01 Pakistan the Land of Beauty: 2007

Thursday, July 12, 2007

About Pakistan

Pakistan is located in the hub of the South Asian sub-continent, it is a home of rich historical and cultural heritage; interesting in it's own way. Pakistan used to be the home to one of the globe's most-initial places where people had come to live and build homes, the great Indus Valley Civilization in the pre-historic era, the centre of old empires, religions and cultures. Strategically being located at the historical crossings, it connects Southeast Asia with Middle East and Iran in the West with an accessibility to the landlocked Afghanistan and Central Asian Republics. This land has been a witness to the historical and civilization changes with immense impacts on it's people as well as their language and culture.

Pakistan is situated between 24 and 37 degrees Latitudes and between 61 and 75.5 degrees Longitude. China in the North, Afghanistan and Iran in the West and India in the east are the surrounding countries. Arabian Sea lying in it's South having a coastline of 1000 kms length with fascinating beaches. Pakistan is connected with China via land by Karakoram Highway along the famous Silk Route. It is also linked with India by air and road. Afghanistan and Iran have air and road links with Pakistan.
Nature has bestowed upon Pakistan the rare landscape, the towering mountains, plateau, plains, deserts and the attractive sunny beaches are also seen here. Anyway, over 50% of it's area is mountainous, especially it's North and North Western parts which have very interesting mountains on the earth. Impressive remains of continents in collision, fifty million years ago, an extremely large island bumped into the mainland Asia to bring into existence the South Asian Subcontinent and let the Himalayas tower skyward. Huge and mighty ranges like Karakoram, the Himalayas and the Hindukush meet here. Mountains of impressive and frightening heights, valleys of unique beauty, enriched with peaceful lakes of crystal clear blue water. Murmuring streams and springs and roaring rivers, most prominent the lion river "mighty Indus".

Pakistan's large river, 2896 kms long "mighty Indus" emerges in the Southern Tibet and flows North West. Crossing through the Karakoram and Himalayas, it runs through Ladakh and Skardu valleys. It takes turn to South near Gilgit separating Hindukush and Himalayas. From Kalabagh, it flows Southward and after twisting through the plains of Punjab and Sind discharges its waters into the Arabian Sea at a point near Karachi. Four smaller rivers being it's tributaries namely Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi and Sutlej of course drain the plains of Punjab from East to Southwest before meeting the great Indus. There are number of small thundering rivers, especially in the mountainous region, which also flow into the Indus River.

Pakistan does trace it's history back to at least 2,500 years before Christ. Then a very developed civilization had flourished in the Indus valley area. Excavation at Harrapa, Moejodaro and Kot Diji have unearthed the remains of an advance civilization which existed in most ancient times. In about 1,500 DC the Arayans did rule this region influencing the Hindu civilization and it's center moved further eastward to the Ganges valley. Later on, the Persians occupied and held the Northern regions in the 5th century up to the 2nd Century BC. There are so many stupas and monasteries of the Gandhara civilization which have roots in the 6th Century. At that time it formed part of the Achaemenid Empire of Persia (518 to 330 BC). In 327 BC the Greeks arrived under Alexander the Great from Macedonia and then onwards it reigned under the successive rule of the Mauryans, the Bactrian Greeks, Scythians, Parthians, Kushanas and Sasanians until its final ruin by the White Huns in the 5th century AD. In 712 AD, the Arabs under the command of Mohammad Bin Qasim, after landing at the Southern coast near Karachi, ruled the lower regions of Pakistan for 200 years. During that period Islam taking roots inspired the life, culture and traditions of the people.

In the 10th Century AD the planned conquest of the, South Asian Subcontinent by the Muslims of the Central Asian origin happened. They ruled nearly whole of the Sub-continent by 18th Century. Then British took over reigns and continued to rule the Sub-continent for about 200 hundred years. The Muslim renaissance started towards the end of the last Century when Sir Syed Ahmed Khan; a reputed Muslim leader and educationist launched a campaign for the Muslim revival in Sub-continent. In 1930, the renowned poet-philosopher Allama Iqbal conceiving the idea of a separate and independent homeland for the Muslims of India. After seven years of relentless struggle under the dynamic leadership of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan came into being and appeared on the Globe as a sovereign state on 14th August 1947. At that time the British India was divided into two independent states "India and Pakistan" as a result of partition.

