KaravanPakistan - Heritage Festivals

Gor Khattree Festival 2005

Karavan Gor Khuttree Festival
The KaravanPakistan Heritage Mural is a pictorial representation of Karavan’s journey on the path of creating awareness amongst our youth about the invaluable heritage that they will eventually inherit tomorrow. This journey started from Lahore in the form of Shahi Qila Heritage Fest. Going through Karachi, Bahawalpur, and Taxila,

KaravanPakistan ‘Gor Khuttree Heritage Fest 2005’ has now preserved Gor Khuttree in the form of murals painted by school children. In this festival various schools from all over Peshawar had taken part. School children congregated at the site of the Gor Khuttree Complex from 8:00am to 12:15pm on Saturday, 30th April 2005. This Heritage Fest was held in collaboration with the Directorate of Archaeology and Museums, N.W.F.P, Fine Arts department, University of Peshawar and Sarhad Conservation Network.

Gor Khuttree is a well preserved living complex in the Walled City located in the eastern part of Peshawar. Just like the seed contains the essence of the flower, so the inner historic parts of cities preserve the essential character of a city. One of the amazing things about these historic cores is the way in which they preserve the various skills of artisans and craftsmen. Peshawar’s Walled City in addition to this also reflects the influences of all the invaders that it received yet preserving the original flavour. It goes back to at least the 3rd century BC, the present buildings belong to the Mughal, Sikhs and British Periods. Built by Jehan Ara Begum, the daughter of Mughal King Shah Jehan in 1641, Gor Khuttree is a typical serai of the Mughal Period. It has two prominent gateways, and a network of cells of the Mughal Period along the southern and south-western boundaries, a Sikh temple in the south-western section and the British Period Barracks in the southeastern corner.

The history of Gor Khuttree summarizes our nations history in stone and mortar. Its story begins from Pre-Christian times to the Mughal era when Babur, Jahangir and Akbar all visited Gor Khuttree. It has served as the residence and court offices of the Sikh Governor Avitabile. With the advent of the British it was utilized as a Fire Brigade centre. Later the City Police Station and Revenue Offices were set up here.

It was a celebration of our heritage by our youth. This Karavan activity was held in order to foster a sense of pride in our identity and to preserve the physical manifestation of this identity via heritage sites. At the end of this program, as in all KaravanPakistan activities, certificates of participation were handed out to all participants as a token of acknowledgement of their efforts.

I.I. Chundrigar Road Festival 2005

Karavan Chundrigar Road HeritageFest
The Karavan Chundrigar Road Heritage Fest was part of the programme to improve the environment of the Central Business District and to create a more positive image of Karachi. KaravanPakistan joined hands with the Chundrigar Road Cleaning and Outreach Subcommittee to carry out activities which would encourage a partnership between heritage, art and commerce and to develop a stake in the city by involving all sections of Karachi. It was for this purpose that a group of adult and student volunteers from various companies and Karavan Partner schools were brought together under Heritage Cleaning Initiative alongwith a Heritage StreetFest for the children and the general public.

Read on……….

Blast at I.I.Chundrigar Road
by Shanaz Ramzi

A bomb blast! That is so predictable. No, try and be a bit more creative. Such as using the podium of the towering Habib Bank Plaza for some mind blowing performances by Karachi school kids. That was the innovative use that Ms. Yasmeen Lari put it to on the 6th of February, 2005 when over 300 students from 10 Compact partner Schools, ranging from private to government to special schools gave scintillating performances there- in celebration of the diverse culture and heritage of Karachi. The performances ranged from songs to puppet shows to fashion shows to skits to poems recited by the students. You name it, they did it. They had the crowd completely under their spell. One of the highlights of the event was a perfomance by students of a school in Lyari. A truly swinging performance!

The event was coordinated by Ms. Samina Peerzada who was unfortunately unable to attend it and was held in collaboration with Habib Bank. The performances were followed by a cleaning activity at the Bandookwala building, which had been started on the 5th by adult volunteers and had continued till the evening of the 6th . All the participants and teachers were awarded certificates.

In a city fraught with problems, it was a moment of reassurance and reaffirmation in the power of the youth of this city to come together and transform our lives.

