Cultural Festivals & Events

Festivals are integral part of the culture of Pakistan. Festivals are welcomed with music, dance and food. Fire-works, exchange of sweets, prayers are usual ways of celebration. Festivals in Pakistan include both Islamic and secular festivals.  Some of the festivals include:

Shab-e-Barat: This is a religious festival celebrated on 14th of Shaaban, the 8th Islamic month. It is day marked by prayers, fire-works, exchange of sweet dishes and visits. Because it’s a night festival all houses in Pakistan are decorated with candles, lamps and lights. Kids and adults equally participate in firing crackers and intricate fireworks. The night of Shab- E- Barat, symbolizes a night of forgiveness. The night of Shab- E- Barat immortalizes the entry of Prophet Mohammad to the holy city of Mecca.

Eid-ul-Fitr: Is the one the most important days for the Muslims. Eid and fitr are Arabic words.  The day celebrates end of fasting month on 1st of Shawwal, the 10th month of Islamic Calendar. After the holy month of Ramadan people return to the normal routine of life after completing the siam. Special prayer after sun-rise, exchange of sweet dishes, visits to love ones. The day is marked with wearing of new clothes & is celebrated throughout Pakistan. This festival is very special for ladies who wear bright clothes and decorate their hands & feet with hina and bangels. The celebration goes on for three days in a row.

Eid-E-Melad-Un-Nabi:This day is celebrates to commemorate the birthday of The Holy Prophet Mohammed. Processions of beautifully decorated carts, animals, vehicles are seen on the streets. Religious songs are sung and free food is given to the poor all over the country.

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Bassant: With the coming of spring Basant Festival is celebrated with pomp and show in mid-February every year in Lahore. This spring festival is traditionally celebrated by flying kites. Lahore, Kasoor, Gujranwala, Rawalpindi, Gujrat, Faisalabad and other major cities of Punjab become the hub of activities with sky full of kites of different styles, sizes and colors. This festival starts at mid-night when the white kites flying in the sky are lit with millions of flood lights from every roof top.

Mela Chiraghan: The festival of lights that marks the birth of Sufi saint Hazrat Shah Hussain, began on Friday night. Nearly half a million people from around the country are expected to attend the three-day event.

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Eid ul Azha is celebrated on 10th day of the Zil Hajj (the 12th Islamic month). This day is celebrated in the memory of the sacrifice made by the prophet Abraham (Abraham) wherein he offered the life of his son Prophet Ismail to fulfill the decree of the Allah. On this day, all people who can afford sacrifice a sheep or a goat in the name of Allah as was done by prophet Abraham. Here too the poor are not forgotten. The meat of the sacrificed goat/sheep/lamb is divided into three parts; one for distribution among the poor, second for the relatives and third for self and own family. This festival is known as the ‘Festival of Sacrifice’ or ‘Sacrifice Feast’ is mainly an event to give and to sacrifice.

Sibi Mela: This is the most colourful show of the year. Here traditional sports, exhibition of dresses, jewelry; horse show, cattle show, camel & horse races, camel & horse dances, tent pegging, concerts and colorful stalls in industrial Exhibition all take place.

Chilimjusht/Joshi: Joshi is marked with singing, dancing & feasting. Kafirs claim decendence of Alexander’s army who came into this region in 327 B.C. Ever since, these people have never stepped out of these valleys & still leading life based on matriarchal society. Their rituals, habits & customs are quite different from that of most Pakistan.

Other popular festivals include: Sindh Horse and Cattle Show, the National Horse and Cattle Show, and Shandur Polo Festival. For more information please click here.

To learn more about the festivals in Pakistan please click here.

Cultural Identities

Pakistan is a proud nation. It is one of the few nations created not out by an accident of history but with a purposeful ideology. Since 1947 Pakistan has tried to create for itself a cultural identity that its people can feel a part of. It has looked towards West Asia, Central Asia and South Asia to find a sense of identity. The question of Pakistan’s identity is a much debated topic. Perhaps it is this flexibility of identity that is the fate of the Pakistan. Harboring both the most liberal as well as the most orthodox of ideology Pakistan tries to locate itself in the myriad ethnicity, and centuries of history that has played out with its geographical territory. Rich is literature, poetry, history, art and music Pakistan boasts the ability to mix and match, construct and deconstruct tradition and heritages.

