Tag Archives: kites

Basant: Lahore’s lost spring

Raza Rumi

Cross posted from my website

Lahore, a centre for the arts and learning in the early 20th century, has been the custodian of a plural, vibrant culture for decades. Its walled city, unlike several other old settlements, has continued to survive despite the expansion of the city. So have its peculiar features: its dialects, cuisine, community linkages and, of course, rich festivals such as Basant. As the capital of Punjab, Lahore used to celebrate Basant — the arrival of spring — in a colourful manner.

Since the medieval times, Basant was acknowledged and celebrated by the Chishti saints. Nizamuddin Auliya of Delhi turned it into an act of devotion, and Amir Khusrau’s songs captured the multi-layered evolution of this festival.

Punjabi poets such as Shah Hussain gave a Sufi flavour to it. Hussain, in one of his kaafis, says: “The Beloved holds the string in his hand, and I am His kite.” The festival offered a meaning to all and sundry: from playful kids to lovers and Sufis; from profit-seekers who developed livelihoods around the festival to the community as a whole.

Basant was celebrated by all communities prior to Partition: Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs treated it as a Lahori festival with an identity linked to the city. In this milieu, Allama Iqbal was known to be an avid kite flier. But the post-1947 rise of clerics meant that inclusive cultural practices were to be treated with suspicion. For many decades, the Pakistani mullahs have ranted against Basant as an “unIslamic” festival and one that endangered public morality.

Unfazed by these fatwas, Lahoris continued with the festival. It even received state patronage on various occasions. A citizen of Lahore, Mian Yousaf Salahuddin (the grandson of Iqbal), turned his old Lahore haveli into a cultural hub and, over time, Basant celebrations became an international attraction. By the 1990s, proactive civil servants turned Basant into a great regional festival. Lahore’s then deputy commissioner, Kamran Lashari, provided full backing to the holding of this event in the 1990s. That was perhaps the time when Basant also became most controversial due to its scale and the increased hazards of unregulated kite-flying in which metallic or chemical-coated string was used.

The use of this string instead of the traditional dor caused many deaths each year and the local government was unable to enforce regulations on its usage. The metallic wire would get entangled in electricity cables in the old city, leading to electrocution. The courts intervened and asked the Punjab government to ban the festival in 2007.

Ironically, the banning of Basant did not take place in the name of religion but through a public interest litigation. However, the ideological opponents of Basant have been happy with the outcome and have created an uproar each time someone raised the question of reviving Basant after putting safety measures in place. But Lahore is a poorer place now. It is devoid of this public celebration, especially for thousands of impoverished workers in the old city and neighbouring towns where Basant was celebrated with great fervour.

Read the full post here

The images are Mahboob Ali’s works (an eminent artist from Lahore also known for his woodcuts)

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Sad news: Kite-flying to stay banned

Raza Rumi

I know that Lahore Nama has been visited in the recent days by hundreds and thousands of Basant enthusiasts. This is unfortunate that an age-old fetival is being banned and denied to people only because the government cannot regulate malpractices by a few business people and the bankrupt, failed WAPDA.

Hope that this festival will come back to Lahore. We strongly protest against this policy decision. Pakistan cannot be made a afe haven for roaming terrorists and suicide bombers while the peaceful citizens are denied the opportunity to celebrate a festival that is so deeply a part of our culture.

Here is the Daily Times story on this:

* District administration warns violators of stern action
* DCO says ‘Governor’s House’ no exception to kite-flying ban
* Police crack down on kite makers

Daily Times Monitor/Staff Report

LAHORE: The district administration has decided to maintain the ban on kite-flying in the provincial capital as per the orders of the Lahore High Court (LHC), warning that those violating the law would be dealt with sternly, a private TV channel reported on Friday.

According to the channel, a meeting presided over by Lahore District Coordination Officer (DCO) Sajjad Bhutta, decided that those found violating the court orders would be dealt with strictly under the law.

The DCO said the LHC had declared that permission to celebrate Basant could be given if a Continue reading

Weather, lax vigilance encourage enthusiasts: Mini-Basant celebrations start

By Nauman Tasleem

LAHORE: Pleasant weather and the government’s lenient attitude towards kite flyers have given citizens an opportunity to celebrate Basant again.

