Pakistani Art and Culture

Categories: ArtCulturePakistan

Culture and Components of Culture


Culture is the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group In the 20th century, “culture” emerged as a central concept in anthropology, encompassing the range of human phenomena that cannot be attributed to genetic inheritance. Specifically, the term “culture” in American anthropology had two meanings: the evolved human capacity to classify and represent experiences with symbols, and to act imaginatively and creatively; and (2) the distinct ways that people living in different parts of the world classified and represented their experiences, and acted creatively.

Distinctions are currently made between the physical artifacts created by a society, its so-called material culture and everything else,[3] the intangibles such as language, customs, etc. that are the main referent of the term “culture”.

Components of Culture


Language is a set of symbols used to assign and communicate meaning. It enables us to name or label the things in our world so we can think and communicate about them.


Norms are humanly created rules for behavior. Norms are considered as rules and expectations eventually set by a particular society that serve as guides to the behavior of its members. It varies in the terms of the degrees of importance and might be change over a period of time. It is reinforced by sanctions in the forms or rewards and punishments. These are standards accepted by society culturally and serves as obligatory and expected behavior’s of the people in different situations in life.

Types of norms

* Folkways
* Taboos
* Rituals
* Social Control
* Ideologies, beliefs, and values.

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* Physical and verbal reactions.
* Embarrassment and stigma.


Values are anything members of a culture aspire to or hold in high esteem. Values are things to be achieved, things considered of great worth or value. Values are human creations. They are social products. Values can and do become reified. Values can be renegotiated and changed. While people and groups may disagree as to which are most important, Examples * Democracy, liberty, freedom, independence, autonomy, and individual rights.

* Capitalism, competition, hard work, self-discipline, and success.
* Wealth, prosperity, materialism, and consumerism.
* Equity, fairness, and justice.
* Equality of opportunity.
* Love, compassion, humanitarianism, charity, service, and respect for others.
* Tolerance, forgiveness, and acceptance.
* Faith, religion, family, conformity, and tradition.
* Nationalism, patriotism, civic responsibility, and loyalty.
* Health, happiness, and life.
* Education, knowledge, science, technology, and innovation.
* Complimentary and conflicting values.

A groups values tend to compliment and support one another. They tend to be in agreement and make sense when considered together. A careful look at the values above reveals “sets” of values that seem to go together. However, it is also possible for values to contradict and conflict with each other, especially in complex modern industrial societies. For example, competition and success can be seen as contradictory to humanitarianism, compassion, service and self-sacrafice; while equity and justice contradict forgiveness and conformity and tradition contradict tolerance and acceptance. In fact, many social and political problems can be seen as conflicts between groups emphasizing different values.

Beliefs and ideologies

Beliefs are the things members of a culture hold to be true. They are the “facts” accepted by all or most members. Beliefs are not limited to religious statements, but include all the things a people know and accept as true, including common sense everyday knowledge. Like all other cultural elements, beliefs are humanly created and produced. They are collective social agreements produced during interaction and reified over time. What is “true” or “factual” for a given people is what they collectively agree to be true at that point in time.

Beliefs can and do change, especially in modern industrial societies. Today we laugh at things our grandparents used to believe and chances are that our grandchildren will laugh at many of our beliefs as well. This suggests that their is no absolute knowledge or absolute truth. All knowledge and truth is relative. Ideologies are integrated and connected systems of beliefs. Sets of beliefs and assumptions connected by a common theme or focus. They are often are associated with specific social institutions or systems and serve to legitimize those systems.

* Capitalism.
* Christianity (Protestantism).
* Individualism
* Scientism
* Sexism.
* Racism.

Ideologies are, themselves, often related and connected to each other in complex ideological systems, such that one ideology “makes sense” when considered with another. They also often serve to legitimize each other. Religious ideologies often encompass or subsume many of a culture’s ideologies, giving them added legitimacy.

Statuses and Roles.

Status, although related, is not a measure of a persons wealth, power, and prestige. To speak of “high” or “low” status is somewhat misleading. A status is a slot or position within a group or society. They tell us who people are and how they “fit” into the group. Master statuses–age, sex, race, class.

Status, prestige, wealth, and power.

Roles are norms specifying the rights and responsibilities associated with a particular status. The term role is often used to mean both a position in society and role expectations associated with it. Roles define what a person in a given status can and should do, as well as what they can and should expect from others. Roles provide a degree of stability and predictability, telling how we should respond to others and giving us an idea of how others should respond to us. Roles are negotiated and produced during interaction, and often become reified over time. However, roles can be renegotiated and changed.

Cultural Integration.

Cultural integration refers to how interconnected, complimentary, and mutually supportive the various elements of culture are.