Islamabad is the capital of Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Pakistan has four provinces; North West Frontier Province (NWFP), Baluchistan, Punjab and Sindh with capitals of Peshawar, Quetta, Lahore and Karachi respectively. Also there are the Federally Administered Northern Areas consisting of the districts of Diamer, Gaunche, Ghizer, Gilgit and Skardu. Additionally, there are seven Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Pakistan's total area is 796,095 sq. kms and it's population is 135.28 million (as per 1996 estimates). Major cities include the seaport Karachi (10 million), Lahore (5.5 million), Faisalabad (2 million) Rawalpindi (0.928 million), Hyderabad (0.8 million) and Islamabad (0.340 million). The population growth rate a is about 2.8% per annum. Population is mainly Muslim (97%). There are several minorities such as Hindu (1.5%) and Christian (1%). Urdu is national language while English is used as the official language. Sindhi, Balochi, Punjabi and Pushto are the main regional languages.

Pakistan due to the rich historical and cultural heritage, different landscape with a vast range comprising the warm sea beaches, deserts, fertile plains and high mountain ranges with natural beauty in the world do make Pakistan a natural heavenly destination for tourists with different tastes.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Pakistani culture

Pakistan is famous for it`s rich culture

Here “Culture” can be defined in many different ways. Culture may be defined as behavior peculiar to human beings, together with material objects used. Culture consists of language, ideas, values, attributes, beliefs, customs, codes, institutions, tools, works and arts, religion , law, morality, ceremonies and festivals.

According to Muller-Layer, Culture can be defined as “Culture is an aggregate means of achievement and of progress”.

Salient Features of Pakistan Culture:

Pakistan is a Muslim country and Islam is the official religion. Islam is the religion which is professed and practiced by the people of Pakistan.

Pakistani culture can be called as “Mixed Culture”. Although the majority of people in Pakistan are Muslims by birth and faith, there is a strong influence of Hindu culture on the present Pakistani culture. The shadows of this influence are quite visible on the marriage ceremonies and festivals like “Basant”.

Dowry Systems and heavy expenditures on the marriage of girls is done, which is inherited from Hindu society because in Hindu society there is no share of women in the inheritance of their parents. Although women are given a share in the inheritance of their parents in Pakistani society, there are huge expenditures on the marriages of daughters.

English is the official language in Pakistan, but the national language is Urdu, which is widely spoken and understood throughout the country. Punjabi, Pushto, Sindhi, Baluchi and Kashmiri are the regional languages.

Pakistani society is a “Male Oriented Society”, where they are given full protection and great respect. The family is headed by a male member, usually the oldest male member of the group. He guides the other members. Old people are given positions of prestige, honor and respect in Pakistani culture.

Social life is simple. Social customs and traditions reflect Islamic touch: people are very much conscious about their social traditions and feel pride in following them.

Dress in a Muslim society like Pakistan is designed and intended to cover human body, as nudity is prohibited in Islam. So, people of Pakistan prefer to wear simple dresses according to their climate.

Pakistani handicrafts are gaining popularity in the world market day by day, as Pakistani craftsman are considered as the best in their craftsmanship. Pakistan is famous for its high standard items of glass, silver, wooden furniture, pottery, marble goods and things made of camel skin.

Despite tense relations with India, Indian movies are popular in Pakistan. Ironically, Indian films are officially illegal, but they can easily be found across Pakistan. An indigenous movie industry exists in Pakistan, and is known as Lollywood, producing over forty feature-length films a year. Music is also very popular in Pakistan, and ranges from traditional styles (such as Qawwali ) to more modern groups that try to fuse traditional Pakistani music with western music.

Increasing globalization has increased the influence of Western culture in Pakistan, especially among the affluent, who have easy access to Western products, television, media, and food. Many Western food chains have established themselves in Pakistan, and are found in the major cities. At the same time, there is also a reactionary movement within Pakistan that wants to turn away from Western influences, and this has manifested itself in a return to more traditional roots, often conflated with Islam.
A large Pakistani diaspora exists, especially in the United Kingdom, United States, Canada and Australia as well as in the Scandinavian nations. A large number of Pakistanis are also living in the Middle east. These emigrants and their children influence Pakistan culturally and economically, by travelling to Pakistan, and especially by returning or investing there.