About 97 percent of all Pakistani’s are Muslims. Of which Sunni Muslims are at a majority and constitute 77 percent of the population, while the Shia Muslims constitute an additional 20 percent. Religious minorities including Christian and Hindus make up for 1 percent. Sufism is practiced widely in Pakistan, and has much more flexible religiosity than the more extreme form of Islam. Shrines of Data Ganj Baksh and Shahbaz Qalander in Sehwan are visited by million in a year.

Pakistan is home to over 170 Million people. There are a number of ethnic groups within Pakistan. See map below. Broadly, they comprise four main ethnic groups Pashtuns (15%), Baluchis (3%), Punjabis (40%) and Sindhis (14%), and numerous smaller groups (28%) like Brahui, Seraiki, Balti, Mohajirs, Chitrali or Kalash.


Photo Source: M.Izady, 2007-2013,
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To read more about the Cultural Heritage of Pakistan please click here.

To see the list of National Symbols in Pakistan please click here.

Photo Source: Iqbal Academy Pakistan
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Allama Iqbal is a towering figure in the cultural, social and political landscape of Pakistan. He was a poet, a philosopher, a social reformer and much more. He provided the ideological guidance that lead to the creation of the state of Pakistan. His works are recited till today and form the backbone for the Pakistani national identity.
To read about Allama Iqbal in detail please visit this website dedicated to his life and life-work.

To read some of Iqbal’s poetry please click here.


Sculpture & Decorative Arts

Nepalese sculpture is mostly religious in nature. Many carved artifacts have been found in the Terai region of Nepal, which provide an insight into the Nepali culture and religion from its early beginnings right up to the modern times. Nepali sculpture flourished during the Lichchhavi period (5th-8thcentury) ; and stone, copper and bronze images from this period depict round faces with slanted eyes. Minimalism use of clothes and ornaments can be found, like many Hindu deities are shown wearing only a dhoti(skirt-like lower garment). Buddhist deities were carved to show them wearing longsanghatis (a long saffron-coloured robes that the Buddhists wear hanging from the shoulders) and idols during this period were so beautifully executed that it is not possible to find one specimen with a chiseled mark. Some of the best examples of sculpture during the Lichchhavi period are the images of Sleeping Vishnu in Budhanilkantha, and the Vishnu Vikrant or Dwarf Incarnation found near Lazimpat in Kathmandu. Remarkable sculptures from Lichchhavi period at Changu Narayan. The sculpture arts of 6th-14th and from the early Malla period (11th-14th century) also comprise important art treasures of Nepal.

Woodcarving found in intricate and beautiful windows, doors, temple roof-struts and other artifacts in Kathmandu Valley is an art form which is an integral part of Nepali architecture. As wood is vulnerable to the ravages of time and other art forms, well-preserved specimen only date back to the 14th century and the beginning of the Malla period. Some of the best examples of this are: the old royal palaces of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur and a number of different Viharas (monasteries) around the valley.


Sharma, Rashmi. Nepal and SAARC. New Delhi: Regal Publications, 2007.

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Nepali handicrafts date back to the 4th century B.C.; the ‘Kautilya Artha Sastra’ of Chanakya Bishnu Gupta (Kautilya) mentions woolen blanket. During the time of the Lichchhavis (3rd and 4th century A.D.), Nepali bronze artifacts were treasured by the Tibetans. Nepali handicrafts like sculptured ornaments, religious idols and statuettes in gold, silver, bronze, brass, stone and wood and embossed with semi-precious stones were very popular in India and China during the medieval period.