Kite enthusiasts started flying kites on Saturday afternoon and indulged themselves in the sport until late at night. Neither the police nor the City District Government Lahore (CDGL) took any action against the kite flyers. However, an official from the Punjab Police Department was of the view that people had been warned and were being nabbed for kite flying, while a CDGL official said the district government was helpless in taking action as no citizen lodged complaints against the people flying kites. Continue reading

Basant – still a mystery

Raza Rumi

It appears that Basant yet again is attracting a huge interest among Lahoris and Pakistanis. It is still not clear whether the government will allow it or now. However, people want to celebrate it – on February 28. Let’s hope that the avid fans of kite-flying and those who want to celebrate the spring weather are not disappointed.
Lahore Nama will keep all the readers updated on Basant news and views.

Pakistan’s cultural capital loses kite festival to violence, political turmoil

LAHORE, Pakistan: Pakistan’s political turmoil and violence have claimed a high-profile cultural victim -a centuries-old kite-flying festival that draws thousands of visitors.

The Basant festival brings a springtime buzz to eastern Pakistan and its regional capital, Lahore. Officials usually relax a ban on the pastime — imposed to prevent abandoned strings that are often covered with crushed glass from slitting people’s throats.

But the festival has been canceled this year amid tensions spawned by terrorist attacks and the country’s rocky return to democracy after years of military rule.

Sohail Janjua, a city government spokesman, said the festival was first postponed due to national mourning for assassinated ex-leader Benazir Bhutto, then because of Feb. 18 parliamentary elections.

Lahore has suffered three suicide attacks since, including two that killed 27 people on March 11, resulting in increased concerns about security.

“How can we ignore the deaths of innocent people to celebrate anything?” Janjua said.

In the past, the city’s youth have sent thousands of brightly colored kites into the sky during the festival, held on a weekend in February or March. Basant means yellow in Hindi, a reference to the mustard flowers that blossom in the region in early spring.

Crowds of Lahoris typically clamber onto rooftops to watch. Well-heeled guests from around the country and beyond pack city hotels for a few days of late-night festivities. Continue reading

Where are the kites?

VIEW:  Syed Mansoor Hussain (Daily Times)

Every culture has some form of a Spring Festival. To suppress such activities is to suppress the cultural aspirations of those that enjoy them. No, I am not in favour of bacchanalian excess, but some fun, please

The incarcerated CJ of Pakistan might be a great man but for me he will always be the person who put the kibosh on Basant. I have said it before and I will say it again, in my book he is a conservative jurist more in line with Islamist thinking. I do not, for instance, remember his court ever taking any suo moto action to help women incarcerated under the infamous Hudood laws or non-Muslims jailed under the blasphemy laws.

But such quibbles aside, my immediate concern is Basant. The reason ostensibly given to ban kite flying is the use of metal strings that can be hazardous to ordinary people. I entirely accept this premise but I cannot help but wonder why the famous Punjab Police that can, in a matter of minutes, arrest every known opposition member or recalcitrant lawyer in the entire province is unable to find and arrest those that manufacture the illegal metal strings.

Illegality can only flourish if law enforcement is involved in it at some level. The lower-level police force in Pakistan is known to be extremely corrupt. I am convinced that metal string use could be prevented if there was determination to do so. But more than the metal string, the real problem is that Basant has become an issue that pits the killjoy Islamist types against the fun-loving people of Lahore.

I don’t know what stand the expected government in the Punjab is going to take on this issue. I do know that based on his past reputation, if Mr Shahbaz Sharif does come back as CM, and if he decides to take this matter in hand, metal strings for kite flying will not be sold in Lahore or anywhere in Punjab. Sadly, Basant season will have passed by the time that happens.

The reason why Basant and kite flying is such a big deal for me is that it represents one of those ‘soft’ issues that are used by Islamists to beat up on all those they hate for daring to have fun. After all, many more people die in a single day from vehicular accidents than many a Basant and yet there is no hue and cry to ban vehicular traffic or even to improve it! Continue reading