Bishop Joseph Arshad: “Lohri festival – to wish each other well, peace, and prosperity”

So far Pakistan is known for its difficult interreligious relationships. Blasphemy law for instance anticipates separation of religious communities. Nonetheless interfaith and intercultural harmony takes place in Pakistan. S. Sheeky, a Pakistani journalist, witnessed it in Faisalabad at the cultural festival “Lohri” which was attended and peacefully celebrated by Muslims, Christians and Sikhs.

 

Typical folcloric dances at the Lohri Festival in Faisalabad. (Foto: Faisalabad Arts/ S.Sheeky)

Typical folk dances at the Lohri Festival in Faisalabad. (Photo: Faisalabad Arts/ S.Sheeky)

By S. Sheeky , Faisalabad, Pakistan

2-Day Lohri cultural festival was celebrated under the banner of South Asia Partnership-Pakistan (SAP-PK), a secular organization, in collaboration with Kuknas theatre group and Faisalabad Arts Council, at Faisalabad on 20th and 21st of January, and joined by above 1500 people including representatives of media groups & NGOs, and people from different schools of thought and Muslim, Christian and Sikh communities.

“It is a universal truth that grief reduces and happiness increases by sharing with others. Lohri is one of the festivals where family and friends gather together to wish each other well, peace, and prosperity,” said Joseph Arshad, the Bishop of Faisalabad diocese.

Lohri is a vibrant Punjabi festival held in January (in start of Punjabi month ‘Magh’) and dedicated to the end of winter season, signifies the harvesting of crops and is consider as a symbol of renewal of life, and respect to the seasons and the natural elements. The harvesting season signifies a period of plenty, peace, happiness and celebrates the importance of fertility in families. Lohri is a great occasion that holds great importance for farmers, because Punjabi farmers see the day after Lohri as the financial New Year.

Other guests of the festival stated:

“Lohri is a thanksgiving festival, and part of the culture of the Punjab Province, which allows people and communities to burn up their biases and hatred in order to create a harmonious community and society.” (Ms. Amina Zaman, human rights activist, and director of Agency for Sustainable Development Pakistan)

“Lohri festival is attributed to the Punjabi culture, not to any religion, sect or ethnicity tradition. The culture is a thing which unites different people and communities rather religions, sects, gender, or ethnicity divide people on different grounds. There is a need to revive peace process, and transform nature and circumstances into culture for peaceful coexistence.” (Muhammad Tahseen, director of SAP-PK)

“Lohri is not a festival of the Sikhs, but it is a festival of the Punjabis. It is pity that such cultural event which make the bonding among people strong, are seldom celebrated in Pakistan.” (Tauheed Ahmed Chattha, educationist, and director of Kuknas theatre group)

A peaceful get-together of Muslims, Christians and Sikhs at the Lohri Festival in Faisalabad (Photo: S. Sheeky)

A peaceful get-together of Muslims, Christians and Sikhs at the Lohri Festival in Faisalabad (Photo: S. Sheeky)

Lohri is referred to as the tale of Dulla Bhatti, a rebel and central character of most Lohri songs, who lived in Punjab during the reign of Mughal Emperor Akbar. He was regarded as a hero for Punjabis. Besides robbing the rich, he rescued girls being forcibly taken to be sold in slave market of the Middle East from the Sandal Bar region, now known as Faisalabad in Pakistan. He arranged their marriages to boys of their religion with rituals and provided them with dowries. So every other Lohri song has words to express gratitude to Dulla Bhatti.

Everybody present in the Lohri celebration rejoiced, and celebrated it around a bonfire lit at sunset to keep the cold of January at bay with the fire signifying the spark of life. The celebration comprised sitting around bonfire, tossing popcorn into the fire as a symbol to remove hatred, and walking around the flame to pray for abundant crops and prosperity. Part of the Lohri festival were different types of folk dance, typical drum beats music and Sufi and folk songs.

The parliamentarians, who were present at the festival, were also much happy and expressed their gratitude regarding Lohri Mela, and ensured their best participation in such activities morally and financially too. They also encouraged the organizers for such successful activity. “The culture of Punjab must be promoted and celebrated across the province for promotion of peace and harmony among communities living in the province, people should enjoy and participate in cultural activities for releasing stress and mental exertion, and Government will make best efforts for organizing these kinds of activities in art councils in Punjab”, they stated.

 

 

 

 

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