Lahore's Taxali Gate to enjoy a kite-less Basant festival

Lahore's Taxali Gate to enjoy a kite-less Basant festival

The ban on Basant has had severe repercussions on the life of local residents so a discussion on its revival is imminent
12 Feb, 2016

LAHORE: A celebration of ‘Basant’ is expected to fill the Taxali Gate area with colours and festivities on Saturday (Feb 13). Even though there will be no kite flying as per law, there will be food and music from 6pm to 11pm.

The organisers are a small group of 13 people comprising artists, academician and social activists, including Farida Batool, Assistant Professor Cultural Studies, Haider Ali Jan, Mohsin Shafi, all from the NCA, and social activist Raza Khan.

“We came to Taxali Gate with another project in mind,” says Raheemul Haq, a public policy expert from the FC College, who is also part of the group. “But as we began work here, discussions with local residents revealed that the Basant tradition which was stopped in 2007, has brought up severe repercussions in their lives. Now we have begun to look at things in a larger perspective and we want to revive a discussion on restarting Basant.”

A local resident says the problem was that the Taxali Gate area had its own culture and music and entertainment was part of it. “Now that it has become a gated community, many routes that used to be open to us are now closed. The residents do not have direct access to the Badshahi Mosque. “The (new) food street has spoilt our economy and culture. Tourists and visitors do not come through Taxali anymore, and cannot see what else the area has to offer. It is in fact a wonderful place.”

For this very reason, Raheem says, Taxali is the place they chose for Basant celebration.

“It has always been a hub of culture and because Basant is now fast becoming a forgotten festival, for its revival, and for any kind of cultural renaissance in this city, Taxali is the place to begin. Here there are still ‘germs’ of true Lahori society.”

Spring which used to be a time for Basant festivities has now become a time of its remembrance. While it always held its allure especially for foreigners and those who lived away from the city, today for the newer Lahori generation it seems more like a distant historical past.

Prof Salima Hashmi compares the banning of Basant to a loss of cultural identity. “It was the only unifying, secular festival, where people from all ages, all sects and religions, and all socioeconomic classes became equal. Kite making itself is an ancient art, and women were very involved in it. Today the ban has cost people their livelihood, and the economy of the inner city has been affected very badly,” she laments.

“There used to be rooftops filled with people, the sky was full of colourful kites, food typical of the festival including ‘qeemay walay naan’, and ‘gaajar ka halwa’ would be consumed. There would be music, and excited shouts of ‘Bo Kata!’

Hashmi says it was a celebration of the advent of Spring which is in itself a rejuvenation of life and today it is an especially important thing to believe in, and to celebrate when we do not seem to see any light at the end of the tunnel.

“I do hope that its not dead yet and that it’s biding its time until people realise how important it is for the Lahori identity and how positive an occasion it is,” she says. “This was the only time when everyone united only to enjoy themselves.”

Published in Dawn, February 12th, 2016


P Datta Feb 12, 2016 10:19am
Such small small positive steps can make Pakistan again a vibrant & secular minded state. Dawn is Don. Kudos.
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NoFame Feb 12, 2016 10:31am
Ah those golden days :( wishing - we be able to witness those days back again? Nothing is better than a sky full of colorful kites - indeed :)
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Aku Feb 12, 2016 10:31am
We have lost so much with Basant, the festivity, the colors, the smiles. Another example of how senseless and emotional we are in our decision making. Instead of regulating activities government took the easy way out. Media channels played their role in creating panic and confusion. Banning of basant is a perfect example of chaos in Pakistan. This is only where Govt seeks to establish its writ.
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Apache Feb 12, 2016 11:15am
Then why is it called basant if there will be no kites? I miss those days when we would wait for February for basant, but because of some people's stupidity whole city is suffering. Wish they could bring the real basant back
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ahmad Feb 12, 2016 11:28am
Glad that Basnat has stopped for all the right reasons.
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obivankanobi Feb 12, 2016 11:30am
Basant is the Sanskrit name for Spring. Its very encouraging to know that Pakistanis are trying to bring back traditions which link them to the common history instead of drifting towards Arabic culture which has been the trend for the last decade or so just to prove a point.
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Optimist Feb 12, 2016 11:48am
Please revive it. Its our part of our identity!
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K Feb 12, 2016 01:24pm
What Basant without kite flying's not basant, its a joke
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joe Feb 12, 2016 01:46pm
Basant festival banned ???? Why.???
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Mohammad Salim Khalid Feb 12, 2016 02:02pm
Basant is a killer festival. Thanks to chemical dor; many young and precious lives are lost. No need to revive uch and ugly and cruel festiv. it must be buries miles and miles below the surface, for ever
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saqlain Feb 12, 2016 02:48pm
basant should start again. and gov should control guns and use of chemical dor. Basant is lahore It has to be started again.
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madhusudan Feb 12, 2016 04:15pm
Basant festival in Lahore is world famous; it should be celebrated in style.
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AIZ Feb 12, 2016 04:48pm
aah those were the days ......
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Agha Ata Feb 12, 2016 08:34pm
How sad!
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a Feb 13, 2016 12:17am
Old Lahore is in many ways like old Delhi. Chaotic and unorganized. Unplanned and unauthorised constructions have destroyed an entire history.
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Hassan Feb 13, 2016 12:45am
I miss basant and kite flying so much so that I went to India in 2013 to be able to celebrate. Crotics say life are lost but then govt. Should address the issues as oppose to banning the whole thing all together. Most lives are lost because people run after kites.
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Londoner Feb 13, 2016 12:53am
@obivankanobi The Basant was not banned because of religious reason, but because of people flying kites with "TUNDE" or a plastic polymer thread. Which killed a lot of motor cyclists. PS: we are proud of our culture which is more of central asian / arab then east indian sub continent based...
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Anwar Sadiqque Feb 13, 2016 02:35am
Pakistan government should be ashamed and embarrassed to ban kite flying simple because Hindus do it. Following that logic most food in Pakistan was of Hindu origin should it all be banned?
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rahim chundrigar Feb 13, 2016 07:31am
The scriber was in AHMEDABAD(GUJARAT.INDIA) and witnessed the BASANT festival,lot of foreigners too participated this colour ful event,All hotels were booked and lot of hustle bustle and economical activities,that was once the part of LAHORE -Basant,,so INDIA adopted the Basant and getting better day by day,by introducing Night Basant too, Wake up Pakistan.if METALIC string (DOR) is only problem,get it banned by strict rules,dont allow to be imported from China. check strictly and punish the violator severly ,do not punish the Bullet but the shooter.
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Vivek (Indore) Feb 13, 2016 02:40pm
Vasanti Panchmi banned in Pakistan? Really?
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