due to the policies of General Zia ul Haq, the festival has remained an Ismaili festival.
Messengers of astrologers (Khalifas) who staying in memorial shrine of Pir Nasir Khisro visiting different houses conveying the message of Khalifa (religious leaders of Ismaili community) for fixing date to celebrate the Pathak festival they are calling Pathakeens in local language. On arrival of these pathakeens (messengers) people showering flour on their shoulder to be relics and to welcome them they greeting about the festival and local people offering them fresh and dry fruit as well as different meals made from milk they collecting these things in a bag and carry to shrine of Pir Nasir Khisro.
On the day of Pathak, the local people clean their houses, buy new cloths and cook special food. Local sweet dish (shoshparaki) and Ishperi (cheese) are specially prepared for this day. People visit each other’s houses for greeting and sharing the joy of the New Year, relations are revived and differences resolved after mutual forgiveness. This healing touch of Pathak is its distinguishing feature. Traditional sports like tug of war, (shimeni zhingkek) stone throwing (boht pissik) and swinging by young girls (chookubiz) etc are played, the later one by women. Over the years traditional sports have been abandoned and more ceremonial aspects of the festival are left. Without patronage, this festival is not likely to survive the vagaries of time and without Pathak our culture would be poorer. Youngest boys also playing skating (rushing over snow bound slope on the outskirt of mountains) they also arrange competition of walnut targeting as well as Guli Danda and the winner one is riding on the back of runner up team. They also throwing stones and one stone is declared Qazi (leader) in case of shooting that stone the team is considering winner and the rival team is bound to took them and allow them to ride on their back and carry them until the pith. Small boys also played racing and play Kabadi in which one try to lay down his rival and when he success they perform folk dance on the beating of drums. Women and men both participating in the festival and they were coming over snow bounds ways by felling down and slipping. There were so many interesting and colorful programs during the events and need to be celebrated on a large scale which can be caused for attracting domestics as well as foreign tourists massively.
‘A Beautiful Festival of Injigan’
As human is composed of body and soul, likewise nation’s lives and recognition also depends on their traditions, famous historical events and culture. All those nations who sustain their beautiful traditions and cultures, they are considered as a living nation in the world. This is beautifully stated by Dr Allama Iqbal in his poetry.
Translation: “As human body is maintained with the combination of human soul and human body, similarly nations’ lives also depend on the remembrance of their traditions and cultures.”
The most popular and dynamic way of sustaining the historical events is the celebration of festivals through which a nation not only maintains its tradition and culture but also acquires various benefits from them. The history of festivals is directly related to human origin and they have been celebrated in a diverse ways with the passage of time. Celebration of festivals is an ongoing process and never stops as long as human life exists in the world, because human life and festivals are inseparable from each other.
Considering the importance of historical festivals, various reformists not only used them for the reformation of their nations but also set such types of festivals which helped them to motivate their nations towards the social and ethical development of the society. Therefore, every festival in the world has its own underpinnings, which are directly or indirectly related to human development in many aspects of lives.
Ismaili Muslims of Garum Chashma (Chitral) also celebrate a unique festival named ‘Pathak’ every year, which has many social reformative aspects. They relate this unique festival with the prominent Ismaili philosopher of Fatimid Time, Nasir-e-Khusraw.
The term ‘Pathak’ is simply used in Khowar (Chitrali language) for a white sign. In case of this festival, there is a rite of putting some wheat flour on the five pillars of the traditional houses in the very morning of the festival, which is called ‘Pathak’. In connection with this distinctive rite the whole festival is famous with the name of Pathak. It is celebrated in Garum Chashma area on 31st January or 1st of February, every year, with a great pomp and show. Here it is important to mention that, in some parts of Chitral, this terminology has also been used for the famous Persian festival Nawroz and Sal Gherek. But we know that Nawroz (New Day) has its own historical back ground which goes back to ancient Persian History. According to my perception Sal Gherek (Passing the year) is a Khowar term, has been used instead of Nawroz, which is clear from their similar meanings. While Pathak, which is celebrated in Garum Chashma area, is a unique festival which has nothing to do with mention festivals celebrated in other part of Chitral. It is also obvious from the celebrating date of Pathak which is 31st January or 1st February every year.
