Pashtun culture

Pashtun culture

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Pashtun culture is based on Pashtunwali
Pashtunwali or Pakhtunwali is a non-written ethical code and traditional lifestyle which the indigenous Pashtun people from Afghanistan and Pakistan follow. Some in the Indian subcontinent refer to it as "Pathanwali". Its meaning may also be interpreted as "the way of the Pashtuns" or "the code of...

, which is an ancient way of life, as well as speaking of the Pashto language
Pashto language
Pashto , known as Afghani in Persian and Pathani in Punjabi , is the native language of the indigenous Pashtun people or Afghan people who are found primarily between an area south of the Amu Darya in Afghanistan and...

 and wearing Pashtun dress. The culture of the Pashtun people
Pashtun people
Pashtuns or Pathans , also known as ethnic Afghans , are an Eastern Iranic ethnic group with populations primarily between the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan and the Indus River in Pakistan...

 is highlighted since at least the time of Herodotus
Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the 5th century BC . He has been called the "Father of History", and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a...

 (484-425 BC) or Alexander the Great, when he explored the Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

 and Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

 region in 330 BC. Over the different periods in history, the Pashtun culture has been influenced by the people of South
South Asia
South Asia, also known as Southern Asia, is the southern region of the Asian continent, which comprises the sub-Himalayan countries and, for some authorities , also includes the adjoining countries to the west and the east...

 and Western Asia to a certain degree. For example, just like with most other cultures in the area, it has been fully Islamised
Islamization or Islamification has been used to describe the process of a society's conversion to the religion of Islam...

 by Arabs during the Caliphate
The term caliphate, "dominion of a caliph " , refers to the first system of government established in Islam and represented the political unity of the Muslim Ummah...


Holidays and special events

The biggest holidays for Pashtuns is Eid ul-Fitr
Eid ul-Fitr
Eid ul-Fitr, Eid al-Fitr, Id-ul-Fitr, or Id al-Fitr , often abbreviated to Eid, is a Muslim holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting . Eid is an Arabic word meaning "festivity," while Fiṭr means "breaking the fast"...

, Afghan Independence Day
Afghan Independence Day
Afghan Independence Day is celebrated in Afghanistan on 19 August to commemorate the Treaty of Rawalpindi in 1919. The treaty granted complete independence from Britain; although Afghanistan was never officially a part of the British Empire...

 (August 19) and Pakistan Independence Day
Partition of India
The Partition of India was the partition of British India on the basis of religious demographics that led to the creation of the sovereign states of the Dominion of Pakistan and the Union of India on 14 and 15...

 (August 14). Some also celebrate Nowruz
Nowrūz is the name of the Iranian New Year in Iranian calendars and the corresponding traditional celebrations. Nowruz is also widely referred to as the Persian New Year....

, the Persian New Year. During these holidays, Pashtuns set up festival
A festival or gala is an event, usually and ordinarily staged by a local community, which centers on and celebrates some unique aspect of that community and the Festival....

s in which they usually have cookout
Cookout may refer to:*a barbecue*Cook Out , a fast food chain based in North Carolina*The Cookout, a 2004 film set around a cookout...

s in parks and go to fair
A fair or fayre is a gathering of people to display or trade produce or other goods, to parade or display animals and often to enjoy associated carnival or funfair entertainment. It is normally of the essence of a fair that it is temporary; some last only an afternoon while others may ten weeks. ...


Pashto poetry

Afghanistan was noted for its poetic language even before the Islamic conquest of Afghanistan
Islamic conquest of Afghanistan
The Islamic conquest of Afghanistan began in the middle of the 7th century after the Islamic conquest of Persia was completed, when Arab Muslims defeated the Sassanid Empire at the battles of Walaja, al-Qādisiyyah and Nahavand. The Muslim Arabs then began to move towards the lands east of Persia...

. The Pata Khazana
Pata Khazana
Pata Khazāna is the title of a disputed manuscript written in Pashto language...

 contains Pashto poetry
Pashto literature and poetry
-Notable figures:* Amir Kror Suri, son of Amir Polad Suri, is an 8th century folk hero and king from the Ghor region of Afghanistan.* Khushal Khan Khattak, 17th century Pashto poet-warrior from Akora Khattak in today's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan....

 written as far back as the 8th Century. Some notable poets from the region of Afghanistan-Pakistan include Amir Kror Suri
Amir Kror Suri
Amir Kror Suri , also known as Jahan Pahlawan, is a legendary character in Pashtun national history and is claimed to have become the governor of Mandesh in Ghor.- Description in Pashtun folklore :...

, Khushal Khan Khattak
Khushal Khan Khattak
Khushal Khan Khattak was a prominent Pashtun malik, poet, warrior,A charismatic personality and tribal chief of the Khattak tribe. He wrote a huge collection of Pashto poems during the Mughal Empire in the 17th century, and admonished Pashtuns to forsake their divisive tendencies and unite...

