Saturday, September 28, 2019

Basant as a Cultural Heritage of Lahore Essay Example for Free

Basant as a Cultural Heritage of Lahore Essay Basant as a cultural heritage of Lahore by Yasir Raza Naqvi Lahore is an exceptionally festive city. The people of Lahore commemorate many festivals and events throughout the year, amalgamating Mughal, Western and current trends. This blending is extended to include the grand and historically significant festival of Basant. Though religiously not a Muslim cultural event, it is widely celebrated by the Muslim majority population Lahore. It is precisely due to the same reason coupled with other ‘non-Islamic’ practices that it has come under severe criticism by the mullahs. The celebration of Basant grew at an increasing rate in the late 90’s till 2005 where it suddenly came under ban due to an increasing number of deaths caused by highly tensile glass coated threads. Due to the official recognition during Musharraf’s early regime, kite making had become an industry, employing hundreds of thousands of people. The implementation of ban of kite flying followed by the ban on kite making left almost 500,000 families employed. Political turmoil followed by the ban on Basant added misery to the already crawling economy of Pakistan as the number of tourists who came to Lahore just to see the magnificent event of Basant fell tremendously. Therefore, In this essay, I tend to analyze the tri fold significance that Basant holds for Lahore. I would briefly shed light on the history of Basant and its transformation over the years till today coupled with the criticism it faced by religious elements of Pakistan. I would later explain how Basant becomes the center of tourist attraction, and generates a lot of revenue for the local industry thus securing an important position in translating the cultural heritage of Lahore. I would also seek to mention the reasons for the implementation of ban on Basant and propose solutions to uplift it. In the pre-partitioned Punjab, Hindus, especially of Lahore- celebrated Basant by flying kites. It was precisely during that time that the Muslims of Lahore, almost equal in number-comprising of the 48% of the population of Lahore, were instructed by the mullahs of that time to refrain from celebrating the event as it was typically a Hindu festival. However, the youth of that time did take part in the event by flying kites. After partition, almost all the Hindus had left Lahore for India but their tradition of Basant remained; and even today Lahoris take pride in Basant and fly kites from their rooftops with the same enthusiasm. Being the historic capital of Punjab there is no other place where Basant is elebrated with as much vigour and enthusiasm as the ancient city of Lahore. Traditionally, a festival confined to the old-walled city, it has now spread throughout the city. The celebration of Basant is incomplete without the kites and it is for the same reason that Michael Palin in his book Himalaya says: â€Å"Everyone in Lahore flies their kites for a day. † (Palin) Marshall Cavendish in his book People of Western Asia briefly states about the history of Basant and its celebration in the following words: â€Å"Lahore’s spring festival, Basant (buh-SAHNT): also known as Jashen-e- Baharan), is celebrated in February or March each year. It is an ancient festival that has become increasingly popular in recent years, attracting visitors from other parts of the country. Basant is celebrated with feasting, music, dance and crafts, and the wearing of yellow costumes or scarves, a symbol of the new spring. The most striking feature of the festival is the kite flying. Thousands of kites of all shapes, sizes and colors fill the skies and soar from parks and city roofs. At night, music rings and while white kites are flown, which reflect lights and fireworks. Throughout Pakistan there are local spring fairs with folk dancing; feasting; fairground attractions, such as swings and ferries wheels (sometimes made of wood in rural areas); music; and sporting contests. † (Cavendish) The celebration of this event which includes the spending on the purchase of kites has constantly being termed by the mullahs as un Islamic. In an interesting piece written by Roy McCarthy in The Guardian (17th May 2003), a young woman supporter of the Jamiyat (religious party) is reported as vehemently arguing against Basant. It is not Pakistani culture. Pakistanis don’t need new festivals. The most obnoxious part of the Basant is that it encourages young men and women to dance together and drink alcohol. This is not Islam. This is not Pakistan. This is not part of our civilization. † (The Guardian) The cry by the Jamiyat and other religious parties to impose ban on purely religious grounds, that is, Basant being a Hindu festival and thus unIslamic; therefore it should not be celebrated for the same reason might not be a reasonable argument. Firstly because, Basant is more of an ethnic event and it was celebrated by the Hindus and Muslims (the younger lot) alike by flying kites on Basant day and kite flying is more of a sport in the contemporary world, so the question of kite flying being Islamic or unIslamic does not arise . Secondly, ‘there is no denial to the fact that religion is very important and integral part of the culture of Pakistan but we should remember that cultural traditions are also a cause to celebrate and if nothing else the celebration of Basant can be viewed by the specific gathering of the ethnic group. This is further strengthened by the statement made by Sheikh Saleem, lahori and a local kite maker, â€Å"eid musalmanon ki hoti hai or Basant lahoriyon ki†. Thus it is purely a cultural event and Basant and kite-flying contrary to fundamentalist perceptions had nothing to do with religion. Thirdly, Basant has always been supported by the sufis of the past who were the early preachers of Islam in the subcontinent and were all very close to religion of Islam. However, during times when the state comes under religious influences (MMA had an impressive victory in October 2002), there are efforts to discourage what is, after all, not a religious festival. Pakistan† (Rengel) Sufis of Sub-Continent have a convention of adjusting to the local culture and language of the places they visited to spread Islam. The Chishti sufis, have not only tried to relate to the South Asian culture and music, they even tested and developed different cultural forms. Basant is a living example of religious open-mindedness and respectfulness of other creations of God. Previously, it was these Dargahs and Khaneqahs, which served as basis where people could share equal liberty, message of transparency and oneness. Basant is a tradition initiated eight hundred years ago by the famous poet Amir Khusro. Thus, the sufis of the past, namely Nizamuddin Auliya, Baba Zaheen Shah, Amir Khusro also took part in celebrating the event of Basant through songs. The song sung on Basant commemorates