Kanjwani Mela – The Spirit Lives On…


Festivals are a part of human psyche; men in Punjab are no exception to this spirit in the people of all regions, all countries. A change in weather, some saint’s birthday, a harvest or just a show of composure, the folk’s will to rejoice, the people in Punjab find a way to celebrate.
Such festivals popularly called mela’s in Punjab are a common sight especially in our rural areas. As the summer ends, the hot and sultry months of June and July are over, a wave of celebrations hits almost every rural district which demonstrates expression of peoples’ enjoyment in an ambiance of festivities all over Punjab.
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AN ENCHANTINGLY PICTURESQUE EVENT

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by Nayyar Hashmey

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Festivals are a part of human psyche; men in Punjab are no exception to this spirit in the people of all regions, all countries. A change in weather, some saint’s birthday, a harvest or just a show of composure, the folk’s will to rejoice, the people in Punjab find a way to celebrate.

Such festivals popularly called mela’s in Punjab are a common sight especially in our rural areas. As the summer ends, the hot and sultry months of June and July are over, a wave of celebrations hits almost every rural district which demonstrates expression of peoples’ enjoyment in an ambience of festivities all over Punjab.

A mela is an enchantingly picturesque event. A bustling market springs up where articles of food and products of local handicrafts, toys, glass bangles, and an assortment of all kinds of items for domestic use are on display. There are circuses, beating of drums; people in catatonic trances, bagpiping, dancing, fun and frolic, all add further color to such celebrations.

I had heard a lot about one such mela from my photographer friend Nadeem Khawar who said this mela at Kanjwani encapsulated complete exuberance to capture the soul of Punjab at a single event.

To attend the event, I left Lahore on 27th August this year. After a 2 hours drive, I was in Faisalabad, the city of textiles. While driving on my way to cousin’s house, I glanced at the colonial style of the city landscape. Even after 61 years of independence, Faisalabad still has the same British pattern of colonial architecture.

It was quite a warm day, yet the arrival in Faisalabad where I had spent some beautiful years of my life, was quite a happy home coming – after so many years. The time I reached Peoples Colony, a fresh breeze started blowing and a cool sensation could be felt all over. After an hour’s stay at my cousin’s, we together drove in a jeep to Chak # 479 GB, my cousin’s native village from where Kanjwani is about 6 minutes drive.

Next morning we were there – at the mela – where at the edge of the town in Chak # 456 the celebrations were in full swing.

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See my steps

From what I saw at the mela, people here love to rear horses. I met a young tent pegger Pir Imran Shah who loves to be called by his nick Shala. When asked what purpose of these horses he had other than putting them into tent pegging, he said, all the horses (he owns 5 in total), two are the dancing horses and three run solely in tent pegging races. All the five horses he has are meant only for equestrian sports and that he has no other use for them.  I asked Shala wasn’t this rather extravagant to rear and feed these horses all the year and then test their strength only at few occasions. “Shounq da mull koi naeen Sir Ji” said Shala, meaning thereby you can’t attach price tags to one’s passion and so is the case with his leisurely pursuits (horsely pursuits I thought).

I was talking to Shala when a call for competitors of tent pegging started coming out of a loud speaker. A galloper started running at a speed of 25-30 KM an hour to hit the striking line; each one had to aim at the peg and pierce his lance into the peg (made of date wood). The standard measurement of the peg is still set on the thumb rule or to say it more aptly on finger rule. i.e. the first tier of competition involves piercing and pulling the peg of a breadth of four manly fingers (approx. 3.75”) After the winners in the first round have been decided, the peg size is reduced to about 2” width. For those who qualify the second round, the peg is finally reduced to about 1” size.

A Tent Pegger In Action
Aiming the peg: A tent pegger in action

While tent peggers were aiming at the pegs at a very fast pace, there were others who were just trotting on their horses, each team had its own color. Some had yellow turbans, yellow cushions under the saddle. There were others with blue turbans and blue cushioned horses. This show of pageantry at the ground was marvelous. A striking feature of the tent peggers were their dresses. Each team member was attired in fully starched shalwar qameez. Some had a bosky shirt, and white latha shalwar. I asked a young tent pegger in his twens, Qaiser Pervaiz on this typical gear of the tent peggers of Kanjwani and he said the area is mostly inhabited by the Baloch farmers and landowners and these colors for shalwar qameez of white starched latha or a bosky shirt, were a dress in which Baloch feel more pride, more composure and honor.

