When it sounds Aha-o-Ahaa oo Balaay Baalaaayh, when it feels more ecstatic, more excited and more exhilarated, when it seems more vibrant, more colourful, and more vivacious or in short, when it comes directly from the heart, it is from the heart of Pakistan, Lahore. Yes, Lahore, the city of gardens, the city of historical places, and the city of convivial people.
Lahore, the second largest city of Pakistan, fifth of South Asia and 23rd of the world is “Number one” in hospitality and liveliness. Many people remain confounded and mystified in grasping the fact that why is Lahore said to be the heart of Pakistan, why are Lahorites called convivial and welcoming? Why is it said, “Lahore Lahore ai… Jinaayy Lahore nhi Takaya O Jamaya Nhi” (Lahore is unmatched, one who hasn’t seen Lahore is unborn yet.) Today, let’s find out the answers to all these questions.
Being a vivacious city, many festivals are celebrated in Lahore, with the combination of Mughal, western and eastern trends. This unique amalgamation of cultures is simply matchless. A glimpse of these festivities will answer the aforementioned questions and will prove the chirpiness of Lahore and its inhabitants. So, here are some of the distinctive celebrations, marked by “Zinda-Dilan-i-Lahore” in their own way…
Eidul Fitr, one of the chief Muslim festivals, is celebrated with a lot of fervour and zeal. Specifically arranged Chori Bazaars in Anarkali, Ichhra, Liberty, Shadman, etc. are adorned with colourful lights and strips. They remain open until late at night. And when entire Lahore comes out of their houses on Chand Raat, the vibrant ambience of Lahore becomes inimitable. During Eid holidays, different types of typical melas are held in parks and recreational spots, where people belonging to every walk of life come and enjoy the scrumptious food and fanfare.
Eid Miladun Nabi
TThere isn’t any perimeter of exhilaration of children with the beginning of the month of Rabi-ul-Awal. Children blocking the way of wayfarers (with the help of ropes) and demanding Chanda (contribution) to decorate the homes and streets on the birthday of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him), seem quite innocent. The wayfarers contribute amiably in this campaign, which speaks volumes for the liveliness of the Lahorites. After accumulating the contribution, they beautify every street of their area and brighten it with lights, candles and attractive models.
To celebrate national days like the Independence Day, Iqbal Day, Quaid-i-Azam Day and Defence Day, Lahorites are always ahead. Age does not matter; everyone remains busy in embellishing their homes with little flags and lights. National songs (particularly of Madam Noor Jahan, which she sang during the war of 1965) incite passion and excitement at once.
Magnificence of Mughal heritage
The grandeur of Mughal heritage is an example of its own. This treasure has bestowed Lahore with the title “City of Gardens”. Mughal architecture such as Shahi Qila, Badshai Masjid, Hazuri Bagh, Shalimar Garden, Hiran Minar and mausoleums of Jahangir and Noor Jehan are some of the popular tourist spots. People from all over the world come to see the glory of the Mughal heritage and enjoy the hospitality as a bonus.
Gates of Lahore
Thirteen Gates are of great importance in the history of Lahore. These gates served as points of entrance to the city since medieval times. The way in which they are designed truly speaks of the majesty of the bygone empires. These thirteen gates are Akbari Gate, Bhati Gate, Delhi Gate, Kashmiri Gate, Lohari Gate, Masti Gate , Mochi Gate, Mori Gate, Roshnai Gate, Shah-Alam Gate, Shairanwala Gate, Taxali Gate and Yakki Gate.
The grandeur of Minar-i-Pakistan
Good fortune of Lahore once again blessed it when the Pakistan Resolution was passed in Iqbal Park. It was March 23, 1940, when the Muslims of the subcontinent determined to reach their final destination, Pakistan. The memorial of this resolution, the Minar-i-Pakistan, was constructed to pay tribute to the sacrifices of the freedom fighters.
Tomb of Hazrat Ali Hajveri (RA)
Hazrat Syed Usman Ali Al-Hajweri (RA) is one of the famous Sufi saints of South Asia. His tomb (known as Data Darbar) is located near the inner city of Lahore, where hundreds of thousands of people come each year in the hope of gaining their purports.
