Amid a deepening flour crisis, unlawful hoarding and smuggling of flour have been reported in the city and beyond
Come spring, Lahore blossoms like no place else. Variegated flowers and foliage adorn its green belts and parks and Baghe Jinnah, reminding us why it is called the city of gardens (despite the contemptible felling of trees the city has often been subjected to, in the way of ‘development’).
Spring also ushers in a season of festivities. Officially called Jashn-i-Baharan, the festival is built around a number of activities or events that are held under the aegis of Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA). This year is no different. Reportedly, 14 colourful programmes were approved for Jashn-i-Baharan 2023 that kicked off on March 5. The venues for these events are/ will be the Greater lqbal Park, Jilani (Racecourse) Park, the National History Museum, the Punjab Sports Board Hockey Stadium, the Shahi Qila, and the Open Air Theatre.
Additionally, the main roads of the city have been decorated with electric lights.
“Earlier, the festival focused on the beautification of [Lahore’s] parks and gardens,” says Nazia Jabeen, the executive director of Lahore Arts Council. “In recent years, it has come to include a range of activities such as musical performances, cultural and literary events, food stalls, flower shows and exhibitions of arts and crafts.”
There are traditional sports events happening too, the most important being kabaddi and rassa kashi (tug of war). Other notable events include the sound and light show at the Lahore Fort. All these activities and events have earned the festival great popularity, with the result that the Jashn-i-Baharan is now considered a major event in Lahore’s cultural calendar. It attracts both the locals and the tourists from around the country and the world.
Talking about this year’s festival, Information Secretary Ali Nawaz Malik says it is “fully sponsored.” He also talks briefly of its key events: the Food and Artisan Mela at Racecourse Park; Lucky Irani Circus at the Greater Iqbal Park; Women on Wheels (WoW) at Liberty; a women-only mushaira at Alhamra; Rustam-i-Punjab Dangal at Punjab Stadium; Lahore Marathon; Canal Mela; music concerts at Hockey Stadium; and Mehfil-i-Sama’a at the shrines of Data Sahib, Mian Mir and Madhu Lal Husain; as well as the mausoleum of Allama Iqbal. All these events conclude Sunday (today).
The illumination of the city’s major roads will continue till the 19th of this month. Besides, a Digital Journey to the Making of Pakistan comes to a close today at the National History Museum.
According to Malik, “The lineup of this year’s [Jashn-i-Baharan] shows that the festival isn’t short on variety. Local and international artists have arranged musical performances that have qawwali and Sufi music as well as traditional Punjabi dance performances. There are also food stalls that offer a wide range of traditional Pakistani dishes, as well as international cuisine.”
Commissioner Muhammad Ali Randhawa, who’s been overseeing the festival, says, “To make the most of the festivity, I’ve invited diplomats [who are] based in Lahore to attend the events.”
Diplomats from Iran, the US, China, Turkiye, and some other countries have already taken part in the various festival activities, especially in the flower show at the Racecourse Park.
The flower shows are indeed a major attraction. In the city parks, thousands of tulips, daffodils and hyacinths come up. They add beauty and colour to the city.
The festival has had its share of ups and down. Unlike last year when the government of Sardar Usman Buzdar hosted the traditional Horse and Cattle Show after six years, the caretaker government led by chief minister, Mohsin Naqvi, has cancelled the show citing security concerns and lack of sponsorship as reasons.
The festival had earlier taken a hit amid the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2020, the show was cancelled. The following year it was called off due to restrictions on public gatherings.
Security has remained an issue. In 2017, the show was cancelled due to security concerns, following a terrorist attack. In ’18, it was cancelled due to administrative issues and shortage of funds. The Livestock and Dairy Development, which organises the festival, reportedly faced financial difficulties that year.
A cattle show requires a large amount of infrastructure including stables, show rings, and exhibition halls. No wonder, the show was cancelled due to the unavailability of the Lahore Race Club which is an important venue for equestrian events.
In the past, Jashn-i-Baharan would be incomplete without Basant. After the Supreme Court slapped a ban on kite-flying, the government found other ways to revive the festival. In the words of Nazia Jabeen, “The spring festival is a celebration of the beauty of Lahore and the arrival of spring. It’s a vibrant and colourful event that showcases the rich culture and traditions of Pakistan, and is enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds,” says Nazia Jabeen.
The writer is a media veteran interested in politics, consumer rights and entrepreneurship