Here amidst the vast expanse of cane fields and fruit orchards, while I am busy talking to Qaiser, under a gentle August sun the spirit of Punjab is soaring. It finds an exemplary illustration in the will of the rustic village dwellers of Punjab as they indulge in all sorts of sporting activities at Kanjwani, a small mandi town; about 13 km form Samundari in Faisalabad District. Starting with different bouts for testing of individual strength, skill and will to win against one another, often only for a kilogram of desi ghee, they also partake in different team events as well.

World over young sportsmen are already lost in thought of that distant day when a secret dream will be realized, when in London, England, in 2012, they will become that most cherished of things, an Olympian. In Kanjwani, they don’t dream about an international event very much. They have a simpler more pragmatic solution: they just stage one every year.

Right here in Kanjwani, games are at their peak turning up some likely and some unlikely heroes. Out here David Beckham does not count. He is welcome of course, but can he race a bullock cart, or pierce the peg with his lance? That’s what makes this mela, which is held each year, unforgettable. The festival comprising 20 – 25 events is a wonderful mix of accepted sporting disciplines and other uncommon pursuits. Quite simply, it is a carnival. Alongside a kabaddi match, a snake and mongoose play a more serious sort of catch. In one corner are the grunting heavies testing their strength and stamina in a wrestling bout; adjacent to them is a horse dance and if you don’t like that, there are the folk dancers, the monkey man, the cock fights and all of it, of course, to the accompaniment of some typically rip-roaring commentary in Punjabi.

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A race in circles

Whereas generally rural sports add galore to mela’s in Punjab, here in Chak # 456 urban games are as much a part of this village festival as are the traditional bouts like wrestling, kabaddi, horse dancing, tent pegging and a very special feature is “Kanjwani at night”. Here at this night show, the young eunuchs dressed in dandy girlish attire dance in different rhythms.

Another very special  of Kanjwani are its unique bull races, and the people in Samundari – Tandlian wala Tehsils of Faisalabad Distt., have chalked out a variety in this rustic sporting event. One is the simple and straight racing where all bulls run to hit the finishing line. The other is the bullock cart race where the jockey’s job is to race the bullock and a small chariot shaped cart across 300 metres in the field. Then a special race called “Kirla Patti” where all participating bulls with their jockeys compete running in a circle.

Yet another feature is the trading market for horses and bulls. Not surprisingly, sometimes this becomes a serious matter. Honor aside, a bullock with an impressive track record can fetch as much as Rs. 1 lakh. Anyhow, the Sahiwal breed of bullocks is singled out as having the best racing stock. Reared on a diet of grams, desi ghee and mustard oil seeds, they are treated, explains one farmer “as our sons”. Yet these games are not restricted in outlook and are not merely a mela of traditional pursuits. They are, as they always have been, a breeding ground for Pakistan’s sporting sons of tomorrow.  An endeavor goes on to find contestants where specific skill is mandatory, but where an ordinary farmer from any village can contest on equal terms.

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Run boy run

Through the years,  mela has always struck a responsive chord, there have been, however, some moments of despair as well for in last three years, the shadow of petty politics was inescapable, as the organizer Pir Abdul Rahman Shah of Kanjwani happens to be a sympathizer of the party that is currently in power, but before elections, under the previous quasi military set up, the party in power did not allow the organizer to hold these events as they thought it would boost the image of their political opponents in the public.

A very sad aspect of our politics as holding of a rural mela also becomes a political tool to pattern the local politics in favor of one party or the other. But the spirit of these games is hard to kill. The Baloch, Syed and Jat clans inhabiting these villages still ensure that event is held according to a regular schedule as it has always been. And somewhere along some dusty village road in Punjab, a young man is trying to run his horse or the bull to be a winner. The urban tournament or competition is not his dream. He is thinking of Kanjwani 2009, of people screaming encouragement to him, of the time when he will become a local hero, a “Kanjwani Champion”.

