While the history of theatre in Pakistani goes back centuries, it is since its inception in 1947 that drama and theatre reached new highs. Over the years the political instability has restricted as well as shaped theatre in the country. In 1979, when General Zia-ul-Haq took power in a military coup student theatrical activity were banned; yet, the Pakistan National Council of Arts was allowed to produce plays. These constraints on theatre made other artist take the “parallel


Although Pakistan’s link to the world of dance has always been strong, it is this art form that has suffered the most during the decades of political uncertainty. Under Genreal Zia-ul-Haq’s drive of Islamisation of society he disbanded the Arts Councils, the National Performing Arts Group, and banned dancing by women on stage. (Kermani, 2010) Yet the dance in Pakistan has survived and is making a come back. A number of dance academy exists, these teach both classical as well as western dances. TO read more please click here.

Pakistan has had a rich tradition of dance, both pre and post-independence. Dancers like Zohra and Kameshwar Sahgal, Ustad Ghulam Hussain, Amy Minwalla, Parween Qasim, Nighat Chaudry, Fasih ur Rahman and Tehreema Mitha are custodians of the rich tradition of Pakistan.  To read more dance in Pakistan please click here.

Some of the classical dance form in Pakistan are:

Bharatanatyam has a highly stylised and sophisticated technique has a geometric quality both in its form and in its spatial choreography.

Kathak is a whirling dance. ‘Kathak‘ was a storyteller who incorporated poetry and dances – syllables ‘bols’ into her/his stories. Though Kathak was a pre-Muslim dance, it was patronized by the Mughals, when it became a court dance. In this style, the emphasis is on Layakari, footwork and lightning pirouettes.

Odissi traces its origins to the posture of the dancing figurine found from the ruins of Mohenjo-daro, however it derives its name from the Indian state of Orissa where it was practiced and perfected. It is a rhythmical, swaying, lyrical and powerful dance, recreated on sculptural evidence.

The classical dance forms in Pakistan are similar to that of the larger South Asia. Besides the classical forms there are also a number of folk dance in Pakistan. Folk dancing is an expression of joy done by the masses on special events and days. Some of the more popular folk dances are:

• Bhangra -Punjab
• Luddi – Punjab
• Dhammal – Performed at Sufi shrines/ dargahs in Punjab and Sindh
• Attan – Folk dance of Pashtuns tribes of Pakistan including the unique styles of Quetta and Waziristan
• Khattak Dance – Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa
• Jhumar – Siraiki and Balochi folk dance
• Ho Jamalo Sindhi dance
• Lewa – Baluchi folk dance

To learn about the evolution and significance of dance in Pakistan please click here.
For details on the evolution of dance in Pakistan and the about folk dances in Pakistan please read this highly informative article by Sheema Kermanihere:

To read more about Folk Dances of Pakistan please click here.

Sheema Kermani, Dance in Pakistan, 23 October, 2010, www.nathakari.com, URL Link http://www.narthaki.com/info/articles/art286.html, Last Accessed 29 July, 2013.


Pakistan is the fifth largest producer of movies in the world. In pre-partition, Lahore emerged as one of the centers of a budding film industry. Existing traditions of Persian travel theatre, ancient storytelling, music, drama, and the growth of still photography contributed in opening of the society to the world of cinema.

The first theatre in Lahore was the Aziz Theatre, situated at Texali Gate, which was later converted in to a cinema called the Pakistan Talkies, while Shaukat Rizvi and Noorjehan started Pakistan’s first film studios, Shahnoor, in the early fifties. The first Pakistani film, Memories (Teri Yaada, 1948) came out in September 1948. Movies like Hichkolay (1949), Shahida (1949), Sachai (1949), Ghaltfehmi (1949), Pherey (1949) and Mundri (1949) followed Memories soon after. But Pakistan’s had to wait until 1950 to see its first blockbuster; Do Ansoo, inspired by Hakim Shuja’s story about the self-indulgence of society’s upper classes, had a 25-week run in cinemas.