Cultural heritage

Cultural heritage (“national heritage or just “heritage”) is the legacy of physical artifacts (cultural property) and intangible attributes of a group or society that are inherited from past generations, maintained in the present and bestowed for the benefit of future generations. Cultural heritage includes tangible culture (such as buildings, monuments, landscapes, books, works of art, and artifacts), intangible culture (such as folklore, traditions, language, and knowledge), and natural heritage (including culturally significant landscapes, and biodiversity). The deliberate act of keeping cultural heritage from the present for the future is known as Preservation (American English) or Conservation (British English), though these terms may have more specific or technical meaning in the same contexts in the other dialect.

Cultural property (tangible)

Cultural property includes the physical, or “tangible” cultural heritage, such as buildings and historic places, monuments, books, documents, works of art, machines, clothing, and other artifacts, that are considered worthy of preservation for the future. These include objects significant to the archaeology, architecture, science or technology of a specific culture.

Intangible culture

“Intangible cultural heritage” consists of non-physical aspects of a particular culture, often maintained by social customs during a specific period in history. The ways and means of behavior in a society, and the often formal rules for operating in a particular cultural climate. These include social values and traditions, customs and practices, aesthetic and spiritual beliefs, artistic expression, language and other aspects of human activity. The significance of physical artifacts can be interpreted against the backdrop of socioeconomic, political, ethnic, religious and philosophical values of a particular group of people. Naturally, intangible cultural heritage is more difficult to preserve than physical objects.


Oral history
Language preservation

Cultural Heritage of Pakistan


Pakistan, which means ‘land of the pure’, is the inheritor of a long and varied history, rich in cultural traditions. Its sands have been the playground and burial place for some of the greatest imperialists and adventurers. The land has attracted scholars and mystics, adventurers and missionaries. It is not easy to categorize Pakistanis. They belong to different tribes and ethnic groups and speak different languages. It has been shaped and united by a common faith for centuries, through the message of love, peace, dignity and support for the poor preached by the Sufis who came to the region centuries ago.


A young nation created in 1947, Pakistan is the inheritor of an ancient past. A country of dramatic landscapes, it is home to eight of the world’s highest peaks, including the breathtaking K2. From the Karakorams in the north, giant glaciers spill down the mountain slopes, melting as they reach lower altitudes to fill the gorges with racing torrents of water. This is the home of the spring known as the ‘Mouth of the Lion’, from where the Indus flows down, cutting its way through barren, forbidding terrain. The river twists through Pakistan for more than 2,800 kilometers. By the time it reaches the rich alluvial plain of the Punjab it has matured, flowing slower and slower as it meanders through Sindh before ending in the warm waters of the Arabian Sea near the port of Karachi. The Indus has been the lifeblood of this predominantly agricultural economy through the millennia, instrumental in shaping the history and culture of the region.

Center of the Indus Valley Civilization, one of the oldest river valley civilizations of the world, it was home to an advanced urban culture and a sophisticated trade network which included the Middle East and Egypt. By virtue of its accessibility through passes to the north and north-west, as well as via the coastline bordering the Arabian Sea, the land that became Pakistan has been the domain of adventurers and invaders, scholars and mystics. Invasions by the Greeks under Alexander, the Huns, the Arabs, and the Central Asian tribes who settled to form the Muslim Slave Dynasty and later the Mughal Empire left their mark on the culture, faith, language and physical appearance of its people.

The region that is now Pakistan fostered Buddhism at Gandhara in the north, and Sikhism at Nankana in the Punjab. For several centuries, however, it has been predominantly Muslim. Muhammad bin Qasim, who secured the territory around Multan in the early eighth century, introduced Islam to the region with epic consequences, making it a defining force that unites the nation even today. Known for its breathtaking, dramatic landscapes, home to the highest range of mountains in the world, the Karakorams, and to the ‘Lion River’, the Indus, Pakistan has a rich history.

Indus Civilization

This land also witnessed the glorious era of Indus civilization about 8000 years B.C when the first village was found at Mehargarh in the Sibi District of Balochistan comparable with the earliest villages of Jericho in Palestine and Jarmo in Iraq. Here, during the last decade i.e., 1980’s, the French and Pakistani archaeologists have excavated mud built houses of the Mehargarh people and their agricultural land known for the cultivation of maize and wheat, together with polished stone tools, beads and other ornaments, painted jars and bowls, drinking glasses, dishes and plates. The archaeologists believe that by 7000 B.C., the Mehargarh people learnt to use the metal for the first time. From the first revolution of agricultural life the man moved to another great revolution in his social, cultural and economic life. He established trade relations with the people of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Iran and the Arab world. He not only specialized in painting different designs of pottery, made varieties of pots and used cotton and wool but also made terracotta figurines and imported precious stones from Afghanistan and Central Asia. This early bronze age Culture spread out in the countryside of Sindh, Balochistan, Punjab and North West Frontier Province of Pakistan.