Gandhara Heritage Festival 2004

The Gandhara Heritage Fest is one of a series of Heritage Fests by KaravanPakistan in conjunction with schools of Rawalpindi, Islamabad and Taxila, Risalpur and Wah Cantt. This particular Heritage Fest involved the painting of murals by the participating school children at the heritage site of Jaulian where there is a Buddhist monastery. It was a fun-filled educational programme as it included a train journey from the Golra railway station to the Taxila Museum on the Gandhara Steam Safari. The children then had to scale a hill to the Jaulian Archeological Site. Once having reached the site the children were given a briefing by Dr. Ashraf Khan, Deputy Director, Federal dept. of Archaeology on the Gandhara Heritage and one by Karavan Committee members. The painting kits were then distributed at 10:15 am and painting continued till 1:15 pm. After a lunch and prayer break the program commenced at Taxila Museum in which school bands participated, there was recitation from the Holy Quran, National songs and folk dances by schools. The addresses included a welcome speech by the Federal Department of Archeology, an Introduction to KaravanPakistan by Ms. Yasmeen Lari, Chairperson Karavan Initiatives, A talk on Corporate Social Responsibility by Mr. Tariq Kirmani, M.D. PSO and addresses by Mr. Syed Jalil Abbas, Sec. Ministry of Culture,; Mr. Jorge Sequiera, Dir. UNESCO and by Governor of Sinkiang and Chairman of Senate, Malaysia. These addresses were followed by the distribution of Certificates by the Chief Guest Mr. Mohammedmian Soomro and an address by him. This part of the program concluded with a vote of thanks by Ms. Shanaz Ramzi, Chair, Karavan Events Committee and Refreshments. After a lovely day devoted to celebrating the heritage site of Jaulian and the culture it represents the children and their teachers bade adieu and took the return journey on the Gandhara Steam Safari which took them back to the Golra Railway Station which also houses the Historic Golra Railway Museum. A true taste of our varied and colourful heritage was imparted to all the participants making it a real Heritage Fest.

For a true glimpse of the Festival read on…………

Karavan Gandhara Heritage Festival
by Shanaz Ramzi

Heritage sites and historical attractions have been developed practically the world over to entice tourists, and no wonder, considering tourism ranks among the fastest growing industries in the world today. Pakistan, however, seems to have been blissfully unaware of the importance of promoting any of its numerous heritage sites, so much so that a large number of the country’s historical treasures have been allowed to fall into a state of ruin. Mercifully, though, of late there seems to be some kind of awakening, at least in certain government departments, with the result that some of our priceless pieces of heritage are being salvaged and indeed restored to their former glory. The Golra Museum and the Gandhara Safari Steam Engine bear testimony to this great change in attitude.

For, wonderful though the transformation of Golra Station is, what is more heartening is that the effort to safeguard such vital links to our past is totally indigenous. Apparently, the railway division at Pindi had been told to sell all the vintage paraphernalia lying around at Golra Sharif Station, as scrap. Realizing what a great loss that would be, executive director, Ashfaq Khattak and his team decided to use the items for display rather than dump them. Toward this end, they began to hunt around for railway coaches and saloons that had become obsolete in the early nineties. Before they knew it, they had discovered both narrow and broad gauge steam engines and railway saloons which could be used as major exhibits. They also found a lot of antique pieces such as table and ceiling fans, switches, electrical appliances, crockery and lamps.

Says Khattak “Initially we were only collecting things from Rawalpindi, but later we started looking for artifacts elsewhere too. We then restored the building that has been part of the Golra Station since 1882 to its former glory, complete with sandblasting of its walls. And all this was done at no cost to the government – it was entirely our own effort.”

The result is that a project embarked upon last year at the initiative of a few far-thinking individuals bore fruit within barely to three months of its initiation. Instead of losing out on some invaluable pieces of our history to ‘kabarias’ we now have a beautiful and well-stocked museum at Golra Station, a town whose main claim to fame so far was that it is the eternal abode of Pir Mehr Ali Shah, a renowned sufi saint.

Some of the striking vintage artifacts in the museum include Morse and field telephones from old railway saloons, gate signal lamps, radios, alarm clocks and antique guns. Certain items of formal crockery with the initials NWR (for North West Railways) have also been salvaged and displayed. Photographs tracing the history of Pakistan Railways are another item that makes for interesting viewing.

But perhaps, even more fascinating are the two royal saloons that have been restored to mint condition and are displayed as if they are awaiting gentry. One is told that one is part of a Vice Regal Saloon (used by the Viceroy) and the other belonged to the daughter of the Maharaja of Joudhpur (he had presented it to his daughter on her marriage). By a stroke of luck, the saloons had been sent to Golra in June 1947 for repairs and were left behind after Partition. Both have been preserved with their original decor, complete with luxurious bedrooms, baths, kitchens, cupboards, living rooms, writing rooms and even servants quarters. Even the fans and lights are still in working order.