Cricket, Hockey, Football, Kabbadi, squash, badminton, and wrestling are the major sports in Pakistan.

Perhaps the most popular sport in Pakistan is cricket, and large amounts of Pakistanis gather around TV sets to watch the Pakistani team play in World competitions, especially against Pakistan's rival India. Pakistan has one of the top teams in international cricket, one that won the World Cup in 1992. Field Hockey is also an important sport in Pakistan, Pakistan having won the gold medal at the Olympics a number of times in the sport. Football or Soccer is played in Pakistan as well, but is not as popular as cricket or field hockey. Polo is believed to have originated in the Northern parts of Pakistan, and continues to be an important sport there with large competitions throughout the year.

Ulema, Mushaikh and Sufi poets occupy highly honored places in Pakistani culture.

Pakistan Food

Basic Subsistence:

At its simplest, Pakistani cooking today consists of staple foods which are cheap and abundant. Wheat and other flour products are the mainstay of the diet, one familiar form being CHAPATI, an unleavened bread akin to a Mexican tortilla. This is made with dough prepared from whole wheat flour.

Another basic food is LASSI, milk from which curds and butterfat have been removed. Vegetables, usually seasonal, lentils are commonly used. Families with larger incomes eat more meat, eggs and fruits. And the more affluent cook with GHEE, which is clarified butter, instead of with vegetable oil.

From the earliest times, the imaginative - and sometimes heavy - use of spices, herbs, seeds, and flavorings and seasonings have helped cooks transform rather ordinary staple foods into an exotic cuisine.

Consider some of the most common of these in wide use in Pakistan today: chilli powder, turmeric, garlic, paprika, black pepper, red pepper, cumin seed, bay leaf, coriander, cardamom, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, saffron, mace, nutmeg, poppyseeds, aniseed, almonds, pistachios, and yogurt.

Their use in a wide range of pickles, chutneys, preserves, and sauces, together with curries of all descriptions and special treatment for meats, sea, food, vegetables and lentils, gives Pakistani cooking much of its distinctive character.

Cultural influences, whether religious precepts, practices, and ceremonies or local traditions, or even esthetic preferences, have made their contribution toward the evolution of Pakistani cuisine.

The Influence Of Islam:
The spread of Islam to what is now Pakistan, starting in the Eighth Century, has given a basic character to the food of the people. The Quranic injunctions against eating pork or drinking alcoholic beverages has channeled tastes and appetites in other directions. Lamb, beef, chicken and fish are basic foods, although their consumption by persons of low income is modest and often ceremonial.

Some of the Muslim feasts involve special dishes. Eid-ul-Adha, which commemorates the Prophet Ibrahim's readiness to obey God even tothe point of being willing to sacrifice his son, is observed by the sacrifice of a goat, a lamb, or a cow from which special dishes are made.

On Eid-ul-Fitr, which marks the end of RAMZAN, the month of fasting in the Islamic Calender, the serving of a special dessert of vermicelli cooked in milk is a must. Almond and pistachios are added as decorations as is the silver foil. The latter is so thin that it will disintegrate unless it is immediately transferred from the protective layers of paper onto the dish.

Food And The Moghul Emperors:
Another major influence in the development of Pakistani cookery was the establishment of the Moghul Empire starting in 1526. The opulent tastes exhibited by such Emperors as Humayun, Akbar, Jahangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb in art, architecture, music, dance, and jewelry was also extended to food.

A style of cookery called Moghlai' evolved at the Moghul court and even today it remains centered in Lahore. Some latter-day and widely known survivors of court cookery are, for example, chicken tandoori, a dish in which chicken is cooked at low temperatures in special ovens called TANDOORS, and murgh musallum' in which the whole chickens are roasted with special spices and ingredients. SHAHI TUKRA, a dessert of sliced bread, milk, cream, sugar and saffron, is another left-over from the days of the Moghuls.