This early beginning led to the concentration of population into the small towns, such as Kot Diji in Sindh and Rahman Dheri in Dera Ismail Khan District. It is this social and cultural exchange that led to the rise of the famous cities of Moenjodaro and Harappa, with largest concentration of population including artisans, craftsmen, businessmen and rulers. This culminated in the peak of the Indus Civilization which was primarily based on intensively irrigated agricultural land and overseas trade and contact with Iran, Gulf States, Mesopotamia and Egypt. Dames were built for storing river water, land was cultivated by means of bullock-harnessed plough – a system which still prevails in Pakistan, granaries for food storage were built, furnace was used for controlling temperature for making red pottery and various kinds of ornaments, beads of carnelian, agate, and terracotta were pierced through and above all they traded their finished goods with Central Asia and Arab world.

It is these trade dividends that enriched the urban populace who developed a new sense of moral honesty, discipline and cleanliness combined with a social stratification in which the priests and the mercantile class dominated the society. The picture of high civilization can be gathered only by looking at the city of Moenjodaro, the First Planned City in the World, in which the streets are aligned straight, parallel to each other with cross streets cutting at right angles. It is through these wide streets that wheeled carriages, drawn by bulls or asses, moved about, carrying well-adorned persons seated on them appreciating the closely aligned houses made of pucca-bricks, all running straight along the streets. And then through the middle of the streets ran stone dressed drains covered with stone slabs – a practice of keeping the streets clean from polluted water, seen for the first time in the world.

Gandhara Civilization

Pakistan is the land which attracted Alexander the great from Macedonia in 326 B.C., with whom the influence of Greek culture came to this part of the world. During the 2nd century B.C., it was here that Buddhism was adopted as the state religion which flourished and prevailed here for over 1000 years, starting from 2nd century B.C., until 10th century A.D. During this time Taxila, Swat and Charsaddah (old Pushkalavati) became three important centres for culture, trade and learning. Hundreds of monasteries and stupas were built together with Greek and Kushan towns such as Sirkap and Sirsukh both in Taxila. It was from these centres that a unique art of sculpture originated which is known as Gandhara Art all over the world.

Today the Gandhara Sculptures occupy a prominent place in the museums of England, France, Germany, USA, Japan, Korea, China, India and Afghanistan together with many private collections world over, as well as in the museums of Pakistan. Nevertheless, the zenith of this Gandhara Art is one and only “Fasting Buddha” now on display in Lahore Museum, Lahore. Finally, the light of Islam penetrated in this part of the world as early as 7th century AD. from the west with the Arabs and during the 10th century AD from the north with the Turks. Islam replaced the early way of life of worshipping idols and introduced new philosophy of faith in one God.

With Islam in came a new culture in this land from Arabia and Central Asia. Hence, a new type of architecture, hitherto unknown in this area, was introduced. Tens of thousands of Mosques, Madrassahs, tombs and gardens were created by the Muslim rulers all over the Sub-Continent. The new style of Islamic architecture prevailed and matured in this land for over a thousand years. The most important contribution of the Muslim rulers to this land, however, is a new language ‘Urdu’ which became the national language of Pakistan since its independence in 1947.

Islamic Period

The light of Islam penetrated in this part of the world as early as 712 A.D from the west with the Arab General Muhammad bin Qasim and during the 10th century A.D from the north with the Turk Sultan Mahmud of Ghaznah ( better known as Mahmud Ghaznavi). Islam replaced the early way of life of worshipping idols and introduced new philosophy of faith in one God. With Islam in came a new culture in this land from Arabia and Central Asia. Hence, a new type of architecture, hitherto unknown in this area, was introduced. Tens of thousands of Mosques, Madrasahs, tombs and gardens were created by the Muslim rulers all over the Sub-Continent. The new style of Islamic architecture prevailed and matured in this land for over a thousand years. The direct influence of the Muslim Rulers was not only confined to the architecture; their food added a variety of new dishes in the Sub-Continental cuisine. The national dress of Pakistan, “ Shalwar Qamiz” is also a direct gift of the Muslim Turks.

Since the mother tongue of the Muslim Rulers was Arabic, Turkish and Farsi, it was only natural that the local languages of the Sub-Continent were greatly influenced and new language was introduced. Thus the most important contribution of the Muslim rulers to this land is a new language ‘Urdu’ which became the national language of Pakistan since its independence in 1947.