Another fascinating sight is the first class waiting room, the decor of which transports you back into time, what with antique furniture including a pram adorning it. But delightful as it is to see these vintage items, one feels that it is the revival of the steam engine, built in 1912, that is the icing on the cake. Called the Gandhara Steam Safari, the train does weekly trips between Rawalpindi and Golra and is available for chartered booking up to Taxila. While the corporate world is availing the facility to the maximum – they are even hosting their dinners at the beautiful Golra station -- school children are not too far behind and a large number of them have been having the time of their lives going on field trips on the Steam Safari.

Recently, for instance, a number of Pindi schools participated in Karavan Pakistan’s Heritage Mural Painting programme held at the historical site of Taxila. As an added treat, the organizers arranged for special rates with Pakistan Railways so that the students arriving from Pindi to Taxila could be transported to and fro by train. Their pleasure knew no bounds as they sat in this romantic mode of transportation, the engine chugging away as clouds of smoke filled the air, making patterns in the breeze. The fact that on the way back, the train stopped at Golra so that the children could browse in the museum further served to enhance their excitement.
The Golra Sharif Railway Station with its museum shaded by old Banyan trees and the sparkling Gandhara Safari Steam Engine are proud testaments to what can be achieved given the will and initiative. Today, the chairman Railways has become part of the Pakistan Railways Heritage Community, so the effort has had a ripple effect and more and more people who matter are getting involved in the conservation programme. Let’s hope that other government departments also have individuals who can make a difference before it is too late.

Rohi-Cholistan Festival 2004

Karavan Rohi-Cholistan Heritage Festival
By Shanaz Ramzi

In pursuit of its objective to spread awareness about the many wonderful heritage sites in Pakistan, and to instill a sense of pride in our youth, KaravanPakistan has steadily been holding events at various historical monuments throughout the country. Having begun its journey from the streets of Karachi and trekked through Lahore where it celebrated the world heritage site of Shahi Qila, last week KaravanPakistan made inroads into the palaces of Bahawalpur.

When one talks of magnificent historical structures in Pakistan one invariably confines one’s eulogy to sites in Lahore. It is such a pity that so far limited attempts have been made to project or indeed expose the many breathtaking monuments that exist all over Pakistan, to the general populace. This is precisely why Karavan decided to organize its heritage fests in Bahawalpur region, home of eight palaces established during the reign of the Abbasi dynasty (1702 to1955 AD). The first two programmes were arranged on the grounds of the spectacular Noor Mahal and Durbar Mahal in Bahawalpur respectively, making them accessible to local children and civilian adults, most of whom had never entered the portals of these palaces.

The programme was spread over three days, with the first day dedicated to the painting of the Karavan HeritageMural by nearly 300 students from 28 schools. The venue was the grand Noor Mahal, built in 1872, allegedly on the orders of the mother of Nawab Sadiq Muhammad Khan Abbasi IV, to provide her son a regal backdrop after he succeeded to the throne at the unripe age of four-and-a-half years. However, there are many popular legends floating around regarding the construction of the palace, and one can’t be too sure as to which belief is authentic. Eleventh in line of the thirteen Abbasi Amirs who ruled Bahawalpur State for 253 years, Nawab Sadiq Muhammed IV is also accredited with the construction of Daulat Khana, Darbar Mahal and Sadiq Garh Palace.

Interestingly, all the palaces in Bahawalpur region – there are at least eight known ones – had been stripped by family members of all its valuables and abandoned to a state of disrepair after the survivors of the Abbasi dynasty fell out into two warring clans. Noor Mahal was in no better state, until the army bought it over from the Abbasis and restored it to its former glory. It is currently being used as an army mess and the surrounding areas as army units, and it was for the first time that such an event was arranged in which civilians – both children and adults -- were not only allowed within these grounds to celebrate the heritage site but were actually allowed to enter the palace itself.

With the army going all out to facilitate KaravanPakistan in organizing their events, the immaculately maintained premises had become transformed into a festive site with banners, tents and murals complementing the magnificent backdrop of the palace, and bestowing it a fairy-tale like ambience. Army jawans holding placards of the school assigned to each of them acted as guides, leading the students first to receive their briefing and then up to their tents where painting kit awaited their arrival. It was a curious and welcome sight indeed to see the saviours of the country interacting with children with such gentleness and patience. It was no less heartening to see the children, many of whom were working with paints and brushes for the first time in their lives, displaying astounding talent and proudly painting their heritage.

The next day’s programme, held at Darbar Mahal, which is being used as the headquarters of the Pelican Division of the army was just as colourful, if not more so. Once again the army went out of its way to make the visitors feel welcome and offered their full cooperation to the Karavan team so that they could fulfill their goal of instilling pride in the youth for their culture and heritage. A huge stage had been erected with the glorious restored Darbar Mahal, a unique blend of Sikh, Mughal and European architecture, constituting an elegant backdrop. The 900 ft long murals that had been painted so far by the children of Karachi, Lahore, and Bahawalpur the previous day, had all been displayed along the palace grounds, accentuating the rich diversity of our traditions and heritage.

