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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Pakhtun culture diminishing

Growing incidence of terrorism and busy life of the modern age has taken its toll on Pakhtun culture, local customs and tradition not only in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa but also in the tribal areas.

The Pakhtuns’ celebration of a joyous moment in a traditional way like Attan, a traditional Pakhtun dance, is also becoming extinct in Pakhtun-populated areas. Attan is a form of dance that originated in the Pakhtun regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Performed to the drumbeat, the dance begins slowly but picks up momentum and continues for two or three hours without a break except for changes in tempo or in song. Attan is performed usually with a Dhol, which is a double-headed barrel drum that has a deep and low resonance sound. Other instruments can include a single-barrel Dhol, Tablas, the 18-string Rubab, flute, etc.

The technique behind the Attan has changed much over the centuries, but its base has not changed. It is a circular dance ranging from two to over a hundred people, and the performers will follow each other going round in a circle to the drumbeat. In Afghanistan, each valley has its own unique style. There are many different kinds of Attan in Afghanistan including Kabuli, Wardaki, Logari, Khosti/Paktia, Herati, Kochyano, Khattak, Pashayi (played with Surnai flute) and Nuristani.

Chitral, Kohistan, Dir and tribal areas have their own customs and traditional dances. But ‘Da Hujray Majlis’ where the people sing songs with Rubab, Mangay and traditional Tappas are becoming less common.

Suqra was another custom, where the youth usually slaughtered animal and spent most of the time in singing local songs with traditional instruments. It too is vanishing. The presence of local Taliban and inefficiency of civil and political administration is stated to be the main reason for the end of Suqra, which was performed in the winter, particularly in the hilly areas.

There was also a famous local tradition of Gooda-Gooday where a young man wore the dress of the opposite sex and moved with another youth usually wearing a coat.

Flanked by their companions, the youth usually carried an empty pumpkin, with artificial eyes and nose made of flour on their head and collected donation including wheat, flour and sometimes coins. The youngsters used to sell the collected items in bazaars and arranged Teelech.

They then bought hens, rice or Sooji (a local delicacy) to prepare delicious meals for the night and Halwa. On such occasions, Attan was also performed. This was common in the past in parts of Swat and Dir and almost all the Pakhtun areas along the Pak-Afghan border and also in Kunar, Nuristan, Laghman and Nangrahar provinces of Afghanistan.

The youngsters usually sang songs while moving with Gooday in the village streets and none among the elders objected to it. The people usually offered the youths money to enable them replenish their stock of wheat, Gur and flour. In the past, special Hujra Majlis was sometimes organised in honour of guests.

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