Nepali handicrafts are deeply rooted in the socio-religious and cultural lives of the people, and can be divided into two main categories: articles of daily use and artifacts/articles of aesthetic value and religious significance. The ethnic utilitarian handicrafts are like : khallohara (pestle and mortar),amkhora (water pot), anti (wine jar), sukunda (oil lamp), kuruwa (water jar), thaal (plate), kachaura (saucer), kasaudi (cooking pot), chulesi (vegetable cutter), gagri (water pitcher), khukri (gorkha knife) and dhakki (basket). In present times, the Nepali handicraft industry is dependent on tourism and export. Artifacts of aesthetic value like bronze figures, wooden artwork, traditional dolls, metal balls, pashmina shawls and thangka paintings are very popular amongst tourists.

Cultural Treasures of Nepal. Nepal Tourism Board.2009.


Traditional Nepali Music Imported Music
Newari Music Indian Music

  • Bhajan
  • Filmi/Bollywood music
Khas Music Western Music

  • Rock & Roll
  • Rock
  • Metal
  • Latino
  • Punk
  • Hip-Hop
  • Rap
Gurung Music
Kirant Music
Tamang Music
Magar Music
Sherpa Music
Maithili Music
Bhojpuri Music

Popular Indigenous Music of Nepal

Newari Music: consist of percussion instruments, some wind instruments, but no string instruments. All the castes have their own musical tunes and bands, and there are specific tunes for certain festivals, seasons and even for certain times of the day. Nasadya, the God of artists is revered in all the Newar localities.

Khas Music: belongs to the Khas society where castes like Damai used to play a number of instruments on occasions such as marriages, birth and other important festive occasions. But this tradition is now on decline due to the growing popularity of television, radio and other means of communication.

Musical Instruments: are popular throughout the country, while some are played only locally or on specific occasions. The Sarangi (smallchodophone), played by running a bow over the strings, is made and played by the Gandharvas or Gaines, who are the traditional folk singers of western Nepal. Air or wind blown instruments (aerophones) are found in various shapes, sizes and sound.Sahanai or Panchey Baja are played during weddings. Other instruments played during religious and social functions are Narasingha, Ponga and Muhali. Among the membranophones, Damphu is a double-sided disk shaped drum, with a long wooden handle. The Dhol/Dholak is a double-headed drum popular in the Terai region during public fairs and festivals. Dhimey is a double-headed cylindrical drum with a big wooden body, popular amongst the Newars of the Kathmandu Valley. The most popular drum is Maadal, made of leather with a wooden body is widely used for folk music and dances in the hills.

Musical Instruments of Nepal

Photo Source URL:–32HGuqwK78/Ta-eBGyAndI/AAAAAAAAAnc/DZG9lO_qKPU/s200/nepali-musical-instruments.jpg

Cultural Treasures of Nepal. Nepal Tourism Board.2009. VIDEO VIDEO of Newari Music


Nepal art and culture is unique, exotic and strongly influenced by the religious beliefs of the country. The earliest examples of Nepalese art in painting form can be traced back to manuscript illustrations found on palm leaves and the earliest known manuscript is the Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita of 1015 A.D. The wooden covers which protect the manuscript were usually more lavishly decorated than the actual manuscript.

Thangkha (Pauva) Art : Thangkas are traditional paintings depicting religious themes and deities prepared on a piece of fine cotton or silk cloth which is coated with a mixture of glue, chalk and indigo and varnished with the white of a duck’s egg mixed with water. The paintings are framed with three stripes of Chinese brocade of blue, yellow and red which represents the rainbow separating sacred objects from the material world. Images of Buddhist figures, mandala design, the wheel of life design or depiction of scenes or stories are themes frequently depicted in thangkha paintings. These paintings have generally been painted by traditional ethnic castes like the Chitrakars, Shakyas, Vajracharyas and Tibetan Lamas.

Mithila Art: Janakpur in central-south Nepal is the centre of this school of art. Maithili art is a folk painting dominated by religious themes andwomenfolk of Mithila paint the walls of their houses with pictures of different flowers and objects of socio-religious themes in bright colours. Today, this ancient art is being painted on paper as a form of prayer. Like thangkhas, Mithila art is heavily influenced by Tantric cults and their paintings are full of Tantric symbols like the Mandala in Tibetan art.

