Most of you will scoff or snort in derision at what I am about to say. Pakistan is a wonderful place to visit. Yes it is! The country is a topographical mine with diverse plains, salt ranges, gargantuan mountain ranges and picturesque valleys. Not to mention the beautiful beaches that form part of the coastal area. The people in general are extremely friendly and helpful to tourists and will always stop by for a word or two to inquire about you and also heartily tell you about the beauties that lie in store for you in this extremely misunderstood country. Trust me when I tell you that Pakistan is not a place you would like to cross off your travel itinerary as you would definitely be missing out. To get a better idea about the Pakistani culture and the amicable nature of the natives, the best time to visit would be towards the end of February to mid March during the spring, during the Basant Festival, a local festival renowned for the vibrant colors on display and the kite flying competitions.
What is Basant?
Basant which is Sanskrit for Spring, is a centuries old festival, which was celebrated originally in pre-partition India when Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs would come together and share the celebrations of the commencement of the spring season. However, since partition, with most Hindus and Sikhs being based in India and Muslims in Pakistan, the Basant festival has developed a different meaning. That being said, it still is a sight to behold for most onlookers and celebrated with the same zeal and fervor as it was decades ago.
How to celebrate Basant in Pakistan?
Basant is celebrated enthusiastically throughout Pakistan. However, the city of Lahore, which is the fashion capital of the country, leads the festivities and is the most energetic during this magnificent holiday period. People travel from different parts of the country to witness and participate in this joyous occasion and leave aside any differences that were felt previously and start afresh with love and friendliness in their hearts. Token gifts are distributed by elders to the children to purchase candy, toys and kites and everyone is dressed in vibrant colors of green, yellow and often loud and fluorescent shades of pink.
The kite flying festival during Basant is the highlight of the holiday. People swarm the city of Lahore in droves and you get to witness (and also purchase) masterfully crafted kites which are expertly flown by fellow enthusiasts. The objective is to slice the strings of the competitors’ kites and the last kite standing is declared the winner. It is quite a show and normally lasts for five to six hours. If you would like to explore and gather souvenirs, you can always stop by the food streets that are the hallmark of the city to try some of the local delicacies that will literally inflame your senses with the sumptuous tastes and the delightful aromas.
If you are not a huge fan of kite flying, do not fear – the city has various other pleasures to assuage your intellectual curiosity. There are numerous music shows, pet shows, horticultural exhibitions and art competitions that you can enjoy. And if you are one who takes pleasures in the finer things in life, do not miss the poetry competitions in the city where age old poets’ works along with contemporary poets finest verses are regaled by various celebrities (you can acquire a translator for very low costs).