a special event in a saint’s life. Blum and Neuman) Kite-making and kite-flying interdependent on one another spread from the confines of ‘undroon sheher’ across Lahore, and as the city of Lahore expanded, so did the trade. It grew to such a degree that it attracted people from around the world and made Lahore a place of great tourism for Pakistan and a dynamic source of income for its residents. The festival of Basant transformed over the years due to the introduction of kites of different shapes, sizes and colors and as Saeed writes â€Å"Kite Fighting is an integral part of the Basant Kite festival. Saeed) It is precisely this magnificent display of kite flying on Basant day that made Lahore famous and thus it became the center of tourist attraction. People belonging to upper as well as lower economic classes from around the country and beyond packed city hotels for a few days of late-night festivities. Thus, as the celebrations of Basant got bigger and bigger, more and more support started coming in the form of endorsements by the government, and sponsorship and advertisement by multi-nationals in the private sector such as Coca Cola, Pepsi and Nestle. Official statement of District Chief Nazim of Lahore, 2003, Basant had created a business of Rs. 2 to 3 billion in the province and provided lot of opportunities to common people and owners of cottage industries in the country. To some independent estimates overall euphoria of Basant would generate economic activities of Rs. 4 to 4. 5 billion in the province in 2004†. (Khan) Gradually, the event which was once a general celebration of spring became overly competitive and transformed from being a fun sport to a killer sport claiming hundreds of innocent lives. As the nature of Basant changed so did the demand for the kinds of kites needed and thus new models, enormous kites and ‘dors’ toughened with steel wire, chemical and glass to have room for the ‘kite-fighting’ of Basant replaced the traditional kite design, size and thin ‘dors’ that never utilized anything more than starch. These changes are in-fact the root of the present dilemma. â€Å"Kite flying on Basant has taken 505 lives in the last two years. The supreme court of Pakistan has mentioned 45 kite-flying related deaths in city over the last six months and 460 last year†. Zia) The factor that makes this activity even deadlier is that the dangers to human life from this commotion are multi pronged. In simpler words, the group of people affected by this cannot be specified. Actually, it is so large and all-around a group that the risks seem horrendous. Unlike other hazardous sports, the activity of celebrating Basant and more specifical ly more often than not, affects people who are not even slightly related to kite flying. The deaths quoted above are a testament to this argument. A majority of these deaths were of the unfortunate motorcycle riders who couldn’t endure the wounds after the stray strings, used for kite flying, cut open their throats. Then there were deaths due to the distraction caused by these stray strings. Young boys running after and chasing kites also add up to to this very ill-fated club. The number of wounded people and the number of accidents that kite flying on Basant has been causing is alarming to say the least. But the horror doesn’t end here. Many kite flyers were victims themselves; deaths caused by falling off rooftops, electric shocks due to the use of metal strings and obviously they too have the hazard of the stray thread slitting their throats. The killing of innocent people was not the only reason that the government imposed at a ban on basant. The monetary losses caused by kite-flying are astonishing. Fluctuations in the power supply and frequent electricity trippings have become identical with Basant. Pakistan Times show a grim picture: â€Å"As many as 48,173 power trippings were caused by kite flying were recorded in different parts of the provincial metropolis during the first quarter of current fiscal year. † (Pakistan National News Desk). Every year, the Basant days in Lahore are like a mini-blackout. And the people who have to take the toll are the people who have to work through days and nights to ensure that the people get uninterrupted power supply. The sharp strings and metal twangs can cut through the insulation of wires and every day, hundreds of transformers are left burnt and rendered useless. LESCO: â€Å"The losses suffered by LESCO 350 million rupees during the last 4 years ending 2003 out of which a loss of Rs. 20 million was caused in 2002 by metal wires. Moreover, one grid station had been damaged by metal wire every year during this period resulting in a loss of Rs. 8 to Rs. 9 million and the destruction of 210 feeders. † (LESCO) It is estimated that if there are 50 one-hour breakdowns, it costs Rs. 2. 5 million to WAPDA Steel and glass-edged wires are banned but manufacturers still report roaring trade. (Pakistan times†¦) Kite making is traditionally a family enterprise. Behind every kite is the effort of a minimum of six people. The skill is one that they acquire in their ‘virasat’ as Baqir Ali Butt stated. In some ways kite-making has been altered by the changing circumstances of Lahore but in other ways it has stayed the same. It continues to provide employment for men, women and children, including handicapped persons and the incomes of 500, 000 people are dependent upon the trade â€Å"Around 500,000 families, directly related to the kite flying business, have lost their sources of livelihood because of the ban on Basant†¦[†¦] The ban is costing them Rs 200 million annually, and at the same time damaging other businesses that are indirectly related to the festival. They said that the people related to the industry, including kite makers, twine (dor) makers, wholesalers and retailers, had lost their means of earning a living. The cost of the paper used in kite making is estimated at around Rs 90 million and the cost of the twine used for flying kites is estimated at around Rs 40 million. The process of making kites involves around Rs 40 million, said Lahore Kite Flying Association General Secretary Sheikh Muhammad Saleem. â€Å"These were taken two years back. Now the number must have jumped,† he said, adding that 500,000 families had suffered because of the ban. † (Dawn International) (Tasleem) â€Å"The Supreme Court on Friday directed the Punjab police to register and take affidavits from the manufacturers of strings for kite flying in the province that they would not produce metallic and other dangerous strings which play havoc with human lives and power lines during Basant festivities. The National Assembly was recently informed that Wapda lost Rs30. 2 million in revenues due to Basant-related mishaps in the Punjab from 1999 to February 2004. Basant as a Cultural Heritage of Lahore. (2017, Feb 24). We have essays on the following topics that may be of interest to you

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