Sharma, Rashmi. Nepal and SAARC. New Delhi: Regal Publications, 2007.

Cultural Treasures of Nepal. Nepal Tourism Board.2009.

For more information:


In Nepal, drama owes its origin to ancient myth, folklore and religious practices. Early performances in the valley were held on a dabu or dabali, a 60cm (2foot) stone platform, while every chowk (street junction) and bahil (courtyard) might have been used as a stage for narrating tales of the gods and the demons. Post the unification of Nepal under the Shah Dynasty in 1767, the Kathmandu Valley performance absorbed some of the theatrical traditions of India, including romantic Parsi theatre popular in north India.

In 1846, when the Rana assumed power and controlled the monarchy, all public performances were banned, as well as public education. Religious performances continued among the indigenous communities of the Tarai plains and the hills. Ironically during the late nineteenth century, the Ranas imitating European architecture and styles, imported the concept of proscenium theatre for their private entertainment.

Despite the restrictions of the Rana, Moti Ram Bhatta adapted and staged Shakuntala in 1892, becoming the first recognized Nepali playwright and director. Manik Man Taludhar, Nepal’s first commoner theatre professional to be trained in Calcutta (present day Kolkata), returned to stage the playIndar Sabha in 1900.

Bal Krishna Sama from the Rana family is recognized as the father of modern Nepali theatre. In opposition to his Rana clan’s stand on performing art, he is recognized for inaugurating a golden age of the Nepali theatre with his work, Tansenko Jhari (rain in Tansen,1923 ), and he went on to write fifteen plays-comedies, tragedies and historical dramas which are influential till date.

Major developments occurred after the arrival of street theatre troupes like Sarwanam (1981), proscenium theatre practitioners like Arohan (1981), and the indigenous Maithili drama troupe, Janakpur-based Mithila Natya Parishas (1980).

With the restoration of multi-party democracy in 1990, theatre workers became development activists, performing plays under ‘awareness’ campaign banners. This sponsored work tended to restrict artistic progress , but in 2000, with the opening of a chapter of the International Theatre Institute and the consequent links made with international companies, Nepali theatre has found encouragement for a new wave of experimentation.

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Mahakali Dance: is one of the popular dances of Newar community in Nepal. This dance is based on the religious story from a Hindu Puran: ‘Mahakali Mahalaxmi’. This dance demonstrates the great joy and happiness after the victory of mother goddess over the demons.

Lakhey Dance: is one of the classical dances of Nepal performed once a year during the festival of Indrajatra which is celebrated for nearly a week during the end of September or first part of October. ‘Lakhey’ according to popular belief refers to man eating demons living in the dense forest. Earlier, Lakhey dancers used to select victims for human blood sacrifices.

Monkey Dance: is performed by teenagers wearing traditional customs and sticks in their hands. According to the religious epic Ramayan, monkeys performed a dance to express joy and happiness after victory of Ram over the demon King Ravana.

Bajrayogini dance: is one of the classical dance forms of Nepal named after the goddess Bajrayogini performed particularly in Buddhist temples on special occasions. This dance demonstrates a beautiful blend of wrathful feelings and peaceful motions to depict a strong sense of protection and preservation.

Tappa Dance: is a popular folk dance in the Rapti zone, especially Dang district. This dance starts in a slow key and the tempo gets faster and faster towards the end based on the rhythm or beating of the Madal (hand drum).

Sorathi Dance: is popular dance of Gurung. The central figure in this dance (a male dancer represented as a Jaisinge Raja-the name of a King) dances in turn with other female dancers, that represent the sixteen queens of the Raja and two other male dancers with their drums. Madals are used to provide the background music and settings.

Newari (Dhime) dance: is performed by the Newar community during harvest seasons, and its origin can be traced back to the Malla period of 13thcentury. Dhime is their musical instrument (like a drum which is played on both sides with hand and sticks), and has great cultural significance.