, Rahman Baba
Rahman Baba
Abdul Rahman Baba is popularly known as Rahman Baba , was a Pashtun Muslim poet from Peshawar in modern-day Pakistan who remains the most popular poet among the Pashtuns...

, Nazo Tokhi, Ahmad Shah Durrani
Ahmad Shah Durrani
Ahmad Shah Durrani , also known as Ahmad Shāh Abdālī and born as Ahmad Khān, was the founder of the Durrani Empire in 1747 and is regarded by many to be the founder of the modern state of Afghanistan.Ahmad Khan enlisted as a young soldier in the military of the Afsharid kingdom and quickly rose...

, Timur Shah Durrani
Timur Shah Durrani
Timur Shah Durrani , was the second ruler of the Durrani Empire from October 16, 1772, until his death in 1793. An ethnic Pashtun, he was the second and eldest son of Ahmad Shah Durrani.- Early life :...

, Shuja Shah Durrani
Shuja Shah Durrani
Shuja Shah Durrani was ruler of the Durrani Empire from 1803 to 1809. He then ruled from 1839 until his death in 1842. Shuja Shah was of the Sadozai line of the Abdali group of Pashtuns...

, Ghulam Muhammad Tarzi
Ghulam Muhammad Tarzi
Sardar Ghulam Muhammad Khan Tarzi son of Sardar Rahim Dil Khan, was the ruler of Kandahar and Baluchistan. He is often given credit for developing the family name "Tarzi", which would go on to play critical roles in the history of Afghanistan...

, Khan Abdul Ghani Khan, and many others.

Pashtun men usually gather at special events and listen to Pashto poetry. There are TV programs which broadcast such events to the wider Pashtun audiences, one TV program is on AVT Khyber
AVT Khyber
AVT Khyber or Khyber TV is a Pakistani-operated Pashto satellite television station in Pakistan, which was launched in July 2004. The channel broadcasts 24 hours a day, providing educational, news, variety of shows, dramas, and entertaining programs to the Pashtun population of Pakistan and...

 channel in Pakistan with Amanullah Kakar as the presenter.

Music and dances

Traditional Pashto music is mostly klasik
The classical music of Afghanistan is called klasik, which includes both instrumental and vocal forms . Many ustad, or professional musicians, are descended from Indian artists who emigrated to the royal court in Kabul in the 1860s upon the invitation of Amir Sher Ali Khan.These north Indian...

 ghazals, using rubab or sitar
The 'Tablaman' is a plucked stringed instrument predominantly used in Hindustani classical music, where it has been ubiquitous since the Middle Ages...

, tabla
The tabla is a popular Indian percussion instrument used in Hindustani classical music and in popular and devotional music of the Indian subcontinent. The instrument consists of a pair of hand drums of contrasting sizes and timbres...

, portable harmonium
A harmonium is a free-standing keyboard instrument similar to a reed organ. Sound is produced by air being blown through sets of free reeds, resulting in a sound similar to that of an accordion...

, flute
The flute is a musical instrument of the woodwind family. Unlike woodwind instruments with reeds, a flute is an aerophone or reedless wind instrument that produces its sound from the flow of air across an opening...

 and several other musical instruments. Today's modern Pashto music is influenced by neighboring music such as Bollywood
Bollywood is the informal term popularly used for the Hindi-language film industry based in Mumbai , Maharashtra, India. The term is often incorrectly used to refer to the whole of Indian cinema; it is only a part of the total Indian film industry, which includes other production centers producing...

Filmi is Indian popular music as written and performed for Indian cinema. Music directors make up the main body of composers; the songs are performed by playback singers and it makes up 72% of the music sales in India....

 as well as western
Western music
Western music may refer to:* Classical music, a genre of art music produced or rooted in the traditions of Western liturgical and secular music from the 10th century onward...

 or European.

Among the dozens of different folk dances known as Atanrh ' onMouseout='HidePop("22383")' href="">ALA-LC Romanization
ALA-LC Romanization
ALA-LC is a set of standards for romanization, or the representation of text in other writing systems using the Latin alphabet. The initials stand for American Library Association - Library of Congress....

: Ataṇ), also referred to as Atan or Attan, are the following:

Attan dance

In this dance, the dancers perform to the beat of the musician. This dance typically performed by men & women. It involves 2-5 steps, ending with a clap given while facing the center, after which the process is repeated again. The hip and arms are put in a sequential movement including left and right tilts, with the wrists twisting in sequence, with ultimately a hand is projected outward and brought in a 'scoop-like' fashion towards the center where the other hand meets it for a clap. This dance is typically performed with the musician dictating the duration and speed.

