Traditions and customs of Pakistan

What traditions and customs are there in Pakistan?

Let us see the customs and traditions of Pakistan.


Food in daily life

Because at least 95 percent of the Pakistani population is Muslim, there are two food customs that are almost universally followed. One is that Muslims do not eat pork (hence beef, chicken, lamb, and fish are staple foods), and the other is that during the month of Ramadan, fasting is a daily activity.

Spices and curry are an essential part of any Pakistani recipe. The most common spices are chili powder, turmeric, garlic, paprika, black and red pepper, cumin seeds, bay leaf, coriander, cardamom, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, saffron, nutmeg and poppy seeds, among others.

Using yogurt to marinate meats is another typical recipe. Due to the use of spices and curry for the main course, the usual accompaniment is rice. Lentils are another common specialty. Food in the south is more exotic and highly seasoned, while in the north grilled meat is often served as a main course.

Generally, any meat, poultry, or seafood is curried, and frying is the typical method of cooking. Ghee, which is clarified butter, is another commonly used recipe and is often used for frying.

Wheat and flour products are considered the mainstays of the daily diet, and the use of pickles, chutneys, preserves and sauces along with curried meats, seafood, vegetables and lentils are the reason why Pakistani cuisine has a unique flavor.

Green tea is the typical drink served at all meals.

Food customs on ceremonial occasions

Fasting is an important part of the Muslim observance of Ramadan, but food plays a role on many other occasions. One of these events is the Eid-ul-Azha (Feast of the Sacrifice) in the last month of the Muslim calendar, commemorating the occasion when the prophet Abraham was about to sacrifice his son in response to an order from God.

Muslims who can afford it must sacrifice a sheep, goat, camel or cow that symbolizes Abraham’s submission to God. The meat of the sacrificed animal is divided into three equal parts, with the first donated to the poor, the second to relatives and/or friends, and the third cooked in the home of the person who made the sacrifice. Eating the meat is part of the celebration activity of the festival.

The important religious festival of Shab-I-Barat includes a special type of pudding known as halwa and unleavened bread known as nan which is distributed among the poor. Halwa and nan plates are specially decorated with silver or gold leaf and are also sent to relatives and neighbors.

Food also plays an important role in celebrating the end of the fasting period of Ramadan. This begins with a special breakfast of pure karma (a sweet dish), which is noodles cooked in milk with dried dates, raisins, almonds, and other nuts. In addition, the crowd rushes to the local bazaars to buy fruit, meat and sweets, as well as new clothes and jewelry.

The sweets are distributed as part of the celebration of the birth of a new baby in a family, and a sacrificial offering of animals is also made: one goat for a girl and two for a boy, and the animal meat is distributed among the poor. or between friends and relatives. The foods also participate in a ceremony to celebrate a child turning six or seven months old.

The sisters and relatives place the rice pudding in the baby’s mouth using a silver spoon, and a drop of chicken broth is also placed in the mouth. After this ceremony, the adults celebrate an elaborate dinner and conclude with a special dessert called kheer.


One form of Muslim marriage consists of a nikah, a formal legal document signed by the bride and groom in front of several witnesses; this establishes that the couple is legally married.

There are also other Muslim marriage traditions. One of them includes the mayun or lagan, which takes place three or four days before the wedding and begins when the bride retires to a secluded area of ​​her home.

The day before the wedding there is a menhdi ceremony, in which the hands and feet of the bride are painted with henna. When the marriage ceremony takes place it is required that at least two witnesses be present, and that all guests offer a brief prayer for the success of the marriage.

After the ceremony, dried dates are distributed to the guests. Marriage customs vary somewhat from province to province, but Muslim marriage is seen as a union between the two families and the couple.

Each tribal group also has certain ceremonies that are an important part of marriages within that group.


Religious beliefs

Pakistan was formed as an Islamic nation, and Islam remains the religion of about 95 percent of the population. There are also small groups of Buddhists, Christians, Parsees and Hindus.

The Muslim religion was founded by the Prophet Muhammad in the 7th century, when, according to Islamic belief, he received messages from God and wrote them down in what became the Koran, the Islamic book that instructs Muslims on how to conduct their lives..

Rituals and sacred places

One of the predominant rituals for Muslims is the month of Ramadan, during which they are required to fast from sunrise to sunset (this is not required for very young children, the elderly, or pregnant women). Ramadan is also a time when Muslims thank Allah for his blessings over the past year.

An additional requirement during Ramadan is that all Muslims must help the less fortunate with gifts of cash and food. Eid, or the day Ramadan ends, begins with an elaborate breakfast; then the Muslims go to a mosque or a special park to pray.

An equally important Muslim celebration is Eid-I-Milad-un-Nabi, the birth of the Prophet Muhammad, on the twelfth day of Rabi-uh-Awwal, which is the third month of the Muslim calendar.

In addition to special gatherings in mosques, where the story of Muhammad’s life and mission is told, large groups of Muslims parade through the streets singing praises of Muhammad. Even private houses are decorated (as are mosques) to celebrate and praise Muhammad.

Another important Muslim religious festival is Shab-I-Barat, which is celebrated on the fourteenth day of Shaban, the eighth month of the Muslim year. The belief is that on this day the lives and fortunes of mankind are recorded in Heaven for the coming year.

During Muharram, which is the first month of the Muslim calendar, the martyrdom of Imam Husain, Muhammad’s grandson, is commemorated. During the first nine days of the month the death is counted, and then on the tenth day, which is the day he was killed, there are barefoot processions with people carrying banners related to the tragedy of his death.

Other religions in Pakistan also have special festivals/rituals and holidays, with Christmas and Easter being special to the 750,000 Pakistani Christians. Christmas coincides with the birthday of Ali Jinnah, hailed as the founder of Pakistan, which is why both Muslims and Christians celebrate this day.