Although enough research has not been done on its origin and evolution; nevertheless in proper Garum Chashma the Sada’t family, who is involved in administration of the festival, relates it with Nasir-e-Khusraw, a famous Ismaili scholar of Fatimid Time. According to them, it was celebrated first time by Nasir-e-Khusraw, after the completion of his forty days meditation (Chilla Kashi) in a cave situated at Garum Chashma. The people have also constructed a shrine at that particular area, where Nasir-e-Khusraw had stayed for some days. Here it is also important to mention that we have comprehensive evidences of Nasir-e-Khusraw’s visit to Garum Chashma Chitral. Remarkable scholar Dr. Inayatullah Faizi in his book (Wakhan a windows into central Asia) writes, “Nasir-e-Khusraw visited Chitral, through Munjan valley. He is said to have spent forty days in a hut at (Injigan) Garum Chashma, which is now famous with the name of Ziarat (Shrine) of Nasir-e-Khusraw”(p.78). Another scholar, who also verify Nasir-e-Khusraw visit to Garum Chashma, is Dr. Ibrahim Bhamiyani, who has compiled almost all the oral tradition of Badakhshan regarding Nasir-e-Khusraw, in his Book, Burhan-ul-Awliaa. According to him, Nasir-e-Khusraw visited Injigan (the old name of Garum Chashma). He says “Nasir-e-Khusraw has visited Garum Chashma with his four companions. Nasir meditated in a cave situated in Injigan for forty days.” (p.58). According to Bhamiyani one of his companion, who was with Nasir-e-Khusraw in this visit, was Syed Malik Jahan Shah, historically known as Omer Umgi. It is also clear from the Ismaili history of Central Asia that Omer Umgi was designated as his representative (Mazun-e-Akbar) by the Nasir-e-Khusraw. The interesting thing is that, Sada’t family of Garum Chashma relates their genealogy with Omer Umgi, which seems rational because, this family is still responsible for conducting various religious activities among the community, like marriages ceremonies, death rites, and many other religious rites and rituals. They also have some written and oral traditions regarding Nasir-e-Khusraw and his four companions’ visits to Injigan.
Way of Celebration
As it is mentioned before that the whole responsibilities of this festival is on the shoulder of Sada’t family of Garum Chashma. That is the only reason that it is in its original shape in this area. The notables (Qazis/Khalifas) of this family call a meeting to discuss on the over all arrangement system before a week of the festival. They prepare groups (consisting two or three members) to send them to different villages of the valley with the instructions of celebration. Before sending these groups to various parts of the valley, they arrange a short training program to train them about the procedures for the celebration of the festival. For instance the timing of the beautiful rite putting ‘Pathak’ on the five pillars of traditional houses varies year to year. There are some other aspects, which also change with the passage of time. In the present situation the whole discussed process of the festival is leaded by the two notable of the sad’at family, Qazi Syed Malik Shah and Khalifa Syed Tahmur Shah, beside some other responsible Qazis and Khalifa of the mentioned family.
After receiving training and full understanding of the formalities, these groups depart to their respective villages. These groups are sent before three days of Pathak. During these three days, they try to cover all their respective areas. These groups are called ‘Pathakeen’ with the connection of the festival ‘pathak’ and the people enthusiastically welcome them in their villages. People of the area often give them various gifts on this happy occasion as a token of appreciation. The community is so interested in this festival that they refused the proposal of sending letters instead of Pathakeen to different villages.
