The spring festival at Najigram Valley in Swat, set amidst the backdrop of breathtaking scenic beauty, was a convention of artists or ‘hippies’ if one may, and couldn’t be further away from the region’s embattled reputation.
The Nowruz-style celebration, titled ‘The Sparli Mela,’ is a chance for the locals to flaunt their rich cultural heritage and intricate folk music.
The festival took place in the lush valley of Abasahib China in Barikot Teshil and was attended by a large number of people including literary enthusiasts, journalists, and social and political activists.
It was organised by Afzal Shah, a social and political activist of the Najigram Valley. At the opening of the celebrations, Shah said, “It was an aim of ours for a long time, to invite our friends and show them the charm of the valley – its dazzling beauty and archaeological Buddhist ruins; and introduce them to the local artists. Spring was the best time to realise this ambition.”
“It really brought me unending joy,” said a local journalist Amjad earnestly. “Meeting people from all walks of life here on the lofty mountains in the spring season is heaven on earth. The valley is full of Buddhist archaeological remains and cool spring water – it is extremely relaxing.”
A social activist and educationist Ziauddin Yousafzai said the response of the participants was very encouraging. “The fair’s location is really unique. Being surrounded by archaeological remains from the 3rd century in the lush green tourist resort is a source of immense pleasure. The best way to celebrate the spring festival is to mingle with people from all walks of life.”
Svastu Arts and Cultural Association Chairman Usman Ulasyar said, “unfortunately, there is no mechanism in place to celebrate cultural events, so we tried to revive our traditions through this festival.” Ulasyar added that they would now hold the celebration every year.
“Without doubt, we have a history of holding celebrations for different flowers, such as Ziyar Gul Mela, Naranj Mela and Sharsham Gul Mela; but with the passage of time we have forgotten our traditions. We want to revive them once again now,” said poet and literary critic Attaullah Jan.
Afzal Shah’s empathy for the Buddhist ruins might be contagious. He speaks with great fervour about the religion and its message of peace. “We want to extend our message of peace and love to the entire world.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 11th, 2012.