Khattak dance

The Khattak Dance
Khattak Dance
Khattak is a swift martial sword-dance performed by the tribesmen from the egile Khattak tribe of Pashtuns in Afghanistan and Pakistan.It was performed by Khattak warriors before going to war with enemy tribes in the time of Malik Shahbaz Khan Khattak and then Khushal Khan Khattak.It was called a...

 is performed by the Khattak
Khattak or Khatak , is the name of an Afghan tribe. speaking a variant of the Kandahari Pashto. They are accorded the status of being one of the original and true Afghans. The tribe is settled along the western bank of the river Indus from as north upwards as Sammah; modern day Lund Khwar & Sher...

 tribe, mainly in Pakistan but also in some eastern parts of Afghanistan.

Mahsud dance

A unique dance routine using rifles performed by the Mahsud
Mahsud is a Pashtun tribe in South Waziristan, a tribal region in Pakistan. Mahsud are considered to be one of the bravest and toughest Pashtun Tribes. The Mahsud tribe lives in the centre of South Waziristan valley, surrounded on three sides by the Darwesh Waziris, and being shut off by the...

 tribe of Pashtuns. Originally it was used to dance at the time of war, but later on became a cultural dance. The dancers dance empty handed and require only large drums. Nowadays though it is danced with the guns in the dancers hand; loaded guns are taken in one hand, up to the beat of the drum the dancers move forward in a circle. After taking two and half steps, each dancer turns about, and cocks the gun. All the dancers do this in a uniform manner and by completing the turning steps they fire in the air simultaneously. The sound of each of the guns goes on one time and seems to be a single big bang.

Waziri dance

Waziristan is a mountainous region near the Northwest of Pakistan, bordering Afghanistan and covering some 11,585 km² . The area is entirely populated by ethnic Pashtuns . The language spoken in the valley is Pashto/Pakhto...

 is a large area and has particular Pashtun culture. Two drummers and a flute player play a particular tune. All the Wazirs standing around them. Two persons leave the circle; go dancing towards the drummers, and come back dancing in the same manner. During performing both the persons turn around two times at a time once towards each other facing face to face and once keeping faces in opposite direction. After doing this separately they march while dancing to the assembled crowd. As they reach the circle another pair of the performers start and moving forward in the same fashion.


Pashtun men usually wear salwar kameez with a turban
In English, Turban refers to several types of headwear popularly worn in the Middle East, North Africa, Punjab, Jamaica and Southwest Asia. A commonly used synonym is Pagri, the Indian word for turban.-Styles:...

 or a pakul
The Pakol also spelled Pakul or Khapol, from Nurestan is a soft, round-topped men's hat, typically of wool and found in any of a variety of earthy colors: brown, black, gray, or ivory. Before it is fitted, it resembles a bag with a round, flat bottom. The wearer rolls up the sides nearly to the...

 hat. In the Kandahar
Kandahar is the second largest city in Afghanistan, with a population of about 512,200 as of 2011. It is the capital of Kandahar Province, located in the south of the country at about 1,005 m above sea level...

 region young men usually wear different color topi and in the Peshawar
Peshawar is the capital of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the administrative center and central economic hub for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan....

 region they wear white kufi
A kufi or kufi cap is a brimless, short, rounded cap worn by many populations in West Africa of all religions and throughout the African diaspora.-African and African-American Usage:...

s instead. Leaders or tribal chiefs sometimes wear a karakul hat, like Hamid Karzai
Hamid Karzai
Hamid Karzai, GCMG is the 12th and current President of Afghanistan, taking office on 7 December 2004. He became a dominant political figure after the removal of the Taliban regime in late 2001...

 and others.

Women and girls wear traditional long dresses with a light piece of cloth used to cover their hair.

Buzkashi and polo

Some Pashtuns in Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

 participate in buzkashi
Buzkashi or Kok-boru or Oglak Tartis or Ulak Tartysh is a traditional Central Asian...

, which is a sport introduced in the region during the Mongol
Mongol Empire
The Mongol Empire , initially named as Greater Mongol State was a great empire during the 13th and 14th centuries...

 period from the 13th century and onward. The word "buz" means "goat
The domestic goat is a subspecies of goat domesticated from the wild goat of southwest Asia and Eastern Europe. The goat is a member of the Bovidae family and is closely related to the sheep as both are in the goat-antelope subfamily Caprinae. There are over three hundred distinct breeds of...

" and "kashi" means "dragging" or "pulling" in the Persian language
Persian language
Persian is an Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and countries which historically came under Persian influence...

. The basic objective is to carry the headless carcass of a calf or goat around a flag and back to the starting point while on horseback with other riders trying to do the same thing by taking the carcass away from you. Not a team sport, it is every man for himself and that becomes apparent as soon as the game starts. It is played on a large open dusty field which does not appear to have many boundaries. The game is a microcosm of power politics in Afghanistan. Although buskashi is primarily an individual sport, alliances are built up between various players. Between the alliances, the strongest players finally take control (or in this case the remnants of a headless calf) and ride off to victory.