Nowroz Festival in Baltistan Pakistan

Norooz or Nowruz, meaning the new day in the Persian language, is observed in different countries of the world as the beginning of the New Year and beginning of spring. 

Norooz also spelled as Nowruz is celebrated and observed by Iranian peoples and the related cultural continent and has spread in many other parts of the world, including parts of Central Asia, Caucasus, South Asia, Northwestern China, the Crimea and some groups in the Balkans.

Nowroz in Baltistan, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan 

This festival is observed in Baltistan region of Gilgit-Baltistan, the core reasons for observing the festival is somehow ambiguous, some links it with the religion and some thinks it is the beginning of the spring and it should be observed as a good omen to start the new year. It is observed on 21st March each year. You would enjoy the day and count it as one of the memorable days of the life if you got a chance to witness the Nowroz festival in Skardu. 

What you can enjoy on the day of Nowruz?

Nowroz in Baltistan division has been observing for centuries and the day comes with exciting activities whether in public or in homes. The first thing which comes to mind when one talks about the Nowruz is the "Egg" for which the festival is known for, although there are many other things which are part of the activities of the day but Nowroz and Egg are inseparable. You could say Nowroz without the involvement of egg is not a Nowroz. 
Nowroz, as mentioned, is observed on 21st March so it is the time of spring in Skardu when the cherry and apricot trees will be in full bloom.  The freezing temperature of Himalayas and Karakorum will be changing to mild spring, giving an opportunity to dress oneself into the full traditional Balti dress without any fear of stinky sweats. 

Egg striking (Byabjon Thab), the most important custom of Nowroz 

One of the unique features of the Nowruz is the egg striking which is held in all over the region of Baltistan regardless of age and gender. Egg striking is held in homes, streets and the main event of the striking are held in the Stadium where kids to elders gather to enjoy the game. 
Every person carries at least a half-dozen boiled eggs, some carries more than dozen or two but you won't find a person without egg in hand. Eggs are dyed into different bright colors. The game of striking starts this way: the two contestants hit the pointed end of boiled eggs against each other until one cracks. Similar is done with the flat end of the eggs. If egg of one person cracks on both sides he will lose but if one's pointed end and one's flat end has been cracked then it would be a tie and neither of the two will lose the game. If the egg of the contestant breaks on both ends he will give the cracked egg to the winner. 
In this way, if one becomes able to find a hard egg (the struggle for this begins long ago before the arrival of Nowruz) he would be breaking the eggs of many contestants and he would collect dozens and dozens of cooked eggs. 
Normally the eggs brought from the market are not considered hard, people prefer eggs laid by the hens at home because these eggs have been found harder than the market eggs. Along with, people use cunning games as well, this normally doesn't work but if one succeeds in this he would earn countless eggs. This is called "Choras", a process in which the yolk of the egg is withdrawn into a syringe and a chalk kind material is filled inside with the help of the syringe. This is done months before the arrival of the Nowroz so that the chalk kind thing merge with the white part of the egg. It is then stored in a safe place and on the day of Nowruz, it is carried with other eggs. But this needs very technical person because most of the contestant would check before hitting. 

Normally when egg striking starts, the two contestants would hit the eggs against each other and the spectators would gather around them in a circle. When the two eggs are hard and they need to hit aginst each other for several times, it becomes much interesting and the people around applaud and roar. Sometimes by chance, if two "Choras" are hit aginst each other it presents an interesting phenomenon by giving a loud sound like two rocks pieces are colliding.  

The polo match

When the egg striking comes to almost an end, a polo match is played. During polo match, the local band persons play instruments and local music. Before and after the match, local songs are sung and people dance in groups. 

What does happen in homes?

Little kids, elders, and females, who have not gone to the stadium, enjoy the Nowruz at home. Dressing in new clothes is a kind of mandatory thing but along with this, people invite friends and relatives to their homes and presents special dishes. Wearing henna and dressing in newly designed fabrics is some kind of delectation for girls. 
In Baltistan, you would find many kinds of delicious local dishes and some dishes are attributed to specific festivals.  During Nowruz different kinds of recipes are cooked which are named as:

Chabkhor   (cooked by a kind of flour prepared by grinding a special type of grain) 
Balay             (A  dish which is prepared by a self-made macaroni)  
Marzan       (A  dish which is prepared by a flour of cereal and presents with butter) 

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