Tamang Selo: is performed by Tamang community, which is the largest Tibet-Burman ethnic group of Nepal. It is performed by both men and women, accompanied by ‘damphu’, a traditional instrument. Young dancers take this opportunity to choose their life partners during Tamang Selo.

Other forms of dances popular in Nepal are: Kawan (Skeleton) Dance, Arya Tara Dance, Chandi Dance, Peacock Dance, Bhojpuri, Ghatu, and Pancha Buddha dance amongst others.


Photo Source URL: VIDEO- folk dance VIDEO of Tamang Selo

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The Nepali film industry is referred to as Kollywood (or Kaliwood). History of Nepali films can be traced back to D.B. Pariyar’s Satya Harishchandra, which was the first Nepali language film to be made. It was produced from Kolkata, India and released on September 14, 1951. Aama (mother wasfirst Nepali film to be made and produced in Nepal by the Information Department of His Majesty’s Government of Nepal (now Government of Nepal); and released on October 7, 1964. It was directed by Hira Singh Khatri, with Shiva Shanker Manandhar and Bhuwan Thapa in the lead. In 1966, Maitighar (the birth home of a girl) by Sumonanjali Films Pvt. Ltd. was the first Nepali film to be produced under private banner, with Indian actress Mala Sinha in the lead role.

After the government eatablished the Royal Nepal Film Corporation in 1971, Mann Ko Bandh directed by Prakesh Thapa was the first film to be produced by the Corporation. It was followed by Kumari (the first Eastman Colour Nepali film) in 1977, Sindoor in 1980 and Jeevan Rekha in series. The success of these films acted as a catalyst for private parties to enter into filmmaking as an industrial endeavor. Later the Film Development Board (FDB) was established by the government of Nepal in accordance with Motion Picture Act amended on 20th November 1991. Most Nepali films are shot on 16mm film, and use Bollywood (Indian film industry) style songs and narratives. VIDEO clip of first Nepali film Aama



First Story Book Tantrakhyan (1518 A.D.)
First Song Walangata Simule Swambaraya (In reign of Pranmol malla, 1523-1550 A.D.)
First One-act Play Ekadashi Brata (1633A.D.) by Sidhhinarasingha Malla
First Drama Mooldev Shashidev by Jagat Prakash Malla (1645-1673 A.D.)


Before the Gurkha (Gorkha) conquest of Nepal in 1768, Nepali writings were in Sanskrit and Newari as well as in Nepali (the latter being the language of thr Gurkha conquerors), consisting of religious texts, chronicles and gift deeds. The extant material in Nepali, apart from memoirs (c. 1770) of the Gurkha king Prithvi Narayan Shah, has more historical than literary interest. In 19th century can be earmarked as the time when literary writing in the Nepali language originated.

About 1830 there arouse a school of Nepali poets who wrote on themes from the Hindu epics Ramayana and Bhagavata-Purana that was heavily influenced by classical Sanskrit themes and poetic metres than Nepali. In the mid-century, Bhanubhakta’s Nepali version of Ramayana achieved great popularity for colloquial flavor of its language. In the early 20th century, Lekhnath Paudyal also tended to the colloquial and used the rhythms of popular songs in some of his poems.

In the 1920s and ‘30s, the advent of modern literature began in Nepal with the work of Balkrishna Sama, who wrote lyric poetry and plays based on Sanskrit and English models and some short stories. Sama and Lakshmiprasad Devkota, discarded the earlier Sanskrit-dominated literary tradition and adopted some literary forms of the West, notably prose poetry, tragic drama, and the short story. Themes such as love, patriotism, problems of injustice, tyranny and poverty faced by Nepal in the 20th century were dealt with these writers.

Modern Nepali Drama, of which Sama was the chief practitioner, was influenced by Western playwrites like Henrik Ibsen in its depiction of contemporary social problems. In works of Visvesvaraprasad Koirala and Bhavani Bhiksu, the Nepali short stories also centred on modern-day Nepal’s social problems and the need for reform.