Photo Credits: All photographs except the one on forehead of this post have been shot on location by Nadeem Khawar, an eminent photographer of Lahore.

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16 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] This cup of tea was served by: Wonders of Pakistan […]

  2. FIVE REGIONAL CITIES should be upgraded with in the provinces in Pakistan. Regional cities of Dera Ismail Khan in NWFP, Gawadar/ Qalat in Balouchistan, Sukkar/ Larkana in Upper Sind, Jehlam/ Rawalpindi and Multan in Punjab province. These regional cities have been ignored by the federal and provincial governments although these cities have their own history, culture and languages.Dera Ismail Khan in south of Pakhtun khwa/MWFP is under seige, Multan/DG Khan in south of Punjab is next target of religious extremists,Sukkar/ Larkana is being rule by criminals, Gawadar/ Qalat is trouble some. The people of these regions have to travel to provincial capitals for every small issue and requirement of the daily life which should be provided in nearby cities. A good number of population travel to big cities for their survival to earn livelihood as the local feudal own majority land and keep the common man as their slaves. Creation of regional government and upgrading of the regional cities will save a lot of money and time of the poor people of these regions. Circuit benches of the High Courts are already working in these areas and only requirement is the additional staff of different departments involved in additional work at the provincial capitals. The concern authorities should immediately consider to upgrade the regional cities. And immediate attention should be given upgrade/build the airports,TV station, civic center, libraries,hospitals, educational institutes and investment opportunities for Pakistanis living abroad and foreign firms to create jobs in the area as majority population in rural Pakistan do not have enough resources to survive. It remind me the condition of pre Islamic revolution of Iran in Shah time when the rural Iran was ignored and the capital Tehran was developed in a way to call it Paris of Middle East with modern life style. Couple of other big cities like Isfahan and Caspian sea was taken care of because of foreign tourists but rural area was ruled by cruel police and intelligence. Then what happen rural population supported the Islamic revolution and moved to Tehran and other big cities later on. The new government after revolution developed, built and upgraded the rural areas of Iran accordingly. A fund to upgrade/build these regional cities in Pakistan should be intoduced by public and private sector and Pakistani government, our foreign friends and Pakistanis living abroad may be asked to participate in this development mission in the country..KHWAJA AFTAB ALI,( former secretary, Iranian embassy, Saudi Arabia,1975-88) Advocate High Court & I.P. Attorney-first & the only Pakistani lawyer who earned Intellectual Property laws scholarship in USA,presently residing in Florida, USA. all_languages@hotmail.com

  3. Wow, my city’s event is discussed! I was really unaware of Kanjwani mela whereas I love mela-thela… It would be glad to tell you that people of Faisalabad are way loving and caring and participate warmly in such events those are significaint of love and peace. They travel Pakistan’s every mela events. Wherever mela is celibrated you could easily find people from my city, Faisalabad.

    Would you please tell when exactly the Kanjwani mela comes in a year?

  4. i want to share some videos of this mela with you. I’m resident of that village and if you are interested i can provide you same.

    • Thanks Attique for your visit to the WoP blog site. Of course you are welcome to send videos of that fantastic carnival in Kanjwani. If we find these to be of good quality, we will definitely publish them on our site as well.

  5. This is really a classy posting! Your style of writing really surpasses some blog autors I ever read! Thank you so much for posting this!

  6. Great article about this event. I’m from another country and get an idea about this traditional event… also this site has good articles.. .many thanks. I’ll add your site link to my site. thik articles

  7. […] 1. King’s Treatment 2.Life in a Pakistani 3. Kanjwani Mela – The Spirit Lives On… […]

  8. […] 1. King’s Treatment 2. Life in a Pakistani 3. Kanjwani Mela – The Spirit Lives On…  […]

  9. […] 1. King’s Treatment 2. Life in a Pakistani Village 3. Kanjwani Mela – The Spirit Lives On… […]

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  14. […] 1. Colors of Punjab, Rural Pakistan [in four parts] 2. King’s Treatment 3. Life in a Pakistani Village 4. Kanjwani Mela – The Spirit Lives On… […]

  15. Beautifully Narrated


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