Perhaps the ultimate Moghul cuisine was reached when the imperial chefs perfected the recipes for desserts made from ginger and garlic. Ginger and garlic puddings are still made in some homes for truly special occasions.

Fruit drinks, squeezed from pomegranates, apples, melons, and mangoes, and called SHARBAT, are an important part of the Moghlai cuisine and, indeed, the inspiration for American "sherberts."

Other Influences:
Cookery in Pakistan has always had a regional character, with each of the four provinces offering special dishes. In the Punjab, for example, the Moghlai' cuisine using tandoor ovens and elaborate preparations is important. In Baluchistan, cooks use the SAJJI method of barbecuing whole lambs and stick bread in a deep pit.

BUNDA PALA (fish) is a well known delicacy of Sind. The fish is cleaned and stuffed with a paste made from a variety of spices and herbs, including red pepper, garlic, ginger, and dried pomegranate seeds. It is then wrapped in cloth and is buried three feet deep in hot sand under the sun. There it stays baking for four to five hours from late morning to early afternoon. THANDAL, made from milk and a paste of fresh almonds, is a popular drink. Cooking in the Northwest Frontier Province is a great deal plainer and involves the heavy use of lamb.

Ceremonial occasions such as weddings have inspired a number of fancy dishes. A traditional dish at marriage feasts, for example, is chicken curry with either PILAU or BIRYANI. FIRINI, made from cream of rice and milk, is an equally traditional wedding dessert. It is served in clay saucers topped by silver foil. At Zoroastrian (Parsi) weddings, which are not frequent because so few followers of this ancient Iranian religion live in Pakistan, a special fish dish is served. This is PATRANI MACHCHI, consisting of sole, plaice, or a local fish called pomfret, wrapped in banana leaves, steamed or fried, and then baked slowly for half an hour.

Tourism in Pakistan

Welcome To Pakistan - The Land of Adventure and Nature

From the mighty stretches of the Karakorams in the North to the vast alluvial delta of the Indus River in the South, Pakistan remains a land of high adventure and nature. Trekking, mountaineering, white water rafting, wild boar hunting, mountain and desert jeep safaris, camel and yak safaris, trout fishing and bird watching, are a few activities, which entice the adventure and nature lovers to Pakistan.

Pakistan is endowed with a rich and varied flora and fauna. High Himalayas, Karakoram and the Hindukush ranges with their alpine meadows and permanent snow line, coniferous forests down the sub-mountain scrub, the vast Indus plain merging into the great desert, the coast line and wetlands, all offer a remarkably rich variety of vegetation and associated wildlife including avifauna, both endemic and migratory. Ten of 18 mammalian orders are represented in Pakistan with species ranging from the world's smallest surviving mammals, the Mediterranean Pigmy Shrew, to the largest mammal ever known; the blue whale.

History of Pakistan : - Pakistan has its emergence out of the partition of India in 1947. When British rule divided powers between India and Pakistan, the two independent countries. The word PAKISTAN was derived by a Punjabi student which also means 'Land of Pure'. On 23rd March 1940, a resolution was passed that called for the partition of India which was presented by Mohammad Ali Jinnah, elected president of Muslim League, as Lahore resolution which also became to known as the 'Pakistan resolution'. The 23rd of March is celebrated as 'Pakistan Day'.

Government & Politics :- There are two houses of parliament , The Senate occupying a largely advisory role and the National Assembly which is responsible for the day to day business of the government in Pakistan. It has a federal democratic structure with President as the supreme power.

Foreign Exchange / Currency :- Pakistani currency is the Rupee ( Rs ) divided into 100 paisa. Notes come in denominations of Rs 1000,500,100,50,10,2 and 1. US Dollar is the most widely accepted currency, followed by sterling. It is advisable to carry small notes as its difficult to get change and some hard currency or Travelers Cheques instead of cash.

Population of Pakistan :- Pakistan's population is now estimated at 130.580 million which makes it the ninth most populous country in the world. The average annual growth rate in Pakistan is 2.61% per annum which makes it much closer to the South Asian average of 2.4 percent.

