A lot of festivals are celebrated in Pakistan annually, each has its own importance, features, and joy. Being an integral part of society, they are welcomed with music, dance, fireworks, and food. Festivals celebrated in Pakistan include both Islamic and cultural.
Most Celebrated Festivals of Pakistan
Let us walk through a list of some of the famous and traditional festivals of Pakistan.
An optional holiday celebrated on the 14th and 15th night of the Islamic month of Shabaan. It is regarded as the night on which fate and fortune are decided. A night to repent and ask for forgiveness. South Asian sweet called ‘halwa’ is distributed among families and neighbors. Donations are also given to the poor.
Known as the ‘festival of lights’, Mela Chiraghan is a 3-day festival celebrated to commemorate the death anniversary of Shah Hussain, a Sufi saint and poet who lived in the 16th century in Lahore. The shrine is named Madho Lal Hussain; Madho was a devoted Hindu follower of his work.
The festival takes place in the Baghbanpura area of Lahore. The days are full of zeal, rejoicing with a Sufi meditative dance and live music. This traditional festival used to be the oldest celebration in the entire subcontinent and the largest in Punjab, but it currently stands at second number. It used to be celebrated at the Shalimar Gardens of Lahore but was relocated to Hussain’s shrine in 1958.
Eid ul Azha is celebrated on the 10th day of the Zil Hajj, the 12th Islamic month. Eid-ul-Azha is a religious holiday. This holy day, known as the second Eid, is celebrated in memory of the sacrifice made by the prophet Ibrahim, wherein he offered the life of his son, Prophet Ismail, to fulfil the decree of Allah.
On this day, Muslims worldwide sacrifice a sheep, goat, cow, or camel in the name of Allah, the same way the prophet did it. The sacrificed animal’s meat is then divided into three parts and distributed among family members, friends, and, most importantly, the poor. With the ongoing pandemic, it is very difficult to perform sacrifices this Eid ul Adha. Still, thanks to the internet and technology, there are many online Qurbani websites that will perform Qurbani for you.
Eid ul-Fitr, often referred to as Eid, is a joyous Islamic festival that marks the end of Ramadan, a month of fasting and spiritual reflection for Muslims worldwide. On this day, Muslims come together with family and friends to celebrate the blessings of the past month. The day begins with a special prayer at the mosque, followed by visiting relatives, feasting delicious traditional foods, and exchanging gifts.
It is a time of gratitude, charity, and unity as Muslims express their happiness and renew their faith while also giving to those in need through the act of Zakat al-Fitr, a form of charity. The colorful festivities, the donning of new clothes, and the sense of community make Eid ul-Fitr a cherished and vibrant occasion for Muslims worldwide.
This festival is like the Nowruz of Iran, Afghanistan, and Central Asia. In Chitral, Gilgit, and Baltistan, Nowruz is celebrated as a socio-religious festival from the 21st to the 23rd of March. It is celebrated fervently in Balochistan and in almost all of Pakistan’s major urban centers. The celebration lasts for weeks.
In Baltistan, the main features of Nowruz include distributing colored eggs to friends and family and polo matches. In Balochistan, the festival is marked with outdoor feasts, traditional musical evenings, polo games, and the traditional jumping over a fire to wash away sins and usher in a fresh start of life.
The origin of this festival goes back to a pre-Islamic era when Pakistan was part of the Achaemenes and Sassanid Persian empires. Children and women used to dress up in new clothes to greet each other. Particular congregations were held in different towns where special prayers were offered for the country’s prosperity. In the Hunza district, the Nawroz festival starts off with agricultural activities as people begin to plow their fields.
Silk Route Festival
Silk Route Festival is an exceptional and fantastic combination of adventure, history, natural raw beauty, culture, and crafts, creating a unique experience that should not be missed. A blend of natural environs the landscape, along with a privileged location in the highest mountains of the world. A festival that embodies breathtaking snow peaks, sparkling glaciers, lush green valleys of fruits, and an unexplored heritage.