British Period: 1857 – 1947

Just before the independence of Pakistan this land remained a part of the British Empire for almost a century. Hence the British culture also left an impact on the life of the people of Pakistan. Amongst the British legacy a new form of architecture which is a blend of Islamic and the Western Architecture emerged. This colonial architecture in the form of Residential Bungalows, Educational Institutions, Churches and Railway Stations is still very attrative and in a good condition. Examples of the British Architecture can be seen in all the major cities of Pakistan. The British patronage towards introducing Railways in the Sub-Continent is indeed a great gift and the operational railroad and railway stations in Pakistan today are the same laid and built by the British before 1947. Old Presidency in Rawalpindi, Rest house in Ziarat, Empress Market Karachi, Punjab University’s old Campus, Islamia College Peshawar, and Cathedrals in Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Peshawar are just few examples of the British Heritage.The British Empire, however, ceased to exist in this part of the world after 14 August 1947.

Lecture II

Culture of Pakistan and Characteristics of Pakistani Culture The society and culture of Pakistan (Urdu: ثقافت پاکستان) comprises numerous diverse cultures and ethnic groups: the Punjabis, Kashmiris, Sindhis in east, Muhajirs, Makrani in the south; Baloch and Pashtun in the west; and the ancient Dardic, Wakhi, and Burusho communities in the north. These Pakistani cultures have been greatly influenced by many of the surrounding countries’ cultures, such as the Turkic peoples, Persian, Arab, and other South Asian ethnic groups of the Subcontinent, Central Asia and the Middle East. In ancient times, Pakistan was a major cultural hub. Many cultural practices and great monuments have been inherited from the time of the ancient rulers of the region. One of the greatest cultural influences was that of the Persian Empire, of which Pakistan was a part. In fact, the Pakistani satraps were at one time the richest and most productive of the massive Persian Empire.

Other key influences include the Afghan Empire, Mughal Empire and later, the short-lived but influential, the British Empire. Pakistan has a cultural and ethnic background going back to the Indus Valley Civilization, which existed from 2800–1800 B.C., and was remarkable for its ordered cities, advanced sanitation, excellent roads, and uniquely structured society. Pakistan has been invaded many times in the past, and has been occupied and settled by many different peoples, each of whom have left their imprint on the current inhabitants of the country.

Some of the largest groups were the Proto-Indo-Aryans, of which Sindhis and Punjabis descend from and later Iranic peoples which the Baloch and Pashtuns descend from. Other less significant ones include the Greeks, Scythians, Persians, White Huns, Arabs, Turks, Mongols, Buddhists, and other Eurasian groups, up to and including the British, who left in the late 1940s. The region has formed a distinct cultural unit within the main cultural complex of South Asia, the Middle East and Central Asia from the earliest times, and is analogous to Turkey’s position in Eurasia.

[1] There are differences in culture among the different ethnic groups in matters such as dress, food, and religion, especially where pre-Islamic customs differ from Islamic practices. Their cultural origins also reveal influences from far afield, including Tibet, Nepal, India, and eastern Afghanistan. All groups show varying degrees of influence from Persia, Turkestan and Hellenistic Greece. Pakistan was the first region of South Asia to receive the full impact of Islam and has developed a distinct Islamic identity, historically different from areas further west.[1]

Ancient sites in Pakistan include: Zoroastrian Fire temples, Islamic centres, shi’a shrines/Sufi shrines, Buddhist temples, Sikh, Hindu, and pagan temples and shrines, gardens, tombs, palaces, monuments, and Mughal and Indo-Saracenic buildings. Sculpture is dominated by Greco-Buddhist friezes, and crafts by ceramics, jewellery, silk goods and engraved woodwork and metalwork. Pakistani society is largely multilingual, multi-ethnic and multicultural. Though cultures within the country differ to some extent, more similarities than differences can be found, as most Pakistanis are mainly of Aryan heritage or have coexisted side by side along the Indus River for several thousand years, or both.

However, over 60 years of integration, a distinctive “Pakistani” culture has sprung up, especially in the urban areas where many of the diverse ethnic groups have coexisted and ithe country now having a literacy rate of 55%, up from 3% at the time of independence. Traditional family values are highly respected and considered sacred, although urban families increasingly form nuclear families, owing to socio-economic constraints imposed by the traditional culture of the extended family. The past few decades have seen emergence of a middle class in cities such as Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Hyderabad, Quetta, Faisalabad, Sukkur, Peshawar, Sialkot, Abbottabad, and Multan. Rural areas of Pakistan are regarded as more conservative, and are dominated by regional tribal customs dating back hundreds if not thousands of years.

