Pakistan is full of beautiful natural scenery. In the north are the snow¬capped mountains with their silvery waterfalls and cool lakes. The central part consists of the fertile green plains of the Punjab and Sindh. Then there are the rocky regions of Balochistan and the beautiful shores of the Arabian sea. These geographical variations are reflected in the customs of the people of various regions of our country.
The tribal people and the Pathans of the north are sturdy and brave. Through the ages they have fought the invaders coming from the north. Even today a Pathan from the tribal area will rarely be seen without a firearm of some kind.
The power of a tribe depends upon the number of its menfolk. The birth of a son is, therefore, regarded as a great blessing for the family. The proud father announces the birth of a son by rifle-shots.
Sheep are bred in large herds on the green slopes of the northern region. The favourite food of the people is meat. Roast mutton and spicy chapli kababs are popular dishes. They are frequently prepared at special Kabab shops. The Pathans are very hospitable by nature. Their generosity to their guests is well known. They will protect a visitor or a person whom they have given refuge, even at the cost of their own lives. Marriages are arranged by parents.
The Punjab, the land of five-rivers, has been called the "Heart of Pakistan" by the Quaid-i-Azam. It has always been a center of culture and a seat of learning. The University of Taxila flourished nearly two thousand and five hundred years ago. Even today a large number of schools, colleges and universities are flourishing in the Punjab. The habits, dialects and dress vary from place to place. With nearly every district, some particular craft is associated. The inlaid furniture of Chiniot, the sports goods of Sialkot, the cutlery of Wazirabad, the pottery of Gujrat and Bahawalpur, and the embroidery of Multan are famous all over the country.
The Punjabis are religious by nature. Most of their festivals and fairs are connected with Urs at the shrines of famous saints. People from all over the country gather at these shrines, sing devotional songs called Qawalis and participate in the festivities of the fair. The famous Mela Chiraghan held in Lahore every year is the Urs of saint Madho Lal Hussain. Hundreds of thousands of people participate in the Urs of Hazrat Baba Farid Shakar Gunj at Pakpattan and that of Data Gunj Bakhsh in Lahore.
Villagers get together in the Chopal where they discuss their daily problems, seek advice, and settle some of their disputes without going to the courts. Usually they sit talking happily together just for the pleasure of being together. Sometimes younger people sing 'Mahya' or the ever popular 'Heer!'
In a village wedding, the close relatives of the bride and groom come to stay many days before the wedding and ceremonies continue even after the wedding. The whole village participates in the function. Girls amuse themselves by dancing the Luddi in the house, and the men express their joy by dancing the Bhangra.
In Balochistan, which is made up of vast barren lands and dry mountains, extreme weather makes life quite difficult for the people. Even though large and small towns have developed, many people still live a nomadic life. They keep shifting their homes. In winter, they come down from the mountains and in summer go back to their homes in the hills.
In extreme cold weather, they place a Sandly (a local coal stove) with a little burning coal in the middle of the room. It is kept under a table and a large quilt or a blanket is spread over the table. All the members of the family get under the quilt or the blanket to keep themselves warm.
The Balochis lead a simple life. They spread a blanket on the floor, place the food in the middle and sit around it to have their meals. They usually sit and sleep on the floor and entertain their guests in the same way. Well-to-do families use carpets instead of blankets.
The rocky area is mostly barren and water is hard to get. Women have to carry water from long distances. The women of Balochistan wear most of their jewellery all the time. The traditional jewellery of Balochistan is beautifully designed.
The Balochi wedding ceremonies are performed amidst songs and laughter with men and women dancing to the lively beat of drums. The groom feasts his own and the bride's guests. The food is brought along with the Baraat.
The civilization of Sindh, (the Valley of Mehran) is one of the oldest in the world. The ancient city of Moen-jo-daro dates back to 2500 B.C. and its ruins speak of the highly developed society that existed there about 5,000 years ago.
Most festivals in Sindh, as in the Punjab, are of a religious nature. Devotees from all over Pakistan come to the Urs of mystic poets and saints like Shahbaz Qalander and Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai. Many folk-songs are sung to their memory.
The folk-music of Sindh is very sweet and melodious. The 'Ek-Tara' is a popular one stringed instrument used in Sindh from ancient times. The 'Alghoza’ is another instrument typical of this region.
The Sindhi embroidery is admired all over Pakistan as well as in foreign countries. The dresses of both men and women are colourfully embroidered in silk thread. Even for their usually daily wear, most women wear dresses embroidered heavily in thread, beads and mirror. Mirror-work is also done on purses and cushions.
Some of the customs of Pakistan come from the age old social traditions of land, and some from religious background. But no matter what their origin, these colourful and interesting customs add charm to the life of the people of the various regions of Pakistan.