Culture of Pakistan

The culture of Pakistan is an amalgamation of influences various civilizations that thrived in this part of the world as old as 7000 BC (Mehrgarh) and Indus Valley Civilization(3500 BC–1800 BC). In the near past, or one can say from the start of the present era or the AD, religions like the Buddhism, Hindu aim and finally the Islam greatly influenced the way people of this part of the world live. This was further augmented by the culture of a series of invasions and invaders, who left their foot prints in the form of food, dress and way of living. One can see the differences in culture among the different ethnic groups in matters such as dress, food, and religion, especially where pre-Islamic customs differ from Islamic practices. The Kafir Kalash in the northern mountain region of Chitral greatly resemble the Greeks (Alexander 326 BC), while in other areas influences of the Dravidians, Aryans, White Huns, Persians, Mongols (Chenghis Khan), the Arabs (711 AD), the Afghans, the Moguls and finally the British can be easily recognized. The basic origin of Pakistanis however comes from the civilizations of North India and eastern Afghanistan, with significant influences from Persia, Turkistan and Hellenistic Greece. Therefore Pakistan abounds in ancient remains: Buddhist monuments, Hindu temples, palaces and monuments built by Emperors, tombs, gardens and Anglo-Mogul mansions. Sculpture is dominated by Graeco-Buddhist friezes, and crafts by ceramics, jewellery, silk goods and engraved woodwork and metalwork.

Therefore, what we see in Pakistan is in fact inherited from the rule of many foreign invaders that added their cultural traditions to the this part of the world. One of the most influenced cultures being the Mughal. However, there is one type of culture stems from the mainstream South Asian Muslim culture. Being generally conservatives, the people of Pakistan have been able to preserve their rich and unique cultural heritage throughout history. Religious practices of various faiths are an integral part of everyday life in society. Education is highly regarded by members of every socio-economic stratum. The traditional family values are highly respected and considered sacred, although urban families have grown into a nuclear family system, owing to the socio-economic constraints imposed by the traditional joint family system. Pakistani society is largely multilingual and multicultural. and over the past almost 60 years of integration of a largely diverse ethnic groups, a distinctive “Pakistani” Culture has sprung up especially in the urban areas.

Pakistani music is represented by a wide variety of forms. It ranges from traditional styles (such as Qawwali) to more modern forms that try to fuse traditional Pakistani music with western music. A famous Pakistani musician, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was internationally renowned for creating a form of music which synchronized Qawwali with western music. He even made scores with Peter Gabriel and many other musicians of the west. Popular forms of music also prevail, the most notable being Film music and Urdu Pop music. In addition to this are the diverse traditions of folk music. Pakistani films are generally made in the national language Urdu, but films in regional languages are also very popular, specially the Punjabi films which are liked all over the country. Lahore and Karachi are the main hub of film productions, and for its closeness to Hollywood, Lahore is known as Lollywood for film making. The films made in the 60s and 70s did wonderful business on box office, but presently the cinema in Pakistan is on the decline and not many quality films are produced these days.

The sports in Pakistan has a very large diversity. While Polo is regarded as a traditional sport and played widely in the northern areas, specially at Shandur, the highest polo ground of the world. The official and national sport of Pakistan is field hockey, although squash and cricket are also very popular. The national cricket team has won the Cricket World Cup once (in 1992), were runners-up once (in 1999) and co-hosted the games twice (in 1987 and 1996). The team has also won the Australasia Cup in 1986, 1990, and 1994. The country will also be hosting the 2011 Cricket World Cup with India and Bangladesh. At the international level, Pakistan has competed many times at the Summer Olympics in field hockey, boxing, athletics, swimming, and shooting. Hockey is the sport that Pakistan has been the most successful at the Olympics, with three gold medals (1960, 1968, 1984). Pakistan has also won the Hockey World Cup four times (1971, 1978, 1982, 1994). Pakistan has hosted several international competitions, including the SAF Games in 1989 and 2004.

Pakistan recently stepped into the expensive sports of car racing and has participated in the A1 Grand Prix in the 2005 season. The Tour de Pakistan, modelled on the Tour de France, is an annual cycling competition that covers the length and breadth of Pakistan. Recently, football has grown in popularity across the country, where traditionally it had been played almost exclusively in the western province of Balochistan. FIFA has recently teamed up with the government to bring football more closer to the northern areas too. Also, it is hoped that Pakistan will fare better in the Football World Cup qualifiers for 2010.

Pakistani cusines have a deep impact of northern Indian, Persian, Turkish and Middle Eastern influences foods. However, the dishes are heavily peppered vegetables, meat, curries, spiced and barbecued beef, mutton or chicken, lentils (dhal), spicy spinach, cabbage, peas and rice with baked and deep-fried breads (roti, chapattis, puri, halwa and nan). Lately, Pizzazz and snacks are also becoming popular in cities with the mushrooming of western eateries. Like the rich spicy food, a wide range of desserts is also followed to lessen the burning left by hot and spicy foods. Though Pakistan is officially ‘dry’ (alcohol-free), it does brew its own beer (Murree Beer) and spirits which can be bought (as well as imported alcohol) from designated bars and hotels for non-Muslims only.

Like all countries, festivities are many. The two main religious festivals are the Eids. Chand Raat (the moon sighting night of Eid-ul-Fitr (just after the month of Ramazan – the month of fasting) is a festivity in itself. Girls putting henna on their hands, while most people throw parties at their houses. People flock the markets and bazaars for the last minute shopping for gifts and sweets that will be given to friends and families. Even outside at the malls and the plazas, there are many colourful lights. There are large crowds in the city centre to celebrate the beginning of Eid.

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