In the early decades love, tragedy and melodrama ruled the silver screen. The 60’s is considered to be the ‘Golden Age’ of cinema in Pakistan. As color was introduced to films, movies like Union (Sangam, 1964), Woman (Naila, 1965) were hits. The 60’s also saw a new generation of film makers enter the industry, which brought with it new style, content and hits. This trend continued in the seventies where the work of Sangeeta, a stage name of a popular actor and director, needs a special mention. Her dictatorial debut, Society Girl was a huge success and she won The Nigar Award for both Best Director and Best Actress. The eighties and nineties saw the decline in filmgoers due to uncensored and smuggled video and satellite TV. The quality of cinema and storytelling also declined in the decade of the 80’s and 90’s. Violence, low comedy, and melo-drama entered cinema and pushed film goers even further.

The annual film production declined from 142 films in 1970 to barely 50 in 2005. The number of studios has come down from 11 in 1977 to 3 in 2006. Yet Lollywood survives. A generation of young filmmakers trained in TV and video production is turning to films. Works like Silence (Khamoshi) and The Death of Shahrukh Khan (Shahrukh Khan Ki Maut), Bol, Kudha Ke Liya were very successful ventures of recent years. Films are also seeing a revival as various film festivals have been introduced, like the Kara Film Festival, and Lahore International Children’s Film Festival.

Pakistan at the SAARC Film Festival:

At the recently concluded SAARC Film Festival 2013, Pakistan picked up a number of awards including:

Best Feature Film (Silver), Ram Chand Pakistani, Directed by Mehreen Jabbar
Best Documentary Film, Saving Face, Directed by Daniel Junge/Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy
Certificate of Recognition, Best Actor, Manzar Sehbai for Bol, and Rashid Farooqi for Ram Chand Pakistani.

To visit the website of Kara Film Festival please click here.

To visit the website for Lahore International Children’s Film Festival please click here.

Besides features films the new generation has also taken up the art of short film making, and documentary making. Please visit the site of Cineaste One, a Pakistani organization which encourages and promotes short filmmaking.

For more information on the Pakistani Film’s please click here.


Aijaz Gul, A short History of Pakistani Film, Cinemas of the South, Accessed at http://www.fipresci.org/world_cinema/south/south_english_asian_cinema_pakistan_history.htm.

Anya Kordecki, Lollywood: Turbulent History of Pakistani Cinema, Accessed at http://theculturetrip.com/asia/pakistan/articles/lollywood-turbulent-history-of-pakistani-cinema/

Zia Ahmed, A Short History of Cinema in Pakistan, Dear Cinema, 18th November, 2011, Accessed at http://dearcinema.com/article/a-short-history-of-cinema-in-pakistan/0803#


The first novel in Pakistan was Qurratulain Heider’s Aag ka Darya (The River of Fire, 1957). According to Gilani Kamran in his article Pakistani Literature –Evolution and Trends, “Prose fiction had, indeed, become the leading mode of writing in Urdu literature after Independence. It portrayed what could not be told in poetry, though it had been poetry that was the effective form of expression in Urdu literature before 1947.


It is difficult to pin down what compromises as Pakistani food. The rise of Indo-Muslim cuisine during the Mughal period -called “Mughalai


Traditionally men in Pakistan wear the Salwar Kameez; the style of which dependents on the fabric, colours, patterns, and design. The most popular dress among Pakistani women is also Shalwar Khameez. However, the Salwar Kameez worn by women is far more colourful and stylish. Many women in the Sindh province wear the Saari.

Photo Source: guidepk.blogspot.com

The Sherwani or Achkan with Karakuli hat is the national dress of Pakistan for men, as it is not specifically associated with any of the provinces. All ethnic groups have their traditional dress. For a more detailed look into dress of ethnic groups in Pakistan please clickhere.

