De GULLUNO NANDARA (Festival of Flowers)
Till militancy ruined the beautiful Tochi valley, there were flowers all around in spring, in the fields, in the hills and the valleys beyond the hills. This was the time for the festival of flowers, De Gulluno Nandara.
When orchards blossom, when hills and plains are full of color, it’s time for Gulluno Nandara. Spring is celebrated by all nations under different names, different dates. Pakistanis celebrates basant and nauroz as the spring festivals but few know that 'Guluno Nandara', Festival of Flowers was celebrated in Waziristan as spring festival. Till militancy ruined the beautiful Tochi valley, there were flowers all around in spring, in the fields, in the hills and the valleys beyond the hills. This was the time for the festival of flowers, De Gulluno Nandara. People picked flowers in the wild and danced with them and showered them on their guests. A procession of dance and dhole (drum) started from Idak, east end of Daur tribe and went up to Boya the west end, in the Tochi river bed. De Gulluno Nandara, was the hallmark of all seasonal festivals starting with advent of spring. The Nandara meant more to the Daurs than any celebrations.
Youngsters start the festival in Idak village by dancing to the Dhole, showing their skills. Idak youth are known for their colorful personalities; they keep long hair, oiled and combed, apply collarium on the eyes and Hina on their hands. They wear bright colorful clothes and have all the small items of daily use, like comb, snuff box, tobacco bag etc. lavishly decorated with beads and mirrors. The village elders makes all arrangements. Women had their side in the village and spent the day singing and dancing. Mashers and Maliks join in with special contributions, a lamb or a calf for the village feast. Spring sun has started warming but the weather is pleasant and dancers sweat it out in the sun while the cool Tochi breeze keeps the spirits soaring. After a passionate dance in the village, the group moves upstream Tochi. The next village welcomes them, showers fresh flowers on the visitors, garlands them and present them fresh flower bouquets, necklaces, wristbands, posy for the turbans, you name it, all collected from the wild..
It is time of display, pomp and show and elders of every village try to outdo their competitors because they want to be remembered as the generous ones, after the festival. They want people to remember the stop at their village. Food and Sharbat is enough for all with no complaints of shortages. Women have been working on the flowers, making them into small bouquets, necklaces and wristbands. Some even have blossom laden sticks in their hands which are offered to the elders, the rest of the flowers are given to the party, lots of them, for all of them. Youngsters wear flower necklace and wristbands, elders place flowers in their turbans or caps, Dumman (drummers) stick them in strings of their drums. Dancers and Dumman get special treat, they are garlanded the most in every village. Public movement is properly managed so that the procession stops for night only at big villages, where guests are split into small groups and each group is assigned to a different Hujra. Every Hujra prepares a feast for its guests and after dinner Nandara starts again which goes on till late night.
The Guluno Nandara went on for days, with a major stop at Darpa Khel and concluded at Boya. For the final show in every village the Dumman move to the center and the big, all inviting Attan starts, for all to join in. A multitude of people, hands raised to show the flowers move in a synchronized manner like waves in a sea of flowers. The Gulluno Nandara is the only festival in which people had silk scarves, Bandanas or handkerchiefs, (no guns or swords). They dance Attan with the colorful scarves to add to the color of flowers. Some lucky ones get their silk scarves as gifts during the Nandara while passing through villages.
Individual dancers also show their skills, there are men from many villages and to be the best is an uphill task, to be achieved at any cost. Man verses man, an opportunity if missed will come only after a whole year so give it all that you have. Girls watch the evening Nandara from rooftops and many one-sided love stories are born. If you do well in the Nandara, you are talked about the whole year till someone else takes your place in next year’s Nandara. All families know each other so one got to know the softest of whispers.
There was horse racing, tent pegging, marksmanship and sports tournaments. Every event was for fun and conscious efforts were made that fun doesn’t convert into hostility or aggression. Villages showed Milmastia (hospitality), dancers showed strength and skills, marksmen displayed their rifles and marksmanship, vendors sold lots of food and sweets and the people, Lar (east) and Bar (west) Daurs, came to know each other.
To isolate a nation and create divisions within, take it away from its roots. Thus, unfortunately, a nations culture, its identity is the first target of militants. Alas there has been no festival of flowers since militancy ruled Waziristan. The Gulluno Nandara was prohibited by the militants to ensure nothing that brought social cohesion is allowed but even if it wasn’t forbidden, where were the flowers? The curse of a ten years drought had shown itself. There were no flowers in the villages or the hills or the valleys beyond the hills. How can one have a flowers festival without flowers? The carnival is just a beautiful memory and one wonders if it will ever be revived, if people will ever be as happy. All we have is hope that one day happiness will return to Waziristan.
The author Ghulam Qadir Khan Daur is expert on FATA and has written a book Cheegha ,The Call from the last outpost, Waziristan