CHITRAL: The people of Garam Chashma are celebrating the traditional Pathak Festival here to mark the arrival of spring.
According to the traditions of Ismaili Muslims, Pathak marks the successful conclusion of Pir Nasir Khusraw’s 40 days of meditation (chilla).
Khusraw was a Fatimid era Ismaili mystic, poet and philosopher who was the first to preach Islam in Central Asia and Badakhshan in Afghanistan and Wakhan Corridor. Born in 1004, Khusraw wrote a number of books of poetry, but most notable was his travelogue Safarnama, written during seven years of travel across the Islamic world and arguably the most authoritative account of 11th century life in the
Later, while in Khorasan, Iran, he encountered the wrath of hard-line clerics. He then retired in Badakhshan, now spread across Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he continued to preach and helped spread Islam across this part of Central Asia.
Alice Hunsberger, a researcher and author of a book on Khusraw, wrote of the esteem he is held in, “When Tajikistan was a Soviet republic, an officer from Moscow familiar with Ismaili history asked his guide, there is Mount Lenin, Mount Communism, and Mount Fifth of May, aren’t you upset that there is no Mount Nasir Khusraw?” To which his host replied, “There is no mountain high enough.””
Pathak was celebrated as a cultural event by all local communities, but since the rise of sectarianism in the 1980s due to the policies of General Ziaul Haq, the festival became exclusively Ismaili.
On Pathak, Chitralis buy new clothes and cook speciality dishes like shoshparaki (dessert) and Ishperi (cheese).Traditional sports like shimeni zhingkek (tug of war), bhot pissik (stone throw) and chookubiz (swinging) are played, though they have taken a back seat to ceremonial aspects.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 1st, 2011.
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