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28 February 2020

Pathak Festival in Chitral Kicks off

CHITRAL: Pathak is a traditional spring festival of Chitral. It is mainly celebrated to mark the arrival of spring with cultural and religious reverence. Although it is celebrated as a defining jubilance between winter and the arrival of spring, yet it is mainly left with the Khalifa – religious astrologist – to give a go-ahead signal. That is how, this year the celebrations kicked off even in winter.

 Spring Festivals have historic importance and people in many parts of the world have been celebrating the season with various names. Here in Garam Chashma, it is called Pathak.  The Pathak celebrations in Chitral are filled with immense happiness and festive activities. On the eve, people clean their houses, buy new clothes and visit each other to share the happiness of the festival and to revitalize their relationship. They prepare variety of foods but Shoshpalaki and Ishpiri – two signature traditional foods of Chitral – are the must for the day.

 Before the festival, Pathakeen make rounds of visits to the village houses, getting the message of Khalifa about Pathak and its schedule. When they come, the host family members will welcome them in a traditional way. A pinch of flour is showered on the right shoulder of the Pathakeen as mark of respect and heartfelt welcome. These Pathakeen are representatives of the Khalifa, an Ismaili religious headman. The day is a day of forgiveness. People tend to regret and forget. It only remains a moment of happiness and joy. Sports and Games are part of it. Various games such as Shimeni Xengek (tug-of-war), Borhth Pizssik (Stone throwing), Chookubiz (Swings) etc. are played. When it happens to snow, youngsters also play snow skiing in the out skirts of mountains. Historically Pathak used to be a common Chitrali festival celebrated as seed sowing ritual. Since 1980 when Gen. Zia Ul Haq started sowing the seeds of terrorism and sectarianism, most of communities disowned it. It, nevertheless, survived in the Ismaili community who attribute the festival to the legendary saint and sufi Poet, philosopher and great traveller Pir Nasir Khusrow. The Ismailis now celebrate it to mark the completion of 40 days meditation of Khusrow in this region without diminishing the previous context of spring festival. The Pathak still remains a binding source among the Chitrali Nation and, by and large, people tend to participate gregariously.  G.H.Farooqui has contributed to this Story from Chitral, Pakistan