WANA: Under the centuries-old tradition of ‘Ashar’ Pakhtuns help each other in farming, construction work and other collective projects.
The Ashar of farming is unique as all the members go for the help of the host to the fields early in the morning and their women go to the house of the host to prepare meal for the male members. Participants of Ashar are served breakfast at 10:00am, lunch and Zuhr prayer break is observed from 1:30 to 2:30pm and tea is again served before evening. Then comes a heavy dinner in which the host often slaughters a cattle for the guests and all of them sit collectively to enjoy the occasion.
Meanwhile, local musicians also play music during day-time to provide entertainment to the participants of Ashar. They usually use drums and flouts as instruments. Sometimes a specific day is specified for Ashar to make sure availability of more people for work. The tradition is alive especially some areas of tribal districts, Malakand and Hazara divisions. Musicians use different instruments in different areas according to their own specific cultural practices. In some areas, people also used to resort to festive firing to celebrate the occasion, but this practice is gradually coming to an end due to increasing population and dangers associated with the practice.
Ashar is a tradition based on the principle of harmony and brotherhood. It promotes thinking of collective benefit and societal building. However, with swift development of technology and urbanisation, this tradition has almost come to an end.
The collective work, music and then traditional food was a perfect formula for a traditional event which used to be enjoyed by the villagers. Like marriages, Ashar was also used to be held on specific days in order to avoid clash of dates with other families and enable all people to participate in the event and enjoy it. Those who were not well off, were helped by other people of the village to arrange the event in a befitting manner.
This tradition has come to an end in most of the areas inhabited by Pakhtuns. However, very few people have kept this tradition alive in Mansehra, Torghar, Tanawal and Sherwan areas.