GILGIT: The three-day Nauroz festival begins in Gilgit-Baltistan on Wednesday (today), with people celebrating the occasion with religious and traditional zeal.
The local communities observe the festivity on March 21 every year, marking the beginning of New Year in the Persian calendar.
The government has announced an official holiday on the starting day of the festival, which is being celebrated in Gilgit, Hunza-Nagar, Ghizer, Astore, Skardu, Shigar, Kharmang and Ghancha districts.
Congregations will be held in different towns where special prayers will be offered for the prosperity of the country. Games like polo and traditional musical programmes will be organised and special dishes will be prepared and distributed among relatives and friends. Children and women dressed in new clothes will go to each other’s houses and exchange greetings.
In Hunza and Nagar district, Nauroz coincides with the start of agriculture activities, as people start ploughing their fields.
Aria Mirza, a resident of Nagar, was busy decorating her home for the day.
“I do not know the historical importance of the day, but for me it is an event that heralds arrival of spring after a long harsh winter,” she said.
Mirza said the most attractive feature of Nauroz was ‘Chi Chi’, which is called Da Da in their local language, where women, children and elders in every village get together.
“The highlight of these functions is that a newborn dressed in new clothes and traditional cap with flowers is placed on the shoulders of an elder who then carries the baby to a distance,” Mirza told Dawn. Dried fruit, homemade traditional dishes and sweets are distributed among the attendees who then pray for the newborn’s good luck and blessings, she added.
In Ghizer and Hunza, hair of newborn babies is cut, while in Baltistan, an interesting feature of Nauroz is breaking the painted eggs competition.
Liaqat Ali, a resident of Skardu, explained that every competitor brought an egg to the ceremony, where they tried to break it with another egg. Each time the egg was broken the winner was given an egg by the loser, he explained.
Irfan Ali, a student, said that people from GB living in other parts of the country and abroad also observed Nauroz.
Sherbaz Ali Bercha, a local historian and author of a number of books on the culture and history of GB, told Dawn that the Nauroz festival was first observed in Gilgit in the 15th century.
He lamented that the spirit of the festivity had died down over the years and that the tradition needed to be preserved.