Celebrations, colours and lights are some of the prominent features of the Sibbi Mela that takes place in Sibbi, Balochistan, at the beginning of every year. It is the oldest cultural fair of the province attended by people from all over Pakistan and often abroad. It is also one of the most important events for the people of the province as it not only provides a platform for them to showcase their traditional crafts and culture but also gives a boost to the economy and their livelihoods.
The Sibbi Mela started in the 15th century as a Jirga gathering at the time of Mir Chakar’s rule, and slowly developed into a festival over the years. In 1885, it initiated as a market for buying and selling of horses to the British Army. It then evolved in to a carnival where crafts and merchandises from all over Balochistan were brought and sold. The Pakistan Army also took interest and have been contributing to the Mela since the last few years. Together, it has become one of the most awaited festivals of the province.
This year, the Mela took place from February 24-27, 2019. In the previous years, it was held for five days, however, due to the escalation of Pakistan-India conflict this year, it was cut short to four days. The preparations began months before and the festivities started with a lot of energy and excitement.
On the first day, the Mela officially commenced with the recitation of Holy Quran after arrival of the chief guest, Chief Minister Balochistan Jam Kamal Khan at the Sibbi stadium. An initial speech was given while addressing the guests. The first performance was the day-fireworks followed by musical parades by the bands of Pakistan Army, Police and Frontier Corps. National songs were sung and then a flower show was displayed by skilled entertainers. The locals conducted a cattle parade showcasing their best cows, horses, camels and other animals after which dance by the horses was presented. The audience was then entertained with the regional and cultural dances of the province.
Pakistan Army also took part by amusing the spectators with a parade, an archery show, an unarmed combat performance, and amusing motorcycle stunt routines. The stage was concluded with prize distributions among the best performers at around 1:30 pm. After this, the official opening of the Industrial and Agricultural exhibition took place at the exhibition center and people started visiting different stalls consisting of crafts and goods from all provinces. A large variety of handmade and cultural products were displayed with each stall presenting unique items from their respective localities. There were many stalls by the Armed Forces as well where various arms and ammunition were displayed for the public. Delicacies from all over the country could be found at the food and beverage stalls.
The puppet show became a favourite of the children and the comedy acts by Ali Hassan and Irfan Malik left everyone laughing for a long time. The people enjoyed the concert at the Jirga Hall, dancing along to the performance by Israr Shah. At the end of day-one, people returned to the stadium and all the eyes turned to the sky for the beautiful display of fireworks.
The Chief Minister Balochistan Jam Kamal inaugurated a horse riding club as well on this day. The club is a project of the Public Sector Development Program worth Rs. 7,000,000. He also visited the District Head Quarter (DHQ) hospital in the city.
On February 25, the Commissioner of Sibbi attended the festival as the chief guest. The same routine of performances was followed on the second, third and the last day of the fair starting from the recitation of the Holy Quran to the motorcycle stunts with the additions of entertaining performances by special needs children on the second day and students of the Children Academy and Inaam Ghar on the third day respectively. Each day, the exhibition center remained packed with lively people who explored the stalls into the night and then headed to the stadium again for the colorful fireworks.
The third day of the festival was especially reserved for females only with the exceptions of the male performers and organizers. GOC 33 Division Major General Khalid Zia was the chief guest, who attended the event along with his family. Amusement rides were installed throughout the carnival and concerts by many artists like Ali Sher, Abid Brohi, Sahara (UK) and Laila sisters were held on all four days.
The Sibbi Mela is an internationally recognized gala which plays a big role in strengthening the inter-provincial harmony. It also provides many employment opportunities to the natives of Balochistan as businessmen and employers from other provinces participate in the fair. People from all types of backgrounds take part to promote the commodities they have to offer. This year, it was a success even after its abrupt end on February 27, as hundreds of people from all over the country joined in its festivities and celebrated. It was true to the saying that, of the twelve months in a year, Sibbians spend six months in the preparation of the Mela and the remaining six months remembering it.
Picture Courtesy: Behroze Amjad