Silk Route is an international festival observed in multiple countries with different times and seasons. In Gilgit-Baltistan, it is commonly observed in September or October. This festival is known as one of the most inspiring festivals of the world owing to the following features that it offers.
Shandur Polo Festival
Shandur Polo Festival (3700 meters) is celebrated at the world’s highest polo ground in Babusar every year by polo teams of Gilgit-Baltistan. The ground is lush green and a great tourist spot in Pakistan for camping during the summer season in July. The polo festival is held in August each year. The teams compete with each other and the festival is enjoyed by thousands of people from all over Pakistan. The Tourism Department of Gilgit-Baltistan organizes the festival.
The festival is an amazing sports festival celebrated by the tribes of Gilgit and Chitral, providing a wholesome cultural experience. The tribes first meet at the Shandur Pass in the glorious Hindukush mountain range. The ground is adjacent to Shandur Lake.
Lok Virsa Folk Festival
Lok Virsa festival is the largest cultural activity in Pakistan, held in October every year. For the last two decades, this festival has attracted international artisans and performers from more than 20 countries around the world to perform and participate. It has become a pride for artisans and performers. The provinces of Azad Jammu & Kashmir put up beautifully decorated pavilions for visitors to enjoy the traditionally rich culture of Pakistan in the federal capital of Pakistan.
The festival lasts for 10 days in Lok Virsa, displaying multi-ethnic work of artisans working under the banner of the Heritage Museum. The Research & Media Centre of Lok Virsa arranges groups of dancers music concerts from all parts of Pakistan. The festival is documented by Lok Virsa’s researchers, who interview all the artisans and artists who have participated.
Culture departments of all the provinces and the diplomatic community are invited to set up pavilions presenting their prestigious folk culture. As per tradition, the festival opens with a chadarposhi and dastarbandi ceremony, proclaiming Lok Virsa’s commitment to the high stature of craftspeople and folk artists in the cultural mainstream.
Chilum Joshi, also known as Joshi Festival, is a traditional spring festival celebrated by the indigenous Kalash people in the Chitral District of Pakistan. This unique cultural event typically occurs in May and is marked by vibrant festivities, including music, dance, rituals, and feasting.
During the Chilum Joshi festival, the Kalash people express their gratitude to the gods for the arrival of spring and the renewal of life. Women and men dress in colorful traditional attire, adorned with intricate beadwork and headdresses made of shells and feathers. The festivities often involve the consumption of local food and dairy products, as well as the consumption of homemade wine.
Dances and songs are a central part of the celebration, with the Kalash people performing traditional dances in open-air spaces. The festival also includes rituals conducted by the community’s religious leaders to seek blessings for a bountiful harvest and the well-being of the Kalash people.
Chilum Joshi is a time for celebration and an opportunity for the Kalash people to strengthen their cultural identity and pass down their traditions to younger generations. It provides a glimpse into the unique and rich cultural heritage of this indigenous community in Pakistan.
The most awaited day to experience Pakistan’s peoples’ pride and excitement. The joy of Independence Day can be seen in full bloom, especially in the cities. People decorate their homes, attend parades, join other parades with their own vehicles, and wear lots of green!
In the days and weeks leading up to the event, shops and brands start selling all kinds of items and clothes dazzling with green and white colors. Cities and towns can be seen all lit up with lights and flags. It is truly a sight to behold.
Festivals hold great importance in Pakistan. They depend on social heritage, which is made up for our customs, traditions, moral values, attitudes, folklore, beliefs, and ideals. In terms of social and economic angle, they attract a lot of tourists from all over the world.
Festivals give us a break from our chaotic and stressful routine, bringing in positivity and communal gathering that is much needed for societal health. No matter where you go in the world, when it comes to festivals, they have a lot to offer, culture, arts, holidays, togetherness, and love.