Lahore is often associated with its spirited festivals, a glorious historical past, and, last but not the least, its strong scented, spicy food. On the flipside, the city also boasts insufferably hot summers and chilling winters. Bahaar (spring), then, is seen as a time of the year that does the ‘break-even’ for the city. Hence, it is time to celebrate.
The idyllic season of rejuvenation can be seen by whosoever has a chance to visit the Canal. Floats, usually designed by the students of Fine Arts, are the first to catch our attention. Of course, the greenbelts on the main roads are also elaborately landscaped, and adorned with floral set pieces. All this — and more — is part of the Mela Jashn-e-Baharan, organised by the Parks & Horticulture Authority (PHA) every year around this time.
Customarily, the festival begins in the first week of March and often lasts over a fortnight. This year is going to be an exception. To quote Naseem Gul Baloch, Additional Director General, PHA, “The Mela is being extended over the entire month of March.”
An array of food stalls, a heliotrope of flowers, and music concerts are part of the festival that begins at Jilani Park this week.
The Walled City Lahore Authority (WCLA) has aligned with the PHA in the spring-related festivities. As Tania Qureshi, Marketing and Media Director, WCLA, reveals, “We are aiming at holding our own activities. There’s going to be a four-day festival at Hazoori Bagh, with stalls set up outside the Lahore Fort.”
The Walled City is considered to be the ‘true’ Lahore. It is also home to some of the most prominent, heritage buildings and Mughal-era monuments. In the last couple of years, the WCLA has been working on the conservation of the damaged structures. This has increased the public interest in the historic area.
Lahore’s initiation into spring is made evident by the illumination of the canal. Floating models of eminent structures, culture of the Punjab and historical figures provide a gripping sight to the onlookers. It is concept which is, perhaps, the most popular.
During the days these displays are afloat, the canal road is caught in dreadful traffic jams, as every passerby is trying to take a closer look and click selfies with canal serving as the lighted background.
The PHA calls the shots, when it comes to planning the Mela Jashn-e-Baharan. Aiding them in this venture are different sponsors and parties that do the decor etc. “We call the tenders but an open biding takes place where groups willingly join us,” Naseem Gul Baloch says.
Jashn-e-Baharan is gigantic in nature considering it lasts almost a month. Hence, the responsibility increases parallel to the growing size of the festivities. On the one hand, it is supposed to be a ‘mela’ (fair) for all and sundry which, to a large extent, is justifiable as many pour in through the gates of Jilani Park.
In order to deal with large crowds of people, the Authority is required to sustain a building standard. Baloch says, “Ensuring quality and maintaining standards are pivotal to the whole plan. We have formed a team that oversees the food and other recreational facilities.”
The PHA has started the trend. However, it is not a new concept because Lahore has always celebrated spring in an enthusiastic manner. Acclaimed artist Ajaz Anwar, who also has a keen eye on Lahore through the decades, remembers that Lahoris “love our spring. Basant, for instance, was one event that all of us looked forward to.” (The kite-flying festival stands banned for the past almost seven years now.)
A music concert has also been organised for the opening ceremony. Although, the performers’ names have not been disclosed yet, Baloch says it is going to be “a Sufi Night.”
The idea of providing cheap, good quality entertainment to the public is attractive in itself. However, living up to the claims made here is going to be crucial for the relevant authorities, whether it is with regards to the services or security measures.