ISLAMABAD: Providing an ideal opportunity to experience the cultural diversity of the country, the ongoing folk festival of Pakistan, commonly known as ‘Lok Mela’, continues to attract a large number of people every day.
All provinces have so much exclusive to offer to the visitors that it sometimes become hard for them to give due time to each pavilion. Every pavilion is truly a window to the cultural diversity that exists within each area.
A detailed look at Punjab pavilion introduces the visitors with the wide range of colourful and dazzling crafts along with vibrant and energetic traditional folk music of the area.
Keeping alive the spirit of fanfare and festivity, the Punjab pavilion depicting the indigenous folk culture, arts, crafts, traditional cuisine, folk music and folk entertainment remains the centre of attraction for the visitors.
As you enter the Punjab pavilion, it welcomes you with more than fifty master craftsmen and craftswomen, who are seen sitting in the artistically erected stalls practicing centuries’ old traditional crafts including bone work, lacquer art (jundri ka kaam), Multani blue tiles, tie & dye, bock printing, wood carving, darree weaving, khaddar weaving, basketry, pottery, embroidery, zardozi, metal work, camel bone carving, okair sazi, shoe (khussa) and needle work.
Several female artisans are also attending the festival, giving a sense of gender equality, which is usually witnessed in almost every activity of Lok Virsa.
The first stall, which gets your attraction, is allotted to Malukan Bibi, ‘gindi’ maker from Cholistan desert. The ‘gindi’ is a traditional appliqué work also known as ‘ralli’ in Sindh province, with a difference that more bright colours are used in making a ‘gindi’. Zainab Bibi and Kaneez Fatima are craftswomen of basketry from Shah Jewna, Jhang.
They create their masterpieces from date palm leaves. In yet another stall, Samina and Shaheen are found busy in making beautiful embroideries to be used for women’s dresses.
Surraya from Karror Pacca makes traditional ‘chunri’ (tie & dye work) with its tiny details and dark colours like maroon, green, yellow and red.
Among these craftswomen, the most prominent one is Hajan Fateh Bibi from Shah Jewna, district Jhang. She is seventy-year-old and is an expert in basket-weaving. She weaves many colourful items like baskets, changer, hand-fans, women’s footwear, *chhaaj* (grain separator), etc. Despite her old age and poor eyesight, she is carrying on this difficult task.
Male artisans in the Punjab pavilion proved their mettle by creating equally exquisite handicrafts. The outstanding among them is Ameer Bukhsh, who is an expert in natural dyes. The ancient art of wooden block making has its centres in the lower Indus valley encompassing southern Punjab and all of Sindh. He has not only trained his family members but also imparted training to many artisans in other crafts of textile.
The other one whose work fascinates the visitors is Riaz Ahmed Mughal, an educated, young but accomplished master artisan of wood lacquer work. He is from Silanwali, tehsil of district Sargodha which is known for wood based crafts. The art of lacquer work runs in his family.
His father and grand father are included amongst the craftsmen who pioneered this art in the sub-continent. Lacquer work, which forms an intrinsic part of Pakistan folk crafts, involves the process of applying layers of Lac in different colours on wood, while the material is rotated on a simple wooden lathe machine. Patterns are etched on the surface, exposing each colour according to the requirements of traditional patterns.
Riaz Mughal creates fine pieces ranging from vases, decorative plates, table lamps, and clocks. His master pieces are being used in corporate sector as souvenirs. He has participated in a number of exhibitions, art festivals and fairs and received many awards.
A performance pit has been created in the centre of the Punjab pavilion. Folk singers and musicians entertain the visitors throughout the day with the loud beating of the ‘dholi’ (drums) in their gaudiest costumes, which is the characteristic of Punjabi traditions. Famous among folk artists is Bashir Lohar who is performing for various cultural programmes for the last twenty years.
According to Lok Virsa sources, Punjab government has not officially sent its contingent so far in the festival. However, Lok Virsa, at is own, arranged for erection of the`Punjab pavilion’ as well as participation of master artisans, folk artists, musicians and dance groups from all over the province, so as to ensure presence of Punajb with other federating units at this national event of public importance.
This arrangement has been made keeping in mind the festival’s main thrust which is “provincial harmony and national integration”, and without participation from Punjab, this basic objective could not have been achieved. Lok Virsa management therefore deserves appreciation for this initiative.
When we talk about Punjab province, it is popular for its rich and diverse culture. Villages in Punjab are the best places from where the glimpses of Pakistani culture are clearly visible. People give respect to their traditions, culture and norms. They celebrate each and every tradition of their culture.
Punjab is also very rich in literature. Sufis add more to its literature. Provincial capital Lahore is popular for its recreational events. Lahori’s are famous all over the country for their celebrations particularly for festivals like Basant and Lok Melas and people from different cities attend these celebrations with a great fervor and enthusiasm.
In the villages too, people take active part in the happiness and grieve of each other and are very hospita ble. They tell stories of traditional tales like Heer Ranjha, Heer Waris Shah and music is also full of colors in Punjab.