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Phatak: a tribute to Pir Nasir Khisrow

Phatak is a religious festival celebrated in Lotkoh valley of Lower Chitral on Feb 1 every year to pay tributes to Nasir Khisrow.

Local people say that the saint, Nasir Khisrow, stayed in a cave for 40 days for worship (chella) and after completion of his chella he came out and announced to celebrate the Phatak and advised the people to clean their houses and sprinkle and shower flour inside the houses to change their color into white. This was because the houses turned into black due to the use of wood for cooking and heating purposes.

The Phatak festival this year was organized by Garam Chashma Area Development Organization (GADO) with financial support from other relief organizations. Before celebrating this spiritual-cum-religious festival, Khaleefa Syed Taimur Shah briefed the residents about its procedure. They sent their nominated people to convey their messages to local people and asked them to clean their houses as well as shower flour in four corners of their houses. Khaleefa Taimur and other people burnt oil lamps and announced to celebrate the festival.

A function was also held near the shrine of the Pir where speakers paid tributes to the saint. There was also stalls of books and precious stones. Speakers highlighted different aspects of Pir Nasir Khisrow. While local artists presented Geenan and Nath Sharif. A large number of people attended the spiritual festival of Phatak where people of the area will visit turn by turn their relatives houses and they will be presented traditional food. It is worth mentioning here that this is a unique festival which is being celebrated only in Garam Chashma. 

According to the traditions of Ismaili Muslims, Phatak marks the successful conclusion of Pir Nasir Khusrow’s 40 days of meditation (chilla). Pir Nasir Khisrow was a Fatimid era Ismaili mystic, poet and philosopher who was the first to preach Islam in Central Asia and Badakhshan in Afghanistan and Wakhan. Born in 1004, Khisrow wrote a number of books of poetry, but most notable was his travelogue, Safarnama, written during seven years of travel across the Islamic world and arguably the most authoritative account of 11th century life in the Muslim Empire.

Later, while in Khorasan, Iran, he encountered the wrath of hard-line clerics. He then retired in Badakhshan, now spread across Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he continued to preach and helped spread Islam across this part of Central Asia. Alice Hunsberger, a researcher and author of a book on Khusrow, wrote of the esteem he is held in, “When Tajikistan was a Soviet republic, an officer from Moscow familiar with Ismaili history asked his guide, there is Mount Lenin, Mount Communism, and Mount Fifth of May, aren’t you upset that there is no Mount Nasir Khusrow?”

To which his host replied, “There is no mountain high enough.”” Pathak was celebrated as a cultural event by all local communities, but since the rise of sectarianism in the 1980s due to the policies of Gen Ziaul Haq, the festival became exclusively Ismailis’. On Phatak, Chitralis buy new clothes and cook specialty dishes like shoshparaki (dessert) and Ishperi (cheese).Traditional sports like shimeni zhingkek (tug of war), bhot pissik (stone throw) and chookubiz (swinging) are played, though they have taken a back seat to ceremonial aspects.

A function was also held at Aga Khan local council office where speakers paid rich tribute to Peer Nasir Khisrow and highlighted different aspects of his life who was a researcher, poet, ruler, religious clerk and preacher of Islam. The festival was kicked by burning (lightning) lamp with original cooking oil (Deesi ghee) with recitation from the Holy Quran, Hades and poetry of Peer Nasir Khisro at a shrine where he stayed after mediation of 40 days worship.

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  1. Nizar Ali Shah says

    This phatak is unique that is called Piro phatak.PirNasir Khusrow was really a great man of wisdom.Doing the act of meditation is not an easy task and that is too 40 days one needs spiritual strength which is only possible by burning self desires avoiding all worldly sins.piety or righteousness requires hard physical and mental exertions to gain the blessings of God.
    Phatak has also a great social aspect which creates a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood, it further strengthens the local communities in their collective social and developmental efforts.Many times this occasion helps in settling local disputes within and outside the village.
    Garamchasmo royantan Phatak deko mouqa bo bo Mubarak bai
    Nizar Ali Shah
    Harchin Chitral

  2. Wahid Khan says

    Very nicely written. Khowara phuk masla sher. Ma khayala haya Phatak Dik beli, haya eventot phatak rek zabani lihaza ghalat. Juo lu has ki shoshparaki kia ishnari? Shoshp boi, shoshpkari boi, shosparaki kura pakhti bo uchoghon ki hoi ya shapiko gosh ki uchoghon oshye hatoten rer.

    1. Taj Hussain says

      I think Phtak , is something more suitable for the event, Phatak dik zyad specific boyan, like sirf Phatak dik tan Niki khur d events horo su relate koniyan, anyhow well written,

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