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Nasir Khusraw and the festival of Pa'athak

By Muhammad Amin Baloch Pa’athak is one of the four festivals celebrated by the Ismailis of Chitral, especially in Lotkoh, on the first day of February every year. This tradition is attributed to Nasir Kusraw, who according to verbal traditions practiced a 40-day Chehla in a cave in Garam Chashma (old Injigan). He came out of the cave after completing the Chehla on the first of Febraury. This festival is commemorated in remembrance of his completing the Chehla. Before proceeding to this important ritual, let’s have a brief look on the life of Nasir Khusraw. Nasir Khusraw’s full name was Abu Mu`inuddin Nasir Khusraw. He was born in 1004 A.D in Qabaidiyan of Khurasan province in Iran. He called himself Marwazi Qabaidiyani. Nasir Khusraw occupied a great place in the literary history of Persia. He was a great poet, philosopher, Ismaili theologian, traveler and historian. He was well versed in natural sciences, astronomy, medicine, mathematics and Greek philosophy. He also knew well Greek, Hebrew and Sanskrit, including Arabic and achieved good command on Old and New Testament besides the Holy Quran. Before assuming spiritual life he had served in the seljuqe kingdom in the position of financial secretary and revenue collector and remained attached till 1045. He enjoyed all luxuries and rejoices of his time. The year 1046 completely changed his life when he saw his famous dream .After the dream he abandoned all worldly rejoices and entered in to the world of spirituality. In his famous book Safar Nama he has mentioned that a saint most probably the Prophet (P.B.U.H) appeared to him in the dream and directed him to go towards West for the salvage of his soul. After his famous dream he left for Mecca and performed Pilgrimage and finally reached Cairo, capital of Egypt. At that time Egypt was ruled by the Fatimid Caliphs and this was his destination. In Cairo Nasir Khusraw met with the well known Ismaili da`I Muinuddin al Shirazi who guided him to the Fatimid Caliph imam Ma`ad al Mustansir Billah, s court.Nasir Khusraw remained in the Fatimid court till 1052.He learned Shi`ite Ismaili doctrines including esoteric doctrine of Ismailism. He was appointed as Hujjat (proof) of Khurasan,a prestigious cadre in Ismaili da`wa.Nasir also became acquainted with the administration and splendor of Fatimid caliphs, as it was the epoch of Fatimid rule extending to Syria,Hijaz,Africa and Sicily in the West. pathakNasir Khusraw returned to Khurasan in 1052 and began to preach Ismaili version of Islam. However, this land soon became hostile for him and he was not allowed to preach his teachings and finally he retired to Yumgan (Badakhshan in Afghanistan) in 1060 A.D, a peaceful mountain place to settle permanently. He died in Yumgan in 1080 A.D. Nasir Khusraw made Yumgan a centre of his teachings and wrote most of his famous books there. He also sent Da`is and na`ibs from there to different regions of the world for preaching. Nasir Khusraw was a prolific writer on religion, theophilisophy l and history. Some of his famous books are as follow: 1-Safar Nama (Book of travels): This is the most important book of Nasir Khusraw. Safar Nama is a description of Nasir Khusraw pilgrimage to Mecca and his special attention to markets, land, irrigation system and trade and industry which he visited and observed during his seven year journey covering 19000 km. 2-Diwan (Book of Poetry).This is an important book in Persian literary history. This book contains mostly enthusiastic praises of Imam Ali (a.s), his descendents and also passionate outcries against the people of Khurasan and its rulers. 3-Wajh u din (the Face of Religion): Wajh u din contains theoretical description of his religious and philosophical principles. 4-Zadal Musafirin (Travelling Provisions of Pilgrims): This book is mainly related to the various metaphysical and cosmographical question of the nature. Here he gives esoterical, tawil, interpretation to various topics like soul, birth, universe, resurrection and the rising of the Sun from the West etc. 5-Gushayish wa Rahayish (Book of Knowledge & Liberation): This book is a Persian philosophical work. In this book Nasir Khusraw discusses about creation, soul and Ismaili Islamic doctrines. 6-Roshnai Nama (Book of Enlightenment): Is based on the principles of Greek philosophy, mostly of Avicenna (Ibne Sina) and also an intermixture of the teachings of the famous Ikhwan a Safa (Brethren of Purity) as well moral values from Ismaili point of view. As has been mentioned above that the tradition of Pa`athak is attributed to Nassir Khusraw. There are verbal traditions and also hints from the writings of Mohammad Ghufran, Dr.Inayatullah Faizi, Maulana Altaf Hussain Hali and Mohammad Moghegh that he had come to Garamchashma.Nasir Khusraw must have used the strategic Dorah Pass between 1060 to 1070 A.D.He made Garamchashma the centre of his da`wa and as result of this preaching the local non Muslim population accepted Ismaili version of Islam. The Ziarat of Nasir Khusraw, located in Garamchshma, is a place of great respect and people come here to pay homage to the great and well known Isamili preacher. The Ismailis of Garamchashma have been celebrating the festival of Pa`athak since centuries with great zeal and veneration along with the two Eids and Nawruz festivals. Preparations for the festival start month before. New cloths are made for wearing on the day of the festival. Three days before the ritual pa`takens (harbingers) visit each and every house at the village levels. They tell the people about the procedures of commemorating the festival and give good omen .The day of Pa`thak is preceded by Samoon when homes are completely cleaned and gifts are exchanged. At dawn a person visits the home with saying of Mubaraki (giving congratulation for the festival).He is offered local pastries. After that all members of the house make local breakfast together, specifically prepared for the day and wear new cloths. The day is passed by visiting homes of dears and nears. Special religious programmes are also held highlighting the importance of Pa`thak and Nasir Khusraw in the Ismaili faith. Women and men go for swinging , singing and tug of war etc. Briefly the whole day is commemorated with rejoice and merry making. The festival of Pa ‘athak lasts for two consecutive days as the first day of February is called big Pa`thak and the 2nd day is called small Pa ‘athak. It is to be noted that people belonging to the Sunni sect of Islam also commemorate the festival along with the Ismailis. The festival of Pa, athak gives us the lessons of unity, tolerance and peaceful coexistence. People visit each other homes and this in return promotes the spirit of unity and brotherhood among them. They understand about each other conditions and give helping hand to the needy. Last but not the least the festival is part of a great cultural tradition which highlights the cultural values of Injigan. This culture is entrenched since centuries and being commemorated with great enthusiasm.Effforts was made in the past to abandon or minimize the scope of the festival in the name of frugality and globalization.However, some components of the ritual was disbanded. But the people of Garamchashma did not accept any more reducing of the festival & vowed to continue the tradition without any more compromise. As it is an apparent reality that Efforts are being made globally to preserve rich cultural values of the world throughout, therefore the festival of Pa’athak must be preserved and promoted as it indicates our rich cultural values.]]>

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