“Pakistan’s culture is again unique like the rest of the country. Pakistan’s geography is the meeting point of South Asia, Central Asia and West Asia/Gulf. Its culture could be termed as a combination of sub continental, Islamic, Regional, English, and more recently global influences. Let us consider them piecemeal. The newly born Pakistan had to have a sub continental leaning, having been a part of for last 5000 years of its civilization. However, the Indus Valley, present day Pakistan, culture was different from the rest of North India or South India” Religious Uniformity

Islam is the state religion of Pakistan. 97% of the population is Muslim. The minority community includes Hindus, Christians, Parsis, Ahmedis (Mirzais), Kalash, Sikhs, Bah’a’i, Buddhists and Jews. The Constitution guarantees equal rights to Muslims and non Muslims.

Sufi traditions of love, peace, progress, perfection and support of the poor have strongly influenced Islam in Pakistan. Islam arrived in Sindh in the eighth century, following which the Sufi movement multiplied all over the sub-continent. Pakistan came into existence to provide its people a system of life based on Islam. The people ,in spite of some differences of languages, customs and traditions commonly follow one religion of Islam. Language

The national language of Pakistan is Urdu, while English is the official language of the country, widely spoken and understood. Urdu, meaning ‘language of the army camp/caravan,’ is a mixture of predominantly Turkish, Arabic, and Persian with languages of the sub-continent. Urdu is written in the Persian script. It was adopted as the court language during the latter period of the Mughal Empire. Urdu played a dominant role in the re-awakening of Muslim nationalism in the sub-continent, which culminated in the Pakistan Movement. Urdu was therefore adopted as the national language of the country. Besides Urdu, there are six major and over fifty regional languages.

The major regional languages are Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashto, Baluchi, Saraiki and Hindko. Other widely spoken languages are Potohari, Shina and Broshishki. All these languages have their own literary tradition. Evolution and development of any language is dependent on the evolution and development of a society where that language is spoken. Various invasions and conquests on a place affect the development of its language. Pakistan is a land that attracted many foreign races and empires during the course of its long history.

Such was the sponge like quality of the sub-continent of India that under every invasion it readily absorbed foreign traits yet, maintaining their own distinct individuality as well. Language was one such trait. The inhabitants of Indian subcontinent were the speakers of Sanskrit and eventually, words and dialects of the languages of each successive intruder intermingled with Sanskrit and gave birth to various dialects and languages. Most of the languages spoken in Pakistan are part of the Indo-European family of languages. The main language families in Pakistan are Indo-Aryan, Iranian, Dravidian and Dardic.


Pakistani literature originates from when Pakistan gained its nationhood as a sovereign state in 1947. The common and shared tradition of Urdu literature and English literature of South Asia was inherited by the new state. Over a period of time, a body of literature unique to Pakistan has emerged in nearly all major Pakistani languages, including Urdu, English, Punjabi, Pashto, Seraiki, Balochi, and Sindhi. Poetry

Poetry is a highly respected art and profession in Pakistan. The pre-eminent form of poetry in Pakistan almost always originates in Persian, due in part to the long standing affiliation the region had with the Persian Empire. The enthusiasm for poetry exists at a regional level as well, with nearly all of Pakistan’s provincial languages continuing the legacy. Since the independence of the country in 1947 and establishment of Urdu as the national language, poetry is written in that language as well. The Urdu language has a rich tradition of poetry and includes the famous poets Dr. Allama Iqbal (national poet), Mirza Ghalib, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Ahmad Faraz, Jazib Qureshi, and Ahmad Nadeem Qasimi. Apart from Urdu poetry, Pakistani poetry also has blends of other regional languages. Balochi, Sindhi, Punjabi, Seraiki, and Pashto poetry have all incorporated and influenced Pakistani poetry. Poetry in the form of marsia salam and naath is also very popular among many Pakistanis.

Performing arts

* Music

The variety of Pakistani music ranges from diverse provincial folk music and traditional styles such as Qawwali and Ghazal Gayaki to modern forms fusing traditional and western music, such as the synchronisation of Qawwali and western music by the world renowned Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. In addition Pakistan is home to many famous folk singers such as the late Alam Lohar, who is also well known in Indian Punjab.


Kathak – classical dance developed in the Royal courts of the Mughals. Folk dances are still popular in Pakistan and vary according to region such as: Bhangra – Punjab
Luddi – Punjab
Sammi – Punjab
Jhumar – Saraiki and Balochi folk dance
Lewa – Baluch folk dance
Chap – Baluch folk dance performed at weddings
Jhumar – Saraiki and Balochi folk dance
Attan – Folk dance of Pashtuns tribes of Pakistan including the unique styles of Quetta and Waziristan Khattak Dance – Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa
Chitrali Dance – Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa
Dhammal – Performed at Sufi shrines/ dargahs in Punjab and Sindh Ho Jamalo – Sindhi dance
Drama and theatre
These are very similar to stage plays in theatres. They are performed by well-known actors and actresses in the Lollywood industry. The dramas and plays deal with many themes from life events, often with a humorous touch. Bollywood movies are also popular. Visual arts


Abdul Rehman Chughtai, Sughra Rababi, Ustad Allah Baksh, Ajaz Anwar, Ismail Gulgee, Jamil Naqsh, and Sadequain are prominent painters of Pakistan also known as the old masters. Pakistan is now producing a variety of contemporary art and Pakistani Artists have become world famous. Pakistani vehicle art is a popular folk art.


