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“WHY FESTIVALS ARE IMPORTANT” BY KAHAR ZALMAY

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Aristotle, the Greek philosopher writes “Man is a social animal. He who lives without society is either a beast or God”

Life is all about happiness and as human beings social interaction with our fellow beings not only brings happiness but help us grow our capacity to learn language, familiarize with cultures, enquire and think, play and work.

We are dependent on social heritage and as Professor Park says, “Man is not born human but to be made human”. Thus our social heritage that is a mixture of customs, traditions, morals, attitudes, festivals, folklore, beliefs and ideals not only make us who we are but bound us to pass it on from one generation to another.

Festivals have both social and economic angles. In the chaotic and stressful planet we inhibit where happiness is overshadowed by negativity and insecurities, the need was felt for something that could bring some positivity and celebrations. Thus the birth of festivals happened giving us opportunity to forget all our worries and celebrate the positive side of life even if for few days.

Festivals act like stress releaser and help us to balance our emotions. More positivity naturally lowers negativity. It also provide an opportunity to reduce friction bringing together and bind estranged friends and relatives in a bond of love.

Nothing brings people together like festivals. It plays a pivotal role in nation building bringing people from every religious economic and social background together. If we look at the fascinating journey of human evolution, we understand that human beings do not invent or create something unless it is required. There is no written history that when exactly festival celebrations started but in Ancient Greece and Rome, festivals were celebrated linked with religion, social organization and political processes.

Agriculture has significantly contributed to the tradition of festival celebration in addition to religions, folklore and traditions. It is such a vital resource that many festivals across the planet are associated with harvest time. Religious festivals like Christmas, Rosh Hashanah, Diwali, and Eid have gathered cultural significance too over the centuries. Events of historical significance, such as important military victories or other nation-building events generally called Victory Day also provide the impetus for a festival. An early example is the festival established by Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Rameses III celebrating his victory over the Libyans.

Festivals contributing greatly to a sense of belonging for religious, social, or geographical groups, contributing to social cohesiveness. Festivals that focus on cultural or ethnic topics also seek to inform community members of their traditions; the involvement of elders sharing stories and experience provides a means for unity among families.

On the economic front Festivals provides stimulus to economic activities. It provides employment opportunities to people and reportedly Basant was banned back in 2005, around 150,000 people in Lahore and 180,000 people in Gujranwala and Kasur had lost their jobs due to the ban on kite flying. Recent ban on Valentine Day also deprived many from earning by selling flowers, gifts and balloons.

Festivals have historically been a great source of entertainment especially before the advent of mass-produced entertainment. Entertainment is important as it brings people together and is a good way for the entire family to bond. It diverts people’s attention from their demanding lives and amuses them in their leisure time.
In the backdrop of recent terrorist attacks in Pakistan, it becomes all the more important to revive and celebrate the many festivals that are either banned by the government or ignored by the society at large as being unsacred. Pakistan is home to dozens of having different festivals. To provide an enabling environment to them to celebrate their festivals would certainly bring all communities together, familiarizing with each other customs and traditions and thus helping in nation building in true sense.

It was heartening how members from civil society defied terrorists and celebrated the festival of Dhmal at the Mazaar of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar. Launching and closing the two-day mother languages festival at Lok Virsa Islamabad with Dhmal by the delegates and participants was indeed a fitting response to the obscurantist mindset of the terrorists. One delegate rightly said ‘our response to the terrorists is Dhamal’.

Lok Virsa is the only institution of Pakistan that has been very active over the last couple of years in reviving and celebrating cultural and religious festivals. Lok virsa proudly owns and promotes all cultures under one roof. After successfully holding two-day long mother languages festival, this week we will be celebrating Basant with a variety of programs such as Basant song competition, food stalls, chunri stalls, dhol bhangra and kite making by master artisans. Next month Lok Virsa will be celebrating the festival of Nowroz presenting food, local dances, music and folk performances of Gilgit- Baltistan. We will also be celebrating festivals of Holi, Diwali, Christmas in addition to Rabab and Saroz festivals. Such festivals bring us together in a bond of love irrespective of color, creed, race and religion.

We believe that Life is a gift that needs to be celebrated and so are the festivals.


The writer is media adviser of Lok Virsa and can be reached at zalmayk@gmail.com

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