Religion of Pakistan :- Pakistan is the land with rich history of religions but today it's an Islamic country where 97 percent of the population are Muslim. Muslims again divided into two Sunni and Shi'ia. A number of other religions are also represented in Pakistan, as small minorities; Christian, Hindu, Sikh and Parsee communities are all to be found in different parts of the country.

Pakistani Language :- Urdu is the official language of Pakistan. All the official work, instructions, signboards, menus and books are in Urdu. But Punjabi is oftenly spoken by 48 percent of the households and at national level.

Visa :- A valid visa with a valid passport is required by all foreign nationals to visit Pakistan. The validity of tourist visa is up till 90 days, and is available in three forms Single, Double, and Multiple with different validity periods.

Time :- Pakistan is 5 hrs a head of Greenwich Mean Time and Half an hour behind India.

Climate :- There are four main climatic regions in Pakistan. Hot summer and mild winter; Hottest temperature 32 degree C, Winter temperature 10-21 degree C. Warm summer and mild winter : Temperature 21- 32 degree C, Winter temperature 10-21 degree C. Warm summer and cool winter : Temperature 21- 32 degree C, Coolest month 0-10 degree C. Mild summer and cold winter : Temperature 10-21 degree C and coolest month below 0degree C to 10 degree C.

Cities of Pakistan :- The best way to travel Pakistan is slowly and extensively as each city of Pakistan has something different to offer. Some of its highlights are Peshawar, Karachi, Mirpur, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Baluchistan,Faisalabad, Lahore, Sialkot, Gujranwala, Muzaffarabad, Thar Desert, The Salt Range, Harappa, Bahawalpur, poonch and Bagh district, Jhelum Valley, kashgar.

Restrictions :- Photography of military installations, airports, railway stations, bridges and dams are not allowed . Do not take photos of women without permission. Visit to sensitive or unstable areas in Pakistan are allowed only after a special permit by the relevant authority.

Pakistani Trends in Bride Groom Wear

Wedding Ceremony

Muslim weddings are mostly arranged by their parents. Where only groom's family usually goes to bride's home to ask her parents for her hand for their son. If the girl's family agrees as well then they proceed further. Now in these days it could be done little differently, for example when a girl or a guy falls in love with some one they go tell their parents and if the parents agree then the guy's family takes first step.

Wedding is one of the most special and colourful events in Pakistan. The preperations for the wedding begin months before the wedding day but the actual ceremonies usually last 4 days.

First part of the wedding is MEHNDI:
This is where bride and groom's families do a huge pre-celebration of the weddings. This part is when girl and guy's both family agree on couple's marriage. This is done separetly,for instance guy's family would do their own pre-celebration at their own house, where girl's family is not invited. Something with the guy's family is not invited at girl's home for pre-celebration.

The second part is called NIKKAH:
This is the official ceremony of the wedding where bride and groom are pronounced husband and wife. At this part groom's family goes to girl's house for the official ceremony. There are about 500 people usually invited by both side. This is the biggest even during the marriage.

The third part is called RUKHSATI:
This is where the bride officially goes to groom's house and leaves her parent's house. This happened right after the NIKKAH on the same day.

The last and fourth part is called WALEEMA:
This is the last part of the wedding ceremony. It takes place at groom's house. This is the after celebration of the wedding. This is where the last time during the wedding the bride's and groom's family meet together at the groom's house. This is usually the end of the celebration and groom and bride leave for honeymoon.

Bridal Jewelry

Jewelry has been part of sub-continent civilization since ancient history

Ornaments made of gold, silver, copper, ivory, pottery and beads have been discovered in civilizations of Harrapa and Mohanjodaro. The Indus valley goldsmiths knew how to make moulds for metal and terra-cotta ornaments. Gold jewelry from those civilizations consist of bracelets, necklaces, bangles, ear ornaments, rings, head ornaments, brooches, girdles etc.The art has been perfected with modern styles and further materials used. Besides gold and other metal jewelry, stones, conch shells, wood, plant seeds, etc. are used. Ethnic patterns, with intricate motifs are much in demand for their absorbing style. Keep in mind that all gold jewelry items used by Sub-Continent and Arab women are made of pure 22 karat gold.