Pakistani Culture: Unity in diversity
Since the beginning of existence, humans have preferred to come together for their survival. Our ancestors were creators of societies where group of people sharing common beliefs came together. Over time, societies further evolved into larger groups and their shared beliefs, values and practices gave birth to different cultures. The cultural diversity is based upon geography, religious beliefs, ethnicity and etiquette norms of a particular region and society.
From East to West, cultures have evolved over centuries and history helps us understand their diversity. Pakistan gained independence 75 years ago but our cultural history is over 5000 years old. It has its roots in the eras of Aryans & Dravidians, Indus valley civilization, invaders from West and, of course, the attempt of colonization by the English.
Be it a celebratory event like weddings, or consoling events like funerals; we find comfort in food. Pakistani food is rich and spicy but varies according to regional and provincial food customs. One cannot miss the Balochi “Sajji”, Sindhi “Biryani”, “Saag” of Punjab or the mouthwatering “Namkeen goasht” of KPK. Our food culture has also evolved over centuries. When it comes to serving food, hospitality is the corner stone of almost all the households and immaculate part of our culture.
Being a conservative society, which values modesty and humility, Pakistani people take pride in their national attire; Shalwar Qameez for men and Shalwar Qameez & Dupatta for women, the cuts of which vary through different regions of the country. The white gigantic turbans of Balochistan to Sindhi topee (Cap) and Ajrak (shawl) of Sindh, the vibrant colours of attire we see in Punjab, to the waist-coast & Patthani topee / Gilgiti caps of the Northern areas.
Music has and will keep on playing an important role in our culture. This stands tested specifically for our folk music. The artifacts discovered during excavation along the Indus Valley includes the instrument that date back to 5000 years. Similarly, the statue of the famous “dancing girl” unearthed in Moenjodaro sheds light on the existence of dance as a part of our culture. The advent of various invaders over a long period of time has greatly influenced our music. It has been influenced by that in Middle East, Far East, Central Asia, Persia and most recently, the West. Each region has its own folk music which thrives on musical instruments some of which are specific to particular areas. “Alghoza” and “Been” to Sindh. “Chimtta” and “Girrwi” to Punjab, “Sarood” and drums made from clay pots in KPK while Balochistan has its own “Doneli” and “Benju”. Then along came the Sufis promoting the culture of love and harmony and used music to bring people of different religions and ethnicity together. Be it Qawwalli or the mystic poetry of Ameer Khusro, the great Sufi poet, our cultural festivities like basant, holi, spring, weddings etc. are incomplete without his flavor of music that is now a cultural heritage of the sub-continent.
A nation recognizes itself through its history. Pakistan has various sites and regions dating back to millions of years that stand out in architectural designs. These timeless marvels are preserved and reflects the Persian invasion, Aryan invasion, the Mughal Empire, the British Colonialism and most recently, the modern architectural movement. Our architectural heritage also includes thousands of years’ old sites like Moen Jo Darro, Meher Garrh and Harrappa that are under the UNESCO umbrella. The Mughal emperors were fond of building land mark architectural structures while Persian, Turkish and Central Asian influence is evident in them as beautiful arches, courtyards, giant pillars and beautification work comprising of blue & red glazed tile work, glass work and calligraphy.
The other architectural chapter is the British Colonial period. The Victorian style architecture and buildings made from the Yellow Stone Slabs are still mesmerizing. The Churches, state owned institutions’ offices, court buildings remind us of the Queen and her legacy in subcontinent. The modern architectural movement influenced the architects as well evidenced as modern high-rises, structural improvements and use of modern technology that has evolved for comfort, convenience and optimum utilization of space with modern facade. We do have come a long way from the houses made of mud and bricks to using pre-fabricated buildings.
Sharing and communicating ideas through language are the bonding factors for a society. Pakistan has over 70 languages and Urdu is the national language. Historically, Urdu evolved as a language for the soldiers of armies, where people of diverse languages had to find ways to communicate amongst themselves and also the outsiders. Hence Urdu is a mixture of Persian, Arabic, Hindi, Turkish and Italian with words borrowed from English as well. Punjabi is the most widely spoken language in Pakistan, while Sindhi, Pashtu, Siraiki, Balochi, Brahvi and Deri are among the others. Along with Urdu, English is widely used in Urban Cities and is lingua franca in corporate culture.
In this age of globalization, societies and cultures are constantly evolving and are also diverse. Comparing any particular culture with our own either ethnocentrically (where one finds their own culture superior) or xenocentrically (where one finds the other culture superior) is an asinine idea. Simply put, being aware of your own culture helps you connect with your heritage and deep roots. As a global citizen, we all should be practicing toleranc for other cultures while taking pride in our own.