Day before Pathak is called ‘Samun’ which means preparation. In this day people clean their traditional houses and do not allow any body from out side to enter their home till the next day. Next morning a person visits the home and recites some Quranic and Persian verse of dua. Usually the ceilings of traditional houses are black due the smoke created by wood fire inside the houses. So this is a day to clean that dust from the walls and ceilings and time to put flour in the ceilings and walls. In the morning, usually at five o, clock the head of the family puts some Pathak on the five pillars of the house with the recitation some verses of Persian or Khowar dua (prayer) for prosperity of the family. There is also a rite, while putting Pathak on these pillars the direction of person should be towards Qibla. Due to the blackness of the houses white flour remains distinctive and visible, so people decorate their house and make various designs in the walls and ceilings with flour. After the completion of this rite, a group of villagers visit the houses one by one. Head of the family standing at the door puts Pathak on the right shoulder of every single member of the group, entering to his house. While entering to houses, they say (Mubarako Bashad) which means congratulations and the family members answer (‘Aminako Bashad’), which means same to you.
Though many types of dishes are prepared during this festival but most of them are made up of milk. The very special dish, which is only related to this festival, is ‘Shoshpalaki’. It is a unique type of dish and its taste is sweet. For this dish, wheat is passed through a long process, which probably consists of twenty to twenty-five days. This process of preparation usually starts a month before this festival. After this long process of preparation, wheat becomes sweet. This dish is cooked in every single house of the valley on this day. Before presenting this dish to people, ‘Ishperi’ is presented, which is made up of milk. Bread of wheat, which is called ‘pirniki’, is made in every house for the Shrine of Nasir-e-Khusraw in the morning of the festival. It is taken by the head of the family with some other bequests (Nazranas) to the Ziarat where members of Sada’t families receive them and give them dua and little amount of traditional dish which is specially cooked at Shrine for them. This dish is considered as sacred one and called ‘luqma’.
Like other festivals, for this occasion people make new cloths and buy gifts for the whole family members. Some of the games are also played like football and hockey. People send special bread, dishes and gifts to the houses of their married daughters and sisters on this day, which is called ‘Bash’. Sometime the whole family visits their married daughter or sisters on this day.
Social reformative aspects of Pathak
There is no festival in the world, which has no objectives and learning behind its visible form. Every festival has been formulated in such a way by the reformists that it deals directly or indirectly with any aspect of the society. Because of social and ethical underpinnings of these festivals, they acquire very much cultural and social importance in any society. Similarly ‘Pathak’ is a festival, which deals many ethical and social aspects of the indigenous society. Some of the major social and reformative aspects of ‘Pathak’ will be discussed as follow.
1. The main aspect of this festival is cleanliness. As Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him says that cleanliness is a part of faith, this festival tries to fulfill the famous prophetic tradition about the importance cleanliness. A week before Pathak cleaning practice of each village starts. In this practice not only houses are repaired and cleaned but also the streets and roads are cleaned and repaired by the people.
2. It also promotes the concept of unity in the area. Winter is very cold in this area, which is especially very difficult for the people to meet each other. On this occasion people from all parts of the Garum Chashma come to Ziarat, shrine of Nasir-e-Khusraw and get to meet each other. They also go to meet their relatives on this occasion, which reinforce the notion of love and caring for each other.
3. Another very beautiful part of this festival is reconciliatory process between annoyed families. In the beginning of this festival the notables of the village go to reconcile between them and insist them to forget their clashes and to start good relation between them. So, due to this festival people come nearer to each other.
4. It also gives a lesson of equality and help with each other. In every village some economically sound personalities help poor families of the village on this occasion. On this day a group of people visit to every single home of the village without any discrimination of status or race. It reinforces the concept of equality and pluralism in the society.
Keeping in view the above reformative aspects of the festival it can be said that, this festival plays very positive role in the unity and happiness of the community of the area. As Allama Iqbal says, that a nation is alive when it attached to its great tradition, so we need to appreciate these cultural aspects which possess number of reformative aspects in our society. But here it is very important that as we move in the 21st century, we need to create harmony between the cultural traits, traditions and modern challenging era so that we will not feel any discomfort in celebrating them.
Narrated from Chitralnews.com by Islamuddin and other.
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