In Multan, men in rural areas wear a Pag or turban, white or blue waist cloth or ‘Majhla’, a long shirt called ‘Kulla’ and a ‘chadar’ over the shoulder. Women wear the shalwar, Lehnga or ‘Ghagra’ of bright colours. The head is covered with ‘Bochan’ or embroidered and Phulkari chadars

Photo Source: www.starnow.com.uk


The Department of Archeology and Museums, is the Government body responsible for protection and preservation of Pakistan’s heritage –the immovable sites and monuments and the movable antiquities and works of art. For more details on the department please click here.

Archeological sites in Pakistan date back to the Lower Paleolithic period. The oldest site found in Pakistan is located in the Soan Valley, and is in effect called the Soanian Culture. For more details please read this article which presents a fresh look in the Soanian culture.

During the bronze age cities of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro came into prominence. They form the most well-known cities of the Indus Valley Civilization. To read more about the archeological efforts in Harappa and surrounding areas, please visit the website of The Harappa Archaeological Research Project :

The Age of Gandhara: During the Classical age Gandhara was a trade crossroads and cultural meeting place between India, Central Asia, and the Middle East. It was ruled by the Mauryan dynasty of India, after the Alexander the Greats conquest, under whom it became a centre for the spread of Buddhism to Afghanistan and Central Asia. Gandhara was then successively ruled by Indo-Greeks, Shakas, Parthians, and Kushans.

Taxila, Swat and Charsaddah were the important cultural centres. From the 1st century BCE to the 6th–7th century CE, Gandhara was the home of a distinctive art style that was a mixture of Indian Buddhist and Greco-Roman influences. The zenith of Gandhara Art is the statue of the  “Fasting Buddha”.

Picture Source: National Finds for Cultural Heritage Pakistan
URL Link: http://www.heritage.gov.pk/html_pages/gandhara.html

To read more about Gandhara Art please click here.

To read more about the Gandhara Civilization please click here.

In 2012, about 224 artifacts dating as far back as the fifth century have been discovered from a 25-foot high mound in Sangalwala Tibia village, 12km from Kamalia in Toba Tek Singh district. For further details please click here.

For more information on the Archeological site in Nimogram please click here.

Heritage Sites

Pakistan sits at the cultural crossroads of the ancient world, and the heritage sites in the country is a testament to it. Heavily influenced by Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam, it showcases its heritage through its preserved heritage sites. Currently, there are 5 properties that are listed as World Heritage Sites by the UNESCO. These include:

Buddhist Ruins of Takht-i-Bahi and Neighboring City remains at Sahr-i-Bahlol: This is the remains of a famous Buddhist monastery and a fortified city. The monastery dates back to the 1st century CE. The complex consists of numerous stupas.

Rohtas Fort: This fort near Jhelum is an exceptional example of the Muslim military architecture of central and South Asia. The fort has such a presence because it successfully blends architectural and artistic traditions from Turkey and South Asia to create the model for Mughal architecture. It was built in 1541 CE and survives intact till today.

Photo Source: mylandpakistan.com

Historic Monuments of Malki, Thatta: Built in the 14th century, the remains of the city and its necropolis provide a unique view of civilization in Sind. While the palaces have disappeared a rich collection of tombs continues to survive. For details please click here

Fort and Shalamar Gardens: Located towards the east of Lahore, the Fort is a trapezoidal composition spread over 20 hectares. The existing base structure was built during the reign of Mughal emperor Akbar (1556-1605), and was regularly upgraded by subsequent rulers. Among the various monuments within the fort, the highlights are: the Moti Masjid, Naulaka pavilion, Alamgiri Gate, and Sheesh Mahal.

