KHAPLU, Gilgit-Baltistan: A large number of people attended a three-day festival in Pakistan’s northern Gilgit-Baltistan region which began on March 21 to celebrate Nowruz and Pakistan Day in a colorful manner, said a senior official in Khaplu on Wednesday.
Nowruz is the Iranian New Year which is celebrated on March 21 to mark the beginning of spring season. While it is mostly observed by Zoroastrians in different parts of the world, the festivities are not just limited to them and also take place in areas with Persian influence.
Nowruz celebrations are also quite closely placed with the Pakistan Day which is observed on March 23 to commemorate the passage of a resolution in 1940 in which South Asian Muslims demanded a separate homeland in the region.
“We decided to organize a three-day event in Khaplu from March 21 to 23 since we wanted to celebrate Nowruz and Pakistan Day together,” Areeb Ahmed Mukhtar, assistant commissioner in Khaplu, told Arab News. “The festivities include special polo matches, cultural dance and tasting of local cuisines.”
He said the food festival was organized by female students and teachers, adding they were also asked to manage their own stalls to develop their entrepreneurial skills.
Speaking to Arab News, Muhammad Hassan Hasrat, a local historian, said Nowruz was an ancient Iranian festival that had been celebrated for nearly 2,500 years.
“This festival reached Gilgit-Baltistan when the Iranian preachers first visited this area,” he said. “It is quite popular in this region. People cook local delicacies and distribute them to celebrate Nowruz.”
According to Nasira Jaffar, a food festival organizer, eight girls’ schools in Khaplu were participating in the food festival.
“Over a dozen local cuisines have been prepared to entertain people arriving at the festival,” she said. “Such events also help our economy.”
Gilgit-Baltistan’s local government minister Hajji Abdul Hameed told Arab News Nowruz had been regularly observed in the area for a significantly long period.
“Such festivals should be celebrated in all districts,” he maintained. “There is nothing wrong with celebrating Nowruz and we will arrange bigger festivals in coming years.”