The main festival of the Buddhist community is Baisakhi Purnima, the day the Buddha was born; it is the same calendar date on which he is believed to have attained his great wisdom of enlightenment later in life.

Parsi residents of Pakistan celebrate their New Year (Naoroz) on March 21. About 5,500 Parsis live near Karachi.

Pakistani Hindus also have a number of festivals; the two most special are Diwali (Festival of Lights) and Holi (Festival of Colors). The Festival of Lights is held in Lahore in the Shalimar Gardens, which are filled with multicolored lights and where folk music and dances are performed.

In April, a colorful and interesting festival is held in the North West Frontier Province, at the Peshawar stadium. Events include the Pathans’ famous Khattak dance and musical concerts; the people of the tribe participate in colorful costumes.

During Eid, members of the tribe gather around the Baba Kharwari shrine in the Ziarat Valley, and wrestling and shooting contests are held. A large number of people visit it regularly to offer sacrifices in memory of the saint.

The Quaid-I-Azam residence in Ziarat Valley was Ali Jinnah’s residence during his last illness and now houses relics of him and is a highly revered holy site. It was originally built in 1882 by the British and used by the Governor’s Agent as his summer headquarters.

Takht Bhai is one of the holy places in Buddhism. The Takht Bhai Buddhist monastery is located 152 meters above the plain of the hill. The Buddhists selected this place to build a religious complex where monks and students could continue their rituals and studies. The main stupa is surrounded on three sides by chapels in which images of the Buddha and Buddhisattva were installed.

Makli Hill, near the city of Thatta, is where more than a million tombs of kings, queens, saints, scholars, philosophers and soldiers are located. The tombstones and mausoleums are considered masterpieces in stone carving representing different eras and dynasties.

Death and the afterlife

Shab-I-Barat is also celebrated as a day of remembrance for deceased relatives and friends. Mosques are especially illuminated and food is distributed among the poor. It is also a time when children take part in fireworks.

After the distribution of food, the Koran is read and prayers are recited; then most Muslims visit cemeteries and put flowers and lights on the graves of deceased relatives and friends.

Secular celebrations

Official holidays include: Pakistan Day, March 23; May Day, May 1; Independence Day, August 14; Pakistan Defense Day, September 6; death of Ali Jinnah, September 11; and Ali Jinnah’s birth, December 25.

The Awami Mela or Lahore People’s Festival, held each year in March, is a six-day parade that includes equestrian sports, livestock shows and a huge crowd of people. Special events include polo, animal dances, big band displays, camel stunts, dancing horses, parades and folk dances.

Another festival in Lahore is Basant, when thousands of colorful kites fill the sky to celebrate the arrival of spring. The color yellow is associated with the festival, everyone dresses in yellow and mostly yellow foods are cooked.

A national holiday is often declared when the Pakistan national cricket team wins a major international match.

The arts and humanities

Arts support

The Pakistan National Council for the Arts (PNCA) has established the National Gallery, the Sadequinn Gallery and the National Center for Music and Dance. They also regularly organize exhibitions, seminars and theater workshops.

In the early 1970s, the National Film Development Corporation was created to make people aware of social and cultural values. The corporation regularly holds film festivals.


Faiz Ahmad Faiz is considered Pakistan’s greatest poet, and there is a national holiday celebrating his birth. He has referred to Pakistan as a land of poetry, and almost all Pakistanis are said to have written some poetry.

Graphic arts

There are a wide variety of examples of graphic arts, including hand-painted clay products, the manual design for batik products, and the block printing called Ajrak. Glazed pottery with hand-painted designs is common throughout the country, and artistic clay work dates back thousands of years.

Pakistani handicrafts are as varied as the ethnic backgrounds of the artisans and include woodworking, brass and copper work, pottery and jewelry, a wide variety of fabrics including embroidery, and the hand-designed rugs for which Pakistan is renowned. internationally.

Performing arts

There are so many dance and music performing arts in Pakistan – many of them unique to the performer’s ethnic culture – that they are almost considered common rather than unique. Music and dance are performed in both classical and folk forms. Typically, the actor or actress wears a costume that features an ethnic design.

Just as the costume the performer wears identifies the tribe or ethnic group, so does the music or performance. For example, although dancing in a circle is the basic formation of Pakistani folk dances, there are also many versions of the Pathan khattak, but they all begin with dancers in two columns accompanied by bagpipe and drum music.

There is the Jhoomer in Balochistan, which is spinning at top speed, as men do on dark nights by the light of flickering torches.

Punjabi women do the jhoomer in what is known as a romantic fashion. Also in the Punjab, the juddi begins with the girls singing to the beat of a drum; then they join in a circle and begin to dance.

Another Punjab dance is the bhangra, which is described as rock and roll and is always done at the beginning of the harvest season. Ho Jamalo originated in Sindh but is popular throughout Pakistan. It is a dance that is performed as part of a victory or celebration.

There are four main families of musical instruments in Pakistan and more than six hundred Pakistani musical instruments; the best known are the sitar, the veena, the rabab, the sur mandal and the tanpura. The most popular of all instruments is the sitar, but a two-piece drum, the tabla is reputedly the most important accompaniment to all Pakistani music and dance.

Almost all of the instruments are used primarily for solo performances; the western concept of orchestral music is not part of the Pakistani musical heritage. However, Western instruments such as piano, violin, and accordion are now often included in Pakistani concerts because they are adaptable to Pakistani music.

Other musical instruments are used, notably the dhol, a double-sided drum hung around the neck and played with sticks, while the dholkit is smaller and played by hand. Also, the flute is often used.

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