The Shalimar Gardens are located 8 kilometers (5 miles) east of Lahore. They were commissioned by Shah Jahan in 1637. The form of the garden is inspired by the gardens of the same name, in Kashmir, and would later be copied in the Shalimar Gardens of Delhi. The Shalimar Gardens are among the best preserved Mughal gardens. For further details please click here

Mohenja daro: The Archaeological Ruins at Moenjodaro (or Mohenjo-daro) are the remains of one of the largest settlements of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization. The city was built around 2600 BC, and was abandoned around 1700 BC. It was rediscovered in 1922. Moenjodaro was the most advanced city of its time, with remarkably sophisticated civil engineering and urban planning. The site was divided into two sections: the acropolis with the major structures, and the lower town with private houses and commercial buildings.

For further information please click here

Taxilla: Taxila is an archaeological site containing the ruins of the Gandhâran city of Takshashila, an important Vedic/Hindu and Buddhist centre of learning from the 6th century BCE to the 5th century CE. Historically, Taxila lay at the crossroads of three major trade routes: the royal highway from Pâṭaliputra; the north-western route through Bactria, Kâpiúa, and Puṣkalâvatî (Peshawar); and the route from Kashmir and Central Asia. Situated on the Indus, various invaders from Greece, Persia, and Central Asia left a mark on the city and its style over the ages.

Kim’s Gun or Zamzama

“He sat in defiance of municipal orders, astride the gun Zam-Zammeh, on her old platform, opposite the old Ajaibgher, the Wonder House, as the natives called the Lahore Museum. Who hold Zam-Zammah, that ‘fire-breathing dragon’, hold the Punjab, for the great green-bronze piece is always first of the conqueror’s loot.


According to Ethnologue, there are 72 individual languages in Pakistan, all of which are living. Of these, 13 are institutional, 11 are developing, 38 are vigorous, 8 are in trouble, and 2 are dying. (Ethnologue, 2013)

The national language of Pakistan is Urdu, while English is the official language. Urdu, meaning ‘language of the army camp’ is a hybrid language which developed in the 14th century. It is predominantly a mixture of Turkish, Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit and other South Asian languages.

Besides Urdu, there are six major spoken the major provinces of Pakistan. These include: Punjabi, spoken by about 50% of the population; Sindhi, the second most common language in Pakistan; Pashto, spoken in Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa; Baluchi, spoken in Balochistan; Saraiki, and Hindko. There are also over fifty regional languages.

Languages in Pakistan

Photo Source: M. Izady, 2007-2013, URL Link: http://global-atlas.jrc.it/maps/PUBLIC/2142_Pakistan_Baluchistan_Linguistic_lg.jpg

For further details on the languages of Pakistan please click here.

To learn some basic Urdu phases please click here.


Ethnologue. (2013). Pakistan. Retrieved July 23, 2013, from ww.ethnologue.com: http://www.ethnologue.com/country/PK/default/***EDITION***


Traditions & Rituals

The social interactions of everyday are guided by a age old traditions. People and tradition differ to the community or ethnicity one belongs. These social customs help create and maintain the sense of community.

Among the Punjabis in Pakistan during the wedding, the choora (red bangles) worn by brides has to necessarily come as a gift from her maternal uncles, while the Khat (bridal gift) has to come from the maternal grandparents.

The Baloch welcome the birth of a child –especially boy child –with much song and dance. Women attend the mother for seven nights and sing the sipatt (songs of praise), as food and sweets are prepared and distributed. The Baloch may also practice the custom of Mangirwhereby there is a mass marriage of several couples in the community.

The tradition of Badal (revenge) among the Pukhtoon is often heard about. The obligation to take revenge falls not only on the individual but the entire tribe. Feuds over Zar, Zan, Zamin (money, women, land) have been going on since centuries. However, sometimes feuds are terminated when the weaker party seeks forgiveness through the nanawati system where blood money may be accepted in lieu of revenge. Another well-known aspect of the Paktunwali (code of conduct for the Pustoons) is the Melmastia where one extends hospitality and assurance of safety to a guest or enemy if he seeks it.

To visit the customs and Tradition page of The Ministry of Heritage and National Integration please click here.

For information on the marriage tradition of Pakistan please click here.