Twenty schools had prepared skits on themes related to Bahawalpur, such as the accession of Bahawalpur State to Pakistan, lifestyle in Cholistan desert, and wedding ceremonies in Cholistan. The kids did such a wonderful job with their presentations that many in the audience were surprised by their flair and enthusiasm. Interestingly, many of the skits centered on the scarcity of water in Cholistan and ended with the children fervently praying for rain, and almost as an answer to their prayers, the heavens opened up, showering its blessings on many parts of the country.

As part of the Karavan initiative to clean heritage sites, a third programme had been arranged for the following day, this time at the imposing Derawar Fort in Cholistan, at a two hours drive from Bahawalpur. One’s heart bled at the total state of disarray that this magnificent structure had been relegated to. Students from five schools accompanied the Karavan team to clean up one of the most beautifully embellished rooms in the fort that had become so laden with dust accumulated over centuries, that one could see none of the fresco work or the wonderful tiles beneath. Just cleaning the area with dry, soft brushes and cloth, and removing the mounds of dust caking the floor with the help of plastic pans was enough to reveal the tremendous difference that could be made to the fort’s appearance given a little effort.

With the great wealth of beauty and heritage sites that our country is sitting on, one hopes that the government is going to wake up soon from its stupor and do something to salvage them from the ravages of time. It is also imperative that more such awareness-raising activities take place, highlighting historical monuments so that our future generations are abreast with and proud of their history, culture and heritage.

Lahore Fort Festival 2004

Shah Qila Heritage Fest
23-24 January, 2004

The Karavan Mera Virsa HeritageFest 2004 was the first assembly of its kind when the youth of the country from all social strata were entertained in the great Mughal citadel normally reserved for the elite and the privileged. The event helped to bring about large-scale awareness regarding Mughal heritage and culture and the Fort itself.

The Shahi Qila or Mughal Fort is an architectural gem of the Mughal era and is situated in the north west corner of the Walled City of Lahore. The citadel is spread over 50 acres and is trapezoidal in form. The citadel is divided into various sections, each creating its own world within its quadrangle but they are all interconnected for ease of administration of the Fort.

The Shahi Qila Heritage Fest was organized as a KaravanPakistan Heritage Safeguarding Initiative in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture & Youth Affairs, UNESCO and PSO to create an awareness amongst the student community about the richness and diversity of their heritage. The Festival attracted schools from all over Pakistan to participate in a two-day festival encompassing Heritage Mural painting and Heritage Theatre at the Heritage Site itself. This proved to be a dynamic way of introducing the Heritage Site of the Shahi Qila to the student community, teachers and parents. It also helped to develop a rapport between the students participating in theatre performances and the Heritage Site as the historical status of the building and the historic events that unfolded there were invoked through the performances. The children’s assembly became a truly national one due to the participation of a 35-student strong contingent brought in by the Federal Ministry of Culture and Youth Affairs from Baluchistan, NWFP, FATA, Azad Kashmir, Northern Areas and Islamabad and a 5-student strong contingent from Bahawalpur from Sadiq Public School on Karavan’s request.

The Karavan Heritage Fest held in Shahi Qila, Lahore drew 58 participant schools from Lahore and Karachi and an audience of one thousand school children to watch the Karavan Heritage Mural being painted by over 500 children and 10,000 children to watch the 6-1/2 hour long performances by scores of Karachi and Lahore schools.

On the first day of the Festival, the 23rd of January, 2004, the Karavan World Heritage Mural was initiated in the various quadrangles of Shahi Qila, Lahore. More than 50 school s participated, each school painting a 8’x5’ canvas, to prepare a gigantic mural. This Mural is likely to become the longest painted mural in Pakistan that celebrates the Heritage Sites of Pakistan.

On the second day of the Festival, 24th January, 2004, with the Diwaan-e-Aam as the backdrop, participating schools presented performances to thousands of students including schools of the Walled City, Lahore.

On the 25th of January, in a grand gesture of goodwill and to underscore the importance of such national events, Lt. Gen. Khalid Maqbool, then Governor Punjab invited the participants and out-of–town schools to a reception in their honour at the historic Governor’s House (900 students and teachers). The 400 foot long Karvan Heritage Mural was stretched out for display. During the Karavan Certificate Award Ceremony the Governor awarded certificates to participating students while Ms. Ingeborg Breines Representative UNESCO awarded prizes to the winners of the mural painting and performances.