The architecture of the areas now constituting Pakistan can be traced to four distinct periods: pre-Islamic, Hindu heritage, Buddhist culture, Islamic, colonial, and post-colonial. With the beginning of the Indus civilization around the middle of the 3rd millennium B.C., an advanced urban culture developed for the first time in the region, with large structural facilities, some of which survive to this day.[Mohenjo Daro, Harappa and Kot Diji belong to the pre-Islamic era settlements. The rise of Buddhism, Guptas, Mouryas, and the Persian and Greek influence led to the development of the Greco-Buddhist style, starting from the 1st century CE. The high point of this era was reached with the culmination of the Gandhara style. An example of Buddhist architecture is the ruins of the Buddhist monastery Takht-i-Bahi in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

The arrival of Islam in today’s Pakistan introduced the classical Islamic construction techniques into Pakistan’s architectural landscape. However, a smooth transition to predominantly picture-less Islamic architecture occurred. The town of Uch Sharif contains the tombs of Bibi Jawindi, Baha’al-Halim, and Jalaluddin Bukhari, which are considered some of the earliest examples of Islamic architecture in Pakistan and are on the UNESCO Tentative World Heritage Site list since 2004.[5] One of the most important of the few examples of the Persian style of architecture is the tomb of the Shah Rukn-i-Alam in Multan.

During the Mughal era, design elements of Islamic-Persian architecture were fused with, and often produced playful forms of, Hindustani art. Lahore, occasional residence of Mughal rulers, exhibits a multiplicity of important buildings from the empire, among them the Badshahi mosque, the fortress of Lahore with the famous Alamgiri Gate, the colourful, still strongly Persian seeming Wazir Khan Mosque as well as numerous other mosques and mausoleums. The Shahjahan Mosque of Thatta in Sindh also originates from the epoch of the Mughals, as does the Mohabbat Khan Mosque in Peshawar. In the British colonial age, the buildings developed were predominantly of the Indo-European style, with a mixture of European and Indian-Islamic components. Post-colonial national identity is expressed in modern structures like the Faisal Mosque, the Minar-e-Pakistan and the Mazar-e-Quaid.

Recreation and sports

The official national sport of Pakistan is field hockey, but cricket and squash are the most popular sports. The Pakistan national field hockey team has won the Hockey World Cup a record four times. The Pakistan national cricket team has won the Cricket World Cup once (in 1992), were runners-up once (in 1999), and co-hosted the games twice (in 1987 and 1996). Additionally, they have also won the ICC World Twenty20 once (in 2009), and were runners-up (in 2007). The team has also won the Austral-Asia Cup in 1986, 1990, and 1994. At the international level, Pakistan has competed many times at the Summer Olympics in field hockey, boxing, athletics, swimming, and shooting. Hockey is the sport in which Pakistan has been most successful at the Olympics, winning three gold medals (1960, 1968, and 1984).

Pakistan has also won the Hockey World Cup four times (1971, 1978, 1982, and 1994).[6] Pakistan has hosted several international competitions, including the South Asian Federation Games in 1989 and 2004. A1 Grand Prix racing is also becoming popular with the entry of a Pakistani team in the 2005 season. The Tour de Pakistan, modelled on the Tour de France, is an annual cycling competition that covers the length and breadth of Pakistan. Recently, football has grown in popularity across the country, where traditionally it had been played almost exclusively in the western province of Balochistan. FIFA has recently teamed up with the government to bring football closer to the northern areas too.


Culinary art in Pakistan comprises a mix of Middle Eastern, Iranian, Afghan, Indian, and Turkish influences that reflect the country’s history as well as the variation of cooking practices from across the surrounding regions. Urban centres of the country offer an amalgamation of recipes from all parts of the country, while food with specific local ingredients and tastes is available in rural areas and villages. Besides the main dishes of salan, with or without meat and cooked with vegetables or lentils, there are a number of provincial specialties such as karahi, biryani, and tikka, in various forms and flavours, eaten alongside a variety of breads such as naan, chapati, and roti. There are also local forms of grilled meat or kebabs, desserts, and a variety of hot and cold drinks.



