Taxila, January 30, 2024, The Europe Today: On 28th January 2024, Orange Festival was organized by Mr.Zaildar Ahsan Shah, Vice Chairman Elaan Research Center, in Collaboration with the Office of the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps & Office of Dean of the COSA at Zaildar House Taxila. H.E Deputy Chairman Senate Mirza Mohammad Afridi was chief guest on the occasion. In this Event more than 200 representatives from 60 nations, including Dean of Diplomatic Corps, High Commissioners, Deputy Head of Missions, Defence Attaché, Ambassadors, Political and Cultural counsellers were among the Participants.
The Orange Festival, an annual traditional event, organized by the Zaildar Family under the leadership of Mr. Zaildar Ahsan Shah and Mr. Zaildar Zaheer Shah. This event attracts the participation of diplomats and their families based in Islamabad, who come together to participate in the festivities and celebrate this cultural tradition.
At this festival, distinguished participants were offered Fresh Red Blood oranges from Khanpur, along with servings of fresh orange and sugarcane juice. Moreover, folk music and traditional dancing of tamed horses on the tune of drums, raising their front feet to present their salute, besides lifting stone weighing to 120 kilogrammes, a game of warriors to prove their menship were the centre of attraction for the diplomats and their families which they admired.
Mr. Zaildar Ahsan Shah warmly welcomed the Chief guest and foreigner diplomats, Dean of Diplomatic Corps, High Commissioners, Deputy Head of Missions, Defence Attaches, Ambassadors, and their families on their participation in orange festival. Addressing to the participants he spoked about the rich cultural heritage, work of master craftsmen and black stone carvers, the world famous red blood oranges of Khanpur and exploration of footprints of Buddha at over two dozen sacred sites of Gandhara civilisation.
Furthermore, he emphasized that the primary objective of the Orange Festival is to bring together diplomatic families at Zaildar House, fostering a sense of respect and affection for these families while introducing them to Pakistan’s rich traditions and culture. Highlighting Pakistan as the cradle of civilizations, he mentioned Taxila, one of the oldest civilizations, formerly known as Takshasila. With over 30 sacred historical sites in the region, efforts are underway to designate Taxila as a ‘World Heritage City.’
The Orange Festival serves as a gateway to the diverse cultural heritage, presenting a genuine and positive image of Pakistan to the global community. In his address, he pledged to contribute earnestly to Pakistan’s well-being and expressed confidence in resolving the nation’s issues through collaboration between Pakistani institutions, the government, its people, and the support of friends of Pakistan, ensuring the country’s prosperity.
Office of Dean of the COSA, in his address said that Pakistan has unique and diverse culture and hospitality that are showcased through events such as the orange festival. He said such events should be held on a regular basis because these could be an opportunity for the diplomatic community to get familiarised with the culture, traditions and Real image of Pakistan.
Dean of the diplomatic corps and Ambassador of Turkmenistan Atadjan Movlamov termed the event historic. He said Pakistan is blessed with four seasons with scenic valleys in the north besides rich cultural heritage like Gandhara civilisation making it valuable among the world community. He said that events like the orange festival would not only play an important role in promoting the real image of the country but would also provide opportunities for diplomats to better understand Pakistani culture.
Dr. Jamal Nasir, the Minister for Primary and Secondary Healthcare in Punjab, commended the Zaildar Family for their commendable efforts in hosting a splendid event. He expressed that such events play a crucial role in showcasing the tourism potential of Pakistan. He added that Pakistan is the home of ancient civilizations and cultures that are not only the heritage assets but are the best attractions for the foreign tourists as well. He emphasized the urgency of enhancing infrastructure in areas of historical and cultural significance to attract foreign tourists, particularly from Buddhist nations. He underscored the need for government support in promoting religious tourism, urging collaboration between the private sector and the community to devise effective strategies.
In his address to the Participants, the deputy chairman Senate Mr. Mirza Mohammad Afridi said that cultural diplomacy can play a pivotal role to promote the historic and rich heritage of the country at the international level. He said activities like the orange festival are an excellent way to bring the diplomatic community closer to culture, history and people of Pakistan. He said time has come for Pakistan to promote this treasurer and introduce its unique orange and mango through exhibitions across the globe. Deputy Chairman expressed his pleasure in seeing the enthusiastic members of the foreign diplomats corps, along with their families, and thanked Mr. Zaildar Ahsan Shah for his warm welcome and hospitality.
Throughout the festival audience was amazed by the talent of the locals. Foreign diplomat corps, belonging to different countries of the world, took a keen interest in Pakistan’s traditional culture, music, local crafts and delicious food. They all lauded the festival for creating the opportunity to showcase Pakistan and Taxila’s local culture helping them to understand the real image of the country.
This Orange Festival in Taxila was 11th annual event that highlighted and showcases the real image of Pakistan through local culture, heritage and hospitality of Pakistan. This year’s festival was a huge success, thanks to Zaildar Family and the collaboration of various organizations and the enthusiastic participation of the foreign diplomats corps.
During the event Horse Dance was showcased in which three different horses perform dance on beat of drums. This horse dance is a traditional part of Pakistan’s Culture. Horse dancing has become a culturally significant and widely celebrated tradition in Pakistan. The country showcases this unique form of entertainment through various events and festivals, drawing attention to the beauty and skill involved in choreographing horses to dance to rhythmic beats, especially accompanied by traditional instruments like the Drums.
Additionally, stone lifting was also part of the orange festival in which stone lifters lifts stones weighed from 80 kg to 120 kg. Participants enjoyed the traditional stone lifting and appreciated the talent of stone lifters. Stone lifting, a centuries-old tradition, thrives in Taxila, Pakistan, particularly in the Potohar region and rural areas of Hazara. The practice, also known as “Watee” or “Gutti” lifting, involves competitors lifting stones in a fluid motion onto their shoulders and occasionally throwing them behind. This traditional and folk sport, documented in local competitions, holds cultural significance and has faced challenges, with concerns about its extinction. The stone lifting competitions often involve lifting heavy stones with specific rules, showcasing the strength and skill of participants.
Folk Music was performed by Ajmal Qawwal. Folk music comprising Qawalis brings spirituality to the event in which local and foreign guests dance on the tunes of tabla with folk verses of “Dam Dam Ali Ali”. Qawali, a traditional form of devotional music, has experienced a resurgence in Pakistan in recent years, marking a comeback in cultural events and celebrations. Once replaced by DJs at weddings, Qawali has reclaimed its popularity, becoming a notable trend at high-end functions and festivals. Events like Qawali Nights have become a popular choice, showcasing the enduring appeal of this Sufi art form. The trend reflects a cultural shift towards appreciating and preserving traditional musical expressions in Pakistan.
Various stalls were arranged to exhibit artifacts of Gandhara art, featuring finely crafted jewelry and pottery made from marble and stone. Participants expressed admiration for the exquisite items displayed on the stalls.
Concluding the event, participants moved to the patio and foyer area, where a lavish spread awaited the guests. The culinary presentation was remarkable, showcasing a diverse selection of Pakistani delicacies, including Chicken Tikka, Malai Boti, Rice, and Qourma. For dessert, Kheer and Carrot Halwa were elegantly presented.