Written by Dua Faisal
Photo Credits: Asghar Khan & Hamid Hussain
Spring is one of the four conventional temperate seasons, following winter and preceding summer and is widely known, as the queen of seasons.
It is the most glorifying time of the year marking the end of harsh winters; spring is believed to be the time of rebirth and revival, full of new possibilities. Almost every culture, past and present, has some sort of ritual to rejoice this festive season.
Gilgit Baltistan is, perhaps, the most spectacular region of Pakistan in terms of its geography and scenic beauty. Blessednaturally with luxuriantly green cherry, apricot, apple, pears and peach orchards, streams full of dancing waters, roaring rivers and a landscape full of mountains with snow-covered peaks.
Gilgit reaches its peak of picturesque bloom in the months March and April as that is when the prismatic spring blossom starts, forming a myriad of colour, shapes and hues.
A Spring Festival is held annually in Gilgit-Baltistan and is the most jubilant and exuberant festival held there. Tourists from different cities of Pakistan and all around the world go to observe,honour and celebrate this festival whereas the locals give up all other activities and fully involve themselves in spring festival to pay a special reverence. Before the festival the women and girls gather from all over the valley and decorate their houses.
The festival involves a range of different activities such as a cultural event, which involve folk dancing and rhythmical chant to a beat of the drum.
A seed growing festival is held to formally open the farming season in Gilgit, Hunza and Baltistan. This ceremony depends on when extreme weather conditions become normal and suitable for cultivation. The celebration continues for two days. For this festival people prepare a special dish called Diram or Semn by processing wheat grains for about one month in advance. The Diram is cooked like pudding or halva as well as fresh bread is prepared.
Polo tournaments between the local teams of Gilgit, Astore and Skardu are also conducted during this time.
Kithzit is one of the ceremonies celebrated to welcome the spring season and to expulsion the cold season. It marks the end of wordlessness, lazy hibernating winter and gives new working life and regularizes the people for new season to work with greater zeal in the field and outside homes. As the Gilgit-Baltistan valley is highly scattered and the altitude of different valleys vary from others hence this ceremony is performed on different dates. During this ceremony, the cold is symbolically driven out of houses. The Shoghunputuk family has the privilege to start all the different events in every village. On the evening of the day before Kithzit, a person from Shoghunputuk brings bundles of branches of the wild Sorghum and distributes it to all households. On the day of Kithzit the head of the family cleans the smoke with bundles of the wild Sorghum after which there is an old custom of sprinkling flour over the wall and pillars of the houses. Every household prepares variety of traditional food and gather at one place, where all the people pray for unity and blessings and betterment of all humans. After this people symbolically bring manure to field.
During spring season another ceremony takes place called Thaghm or Tab Thowa. A tribe in Hunza called Shaghun Puthuk comes in procession with a particular protocol holding sticks in hand. First they perform Tumung in an old house during which they burn fire inside a house and check the direction of the smoke. It is believed that the direction of the smoke determines the side of the village where the production of wheat will be more. In this house a person from the tribe is dressed in a special manner called Dhrukhs (Ox). From here the Shaghun Puthuks with the symbolic Dhrukhs proceed to a field where all villagers gather and give a warm welcome and protocol to Shaghun Puthuks. In the field the symbolic Dhruksh makes unique actions like an ox. The Khalifa who is a person that performs religious rituals, prays for better crops, unity, and success. After prayer, an elder from Shaghun Puthuk sprinkles seeds to a small area of the field and cultivates the portion of field through traditional ploughing methods. This is the formal opening of cultivation in the village.
Navroz, which is the beginning of the Iranian year as well as the Bahá’í year, is widely celebrated there and marks the first day of spring season. Navroz also signifies a time of spiritual renewal and physical rejuvenation.
A Walk in the orchards is also conducted for the tourists along with a traditional food street including their delicious local meals.
Spring in Gilgit-Baltistan is truly a season to be experienced at least once.
As Millard Kaufman said, “I glanced out the window at the signs of spring. The sky was almost blue, the trees were almost budding, and the sun was almost bright.”
Truly there is no better place to witness the signs of spring better than Gilgit Baltistan and the team of Holiday Weekly highly recommends everyone to experience spring in Gilgit Baltistan at least once in their life and contribute towards the betterment of Pakistan’s tourism Industry.