By Muhammad Amin
Pathak is one of the four festivals celebrated by the Ismaili Muslims of Garam Chashma on the first day of February every year. The three other traditions are: Eidul Fitr, Eidul Azha and Nowroz. The unique tradition of Pathak is attributed to Pir Nasir Khusraw.
According to traditions, Nasir Khusraw practised a 40-day chehla (a mystical practice) in a cave in the cliff of Injigan (present Garam Chashma) after his arrival from Yumgan of Badakhshan province in Afghanistan. After completing the chehla, he came out on February 1, as is assumed, and thus the festival is celebrated in that memory by the Ismalis of the area.
Nasir Khusraw’s full name was Abu Muinuddin Nasir Khusraw. He was born in 1004 AD in Qabaideyan of Khusrasan province in Iran. Nasir Khusraw occupied a great place in the literary history of Persia. He was a great preacher, theologian, theo-philosopher, poet and historian. He was well versed in natural science, astronomy, medicine, mathematics and Greek philosophy. He also knew well Greek, Hebrew and Sanskrit including Arabic, achieved good command over the New and Old Testament besides the holy Quran. Before assuming spiritual life, he served in the Seljuk government as the finance secretary and revenue collector and remained attached with the government till 1045 AD. He enjoyed all luxuries and rejoices of his time.
The year 1045 AD completely changed his life when he saw his famous dream. After this he abandoned his worldly rejoices and entered the world of spirituality. In his famous book, The Safarnama, he has mentioned that a saint, most probably the Prophet (may peace be upon him), appearing to him in the dream and directing him to go towards the west for the salvage of his soul.
After the dream, he left for Makkah and performed pilgrimage and finally reached Cairo, the capital of Fatimid Caliphs, which was his final destination. In Cairo. he met the well known Ismaili da,I, Muinuddin, who guided him to the Fatimid Caliph Mustansir billah’s court. Nasir Khusraw remained in the Fatimid court till 1052 AD. He learned the Shiite Ismaili doctrines, including esoteric doctrine of Ismailism. He was appointed as Hujjat (proof) of Khurasan, a prestigious cadre in the Ismaili daawa. Nasir Khusraw also became acquainted with the administration and splendours of the Fatimid caliphs as it was the epoch of the Fatimid rule extending to Syria, Hijaz, Africa and Sicily in the West.
Nasir Khusraw returned to Khurasan in 1052 AD and began his dawas. However, this land soon became hostile for him and he was harassed and finally he retired to Yumgan in 1060 AD,a peaceful mountain place to settle permanently. Nasir Khusraw died in Yumgan in 1080 AD.
He was a prolific writer on religion, theo-philosophy and history. Some of his famous books are as follows:
1-Safar Nama ( Book of Travels). This is one of the most important books of NK.Safar nama is a description of NK pilgrimage to Mekkah,special attention to markets, lands,irrigation system, trade and industry, which he visited and observed during his seven year journey covering 19000 km.
2-Diwan (Book of Poetry). This is an important writing in Persian literary history. This book contains enthusiastic praises of Imam Ali (a.s ) and his progeny, his passionate outcries about the people and rulers of Khurasan.
3-Wajhuddin (The Face of Religion). It contains theoretical description of his religious and philosophical principles.
4.Zadal Musafareen (Traveling Provisions of pilgrims). This book is mainly related to the various metaphysical and cosmological questions of the nature.Here NK gives esoterical interpretation to various topics like birth, soul, universe, resurrection and the rising of the Sun from the west etc.
5-Gushaish was Rahaish (Book of knowledge and liberation). This book is a Persian philosophical work .In the book NK discuses about the creation of the soul,Ismaili Islamic doctrine.
6-Roshnai Nama (book of enlightenment ).It is based on the principles of Greek philosophy, mostly of Avecena and also a mixture of teachings of the famous Ikhwan a Safa (brethren of purity) and as well moral values from the Ismaili point of view.
There are many verbal traditions and also clues from the writings of writers and historians like Maulana Altaf Hussain Hali, Muhammad Ghufran, Dr. Innayatullah Faizi, Muhammad Moghegh and Ibrahim Bamiyani that NK had come to Injigan through Dorah pass and spread Shiite Ismaili version of Islam among the non Muslims. Altaf Hussain Hali even claimed that Nasir Khusraw had travelled even up to Multan. So there is the possibility that he had also reached Gilgit-Baltistan for the sake of preaching. His Ziarat located in the centre of Garam Chashma is a place of great respect and veneration for the Ismailis .Other sects of Islam also give due respect to the place.
Thus the Ismailis of Garam Chashma have been celebrating the festival of Pathak since centuries with great respect and zeal to mark that significant event. The event brings numerous happiness and joys for the people. Even before the festival they make preparations. Almost three days before the festival Pathakins (heralders/messengers) are sent by the local Khalifas in consensus to visit all the villages in the area. They give the message of blessings of the day and tell how to celebrate the event? They are given token of gift in the form of flour and dry fruits. The day of the festival is preceded by Samoon, when houses are completely cleaned and gifts are given to the relatives called Bash.
On the day of the festival at early dawn, a person, a neighbour or relative enters the house with good wishes and he is sprinkled on with flour. Then he is served with chess as eshparee followed by local dish. After his departure, the whole family members are entertained with local dish especially prepared for the day. The day is passed visiting elders and relatives and merry making. Special religious and cultural programmes and activities are also held to highlight the contribution and importance of the saint in the Ismaili faith and as well the beauty attached to the tradition. Girls and boys go for entertainment, separately.
In old days, sports such as tug of war, stone throwing and race were organized for the males while swinging, singing were organized for the females in segregation. However, unfortunately, now many of such cultural values have been discouraged and even abandoned.
The festival of Pathak lasts for two consecutive days being celebrated with pomp and show .Even the Sunni Muslims neighbours also take part in the celebration without any prejudice. The festival gives us the lessons of unity, tolerance and peaceful harmony. People visit each other houses in groups and this resultantly promotes spirit of unity, brotherhood and physio-psychological relief by engaging in sports etc. They also understand each other situations and is a great opportunity of forgiving each other. This unique culture is entrenched since centuries and require urgent attention to promote and preserve. Otherwise our this cultural value will become victim of the trends of modernity and to the monopoly of established institutions. Donors and philanthropists working for promoting world unique cultures can make timely intervention to preserve this unique cultural tradition from being extinct.
By Muhammad Amin