The holiest month of the Islamic Calendar, which is a month of fasting from sunrise to sunset and self-discipline, it is widely observed in Pakistan. Muslim Pakistanis (about 97% of the population) fast, attend mosques with increased frequency, and recite Qur’an. Special foods are cooked in greater quantities, parties are held, and special accommodation is made by workplaces and educational institutes.

Chand Raat

Occurs after the Islamic month of Ramadan. Chand Raat occurs the night before Eid day celebrations commence, marking the end of the month of Ramadan. In the night known as Chand Raat, people celebrate by various means, such as girls putting henna on their hands. People buy gifts and sweets that will be given to friends and families who come over to celebrate the end of Ramadan.

Eid celebrations

The two Eids, Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha, commemorate the passing of the month of fasting, Ramadan, and the willingness of Ibrahim A.S to sacrifice his son Ishmael for God. On these days, there are national holidays and many festival events that take place to celebrate Eid. As Pakistan is a Muslim state, there are three days off for all businesses and government offices. On the night before Eid, people search for the new moon to mark the end of Ramadan and arrival of Eid ul-Fitr.

The day starts with morning prayers, then returning home for a large breakfast with family members. The day is spent visiting relatives and friends and sharing gifts and sweets with everyone. During the evening people hit the town for some partying, going to restaurants or relaxing in city parks. On Eid ul-Fitr, money is given for charity and as gifts to young children. On Eid ul-Adha, people may also distribute meat to relatives and neighbors and donate food for charity.

Milaad un Nabi

Milaad un Nabi is a known religious festival which is celebrated in many parts of Pakistan. The Milaad is the celebration for the birthday of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad. Muharram (Ashura) In Pakistan, the first ten days of Muharram are observed officially. The 10th day of Muharram is marked in the memory of Imam Hussain, the grandson of Muhammad, who was a martyr, along with 72 family members, friends and followers during the Battle of Karbala.


Jashn-e-Baharan aometimes referred to as Basant, is a pre-Islamic Punjabi festival that marks the coming of spring. Celebrations in Pakistan are centered in Lahore, and people from all over the country and abroad come to the city for the annual festivities. Kite flying competitions take place all over the city’s rooftops during Basant (now prohibited).[7] The fertile province of Punjab was intimately tied via its agriculture to the different seasons of the year. The arrival of spring was an important event for all farmers and was welcomed with a celebration, hence the name Jashn (celebration) Baharan (spring).


Christmas is usually celebrated by Pakistani Christians who account more than 3 percent of Pakistan and mostly reside in Punjab of Pakistan. Other
Pakistanis also commemorate this event to promote inter-communal harmony.


Holi is celebrated by Pakistani Hindus. Other Pakistanis celebrate with them as well to promote communal harmony.


This festival is like Nowruz of Iran, Afghanistan, and Central Asia. In Northern Pakistan (Chitral, Gilgit, Baltistan), and Northern Punjab, Nowruz is celebrated as a socio-religious festival. It is also celebrated with much fervour in Balochistan, and in almost all of Pakistan’s major urban centres. In Baltistan, the main features of Nowruz are the giving of coloured eggs to friends and polo matches. In Balochistan, the festival is marked with outdoor feasts, and the traditional jumping over a fire to wash away sins and usher in a fresh start. The origins of this festival are pre-Islamic and date back to when Pakistan was part of the Achaemenid and Sassanid Persian empires.

Independence Day

On August 14, the people of Pakistan celebrate the day when Pakistan gained its independence from British India, and formed an independent state for Muslims. There are many celebrations all over the country, with people singing and dancing in the streets. Concerts are held with many pop and classical singers. Parades are held in the capital city (Islamabad). Many people decorate their houses and fly the flag of Pakistan. At night, fireworks are used in many cities. Many people pray for the country and reflect on their pride in the country of Pakistan.

Defence Day

September 6 is another patriotic day, when the Army of Pakistan is put on display for the general public to show Pakistan arms. All Government officials attend the ceremony and recognitions are awarded to special people for their work. In March 2007, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) put on display the new joint manufactured Chinese-Pakistani aircraft called the JF-17 Thunder.

Popular media


Traditionally, the government-owned Pakistan Television Corporation (PTV) has been the dominant media player in Pakistan. The PTV channels are controlled by the government and opposition views are not given much time. The past decade has seen the emergence of several private TV channels showing news and entertainment, such as GEO TV, AAJ TV, ARY Digital, HUM, MTV Pakistan, and others. Traditionally the bulk of TV shows have been plays or soap operas, some of them critically acclaimed. Various American, European, Asian TV channels, and movies are available to a majority of the population via Cable TV. Television accounted for almost half of the advertising expenditure in Pakistan in 2002.


The Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) was formed on 14 August 1947, the day of Pakistani independence. It was a direct descendant of the Indian Broadcasting Company, which later became All India Radio. At independence, Pakistan had radio stations in Dhaka, Lahore, and Peshawar. A major programme of expansion saw new stations open at Karachi and Rawalpindi in 1948, and a new broadcasting house at Karachi in 1950. This was followed by new radio stations at Hyderabad (1951), Quetta (1956), a second station at Rawalpindi (1960), and a receiving centre at Peshawar (1960). During the 1980s and 1990s, the corporation expanded its network to many cities and towns of Pakistan to provide greater service to the local people. Today, there are over a hundred radio stations due to more liberal media regulations.


An indigenous movie industry exists in Pakistan and is known as “Lollywood”, as it is based in Lahore, producing over forty feature-length films a year.

National Dress

The national dress is Shalwar Qameez for both men and women. It consists of a long, loose fitting tunic with very baggy trousers. The dress is believed to be an amalgamation of the dresses worn by the ancient Persians, and Mughal Empire who have left their impression on the people and culture of Pakistan.[10] The men’s version consists of solid, masculine colours, and is almost always accompanied by a collar and buttons (similar to a polo shirt). Men often wear an outer waistcoat over the shalwar kameez. The women’s version almost never contains collar and buttons but is often embroidered and consists of feminine colors and may feature lace or flower patterns.

In the summer, a light, cotton version is often worn, while during the winter, a heavier, wool version is worn. The sherwani or achkan, with karakul hat is the recommended dress for male government employees and officials, as it is not specifically associated with any of the provinces. Most male government officials wear the formal black sherwani on state occasions. A large Pakistani diaspora exists in the Western world and the Middle East. Whereas Pakistanis in the United States, Canada and Australia tend to be professionals, the majority of them in the United Kingdom, Germany and Scandinavia originally came from a rural background belonging to the working class. These emigrants and their children influence Pakistan culturally and economically, keeping close ties with their roots by travelling to Pakistan and especially by returning or investing there.

Cultural traditions

Pakistanis have evolved an often distinct and unique set of culture, traditions and customs in the region. Shalwar Qameez is the dress commonly worn, both by men and women, and Kashmiru, etc. put and dances are distinctly unique with their own melodies, instruments, patterns and styles. Pakistani arts in metal work, tiles, furniture, rugs, designs/paintings, literature, calligraphy, and much more are diverse and renowned internationally. Pakistani architecture is unique with its infusion of Islamic, Persian, Turkish and Indigenous styles. The manners and lifestyles are guided by a blend of traditions as well as the culture. Food dishes are also attracting quite a lot of attention with its wide blend of flavours and spices.

Ethnic groups

The vast majority of Pakistanis are Caucasoid by race but many other distinct minority are also present. The majority of Pakistanis are of average to above average height. Pakistan is notable for having several individuals in the Guinness Book of World Records, such as Alam Channa for the tallest man in the world. Pakistanis are diverse, many possessing dark hair and eyes but light coloured eyes and light coloured hair do occur in significant portions of the population as well, notably in the North amongst the Dardic, Kalash, Burusho, Wakhi, and north western Pashtun tribes. The typical Pakistani can range from light to dark brown skin tones with a few exceptions in mountainous regions of the north. Many of the people inhabiting Pakistan’s western regions share genetic affinities with ethnic groups in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan.

While the racial features of each ethnic group in Pakistan are not uniform, Chitralis and some of the Dardic tribes in the north are the most Caucasoid phenotypically, followed by the Pashtuns (also known as Pakhtuns), Kashmiris, Paharis/Potoharis, Balochis, Punjabis, and Sindhis, Muhajirs, and Seraikis. The Negroid people live along the Makran coast and are a small minority known as the Sheedi who came from East Africa in the 15th century. Panjabis, Seraiki and The Sindhis have considerable admixture and show a diverse phenotypic features representative of their multicultural history.

The Mongoloid people also inhabit Pakistan are of Central Asian origin where oftentimes their racial elements are infused within the dominant Caucasoid genes of the vast majority of Pakistanis, however there are many instances in which some have retained their distinct racial characteristics. Pakistan’s genetic diversity is due to various factors including the numerous waves of migration from other regions and include Aryans mainly, in smaller amounts Greeks, Iranians, Arabs, Turks, Scythians, Afghans to name a few and also because of its geopolitical location straddling the Iranian Plateau, Central Asian, Tibetan, and South Asian genetic spheres and as a result, the phenotypic expression of its people is reflective of this diversity. Large influxes of refugees from the surrounding nations have further exacerbated this change.

Cite this page

Pakistani Art and Culture. (2016, Oct 12). Retrieved from

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