Basant is celebrated in Pakistan with great
fervor and the interest in celebrating it seems to be increasing
every year. The celebrations have reached the point that
invitation cards are printed out. It is celebrated on different
days in the country so that "the spirit of Basant" is kept alive
nationwide and people can participate in it on a national scale.
The night of Basant is reminiscent of 'Qiyam-ul-Layl', in the
sense that people do not sleep on this night. But the 'ibadah'
is of a different kind. Reputed hotels have their rooftops
booked for the whole night. The whole night is spent in flying
kites, merry-making, with Indian music blaring on loudspeakers
in the background.
Like many of our rituals, its origins remain
largely unknown to the majority of people. But there is no
denyng that this is a dangerous activity. It causes severe
damage to life and property. Many lives are lost and the country
suffers damages going into hundreds of thousands of rupees every
year in accidents related to it. A few years ago three grid
stations caught fire on this occasion because of short circuits
caused by metal wires used in kite flying. Yet, the government
promotes the celebration of Basant with an almost religious
If people ever do stop to think about how
Basant originated, they assume it was a Hindu festival to mark
the change of seasons. That Muslims should be participating in a
pagan celebration would be bad enough. But the reality is
starker than that. Are you ready for this? Here is an account of
its origin from Dr. B.S. Nijjar's book, "Punjab Under the Later
Mughals." According to him, when Zakariya Khan (1707-1759) was
the governor of Punjab, a Hindu of Sialkot, by the name of
Hakeekat Rai Bakhmal Puri spoke words of disrespect for the
Prophet Muhammad (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) and his daughter
Fatima, Radi-Allahu anha. He was arrested and sent to Lahore to
await trial. The court, acting according to the law, gave him
capital punishment. The non-Muslim population was stirred to
request Zakariya Khan to lift the death sentence given to
Hakeekat Rai but he did not accede to their request. Eventually
the death penalty was carried out and the entire non-Muslim
population went into mourning.
As a tribute to the memory of this
blasphemer, a prosperous Hindu, Kalu Ram initiated the Basant 'mela'
in (Marrhi) Kot Khwaja Saeed (Khoje Shahi) in Lahore. (This
place is now known as Baway di marrhi.) It is the last stop on
the route of Wagon no. 60 from Bhati Gate. Dr. B.S. Nijjar
states on Page no. 279 of his book that the Basant 'mela' is
celebrated in memory of Hakeekat Rai.
The ignorant crowds and their equally
ignorant vocal advocates may ask "Hey, what's wrong in a little
fun?" But should they continue to fly the kites of blasphemy?
(References taken from Salim Rauf's "Waah re