Mela Chraghaan (Festival of Lights)
Mela Chraghaan is a three-day annual festival to mark the Urs (death anniversary) of the Punjabi Sufi poet and saint Hazrat Shah Hussain. This festival takes place near Shalimar Gardens. Enticing food, clothes and toy stalls gather a large number of people from Lahore and its outskirts. Children enjoy swaying on rides. Surprisingly, it is observed that if it drizzles on the day it doesn’t affect the lamps of the festival.
Jashan-i-Baharaan and Basant
Weather forecasters don’t give the intimation of the arrival of spring season in Lahore. It’s Jashan-i-Baharaan which heralds the end of winter and arrival of spring. During spring, you may have seen the sky full of birds. But, have you ever seen it loaded with different colours? No…is the answer, I’ve heard. To make it positive, you’ll have to come to Lahore wearing a yellowish or greenish jora (suit) on the day that’s called “Basant” and the night that’s known as “Basant-night.” Basant celebrations are not complete without typical Lahori food. The BBQ and the mouth-watering delicasies feel even more scrumptious when the essence of exuberance is added to it.
Dor Meray Lahore
Wondering how can Lahore run? Well, every city can run if it has energetic inhabitants like those of Lahore. Lahore Marathon is a cheerful event in which more than 20,000 people participate from both Pakistan and abroad. Winners are awarded with the prizes of U$115,000 approximately. Due to warm response of the people in the last two marathons, the government has named it “a tradition of Lahore”.
The World Performing Arts Festival
The World Performing Arts Festival is an old tradition of Lahore. It’s held every autumn (usually in November) at the Alhamra Cultural Complex, a mega venue consisting of several theatres and amphitheatres. Different types of musicals, concerts, solo, dance, mime and puppetry shows are organised in this 10-day festival. The unique puppetry show attracts children a lot.
National Horse and Cattle Show
Have you ever seen a dancing team of horses or a show of finest quality livestock? Have you ever had a chance to watch colourful folk dances from all the regions of Pakistan? And what about tattoo (firework) shows? Your expressions demonstrate that your answer is in the negative. But, there’s no need to be perplexed; let me tell you about “The National Horse and Cattle Show” — one of the most popular annual festivals which is held in spring at the Fortress Stadium of Lahore. You can see and enjoy all the above-mentioned performances live over here and share the excitement.
When we talk about food and forget to include Lahore, it is just like forgetting to bring a pen in an examination hall. Lahore is known for its taste and love for eating. Whether you require Desi food i.e. Nihari, Paya, Bong, Bhatoora, Puri-Halwa, Katlamma, Dass-Kulchas, or you are looking for foreign stuff, don’t worry all is available in Lahore, anytime, anywhere. Just like the heart that beats 24 hours, scrumptious food shops remain open 24 hours in the city.
Food Street, as the name suggests, is a street full of different kinds of lip-smacking food. Gowalmandi Food Street is one of the most well-known eating spots in Lahore. The traditional food shops with colourful ambience of the street add more to the taste of the meal. In similar pattern, The Food Street of Anarkali is taking root among the people and tourists rapidly.
After replenishing ourselves at the Food Street, it’s time to shop now. Countless shopping sites are situated in the city. Liberty, Shadman, Y-Block Market of Defence, Pace, Fortress Stadium, Ichhra, Anarkali, Azam Cloth Market (The largest cloth market in Asia) are some of the famous shopping bazaars.
If we are talking about technology, how can we forget one of the biggest tech-bazaar of Asia, Hafeez Centre in Gulberg Lahore, from where you can buy everything from mobiles and computers to sound systems, home theatres and other electronic devices. You’ll be tired of walking down Hall Road, but I’m sure you’d find everything that you’re looking for.
Dhol-beats and marriage hungama
Finally, when it’s time to tie the sacred knot of marriage, the typical Dhamal, Luddi and Bhangra of Lahorees on Dhol-beats, can’t be compared with any other entertaining event of the world. The Dhol-beats and Punjabi music have their separate identity.
A refreshing spot —the canal
I know, after reading the whole story and that too during scorching summers, you must be sweating now. No problem: here is a unique spot of refreshment — the canal. The canal which flows under the shadowy trees gathers a large number of people every Sunday. People belonging to every walk of life mark their holiday in a jolly way here at canal road.
These are some of the festivities and traditions, which mark the vivacity of Lahore. The conviviality of Lahorites makes it prominent all over the world. If you want to see it live, don’t forget to visit the heart of your country. We are always here to greet you, “Gee Ayan Noon” (you are welcome from the core of our hearts).
(DAWN, 11 August, 2007)