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Pashtun culture

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Title: Pashtun culture  
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Subject: Pashtunization, Pashtuns, Hotak dynasty, Anti-Pashtun sentiment, Pashtunwali
Collection: Pashtun Culture
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Pashtun culture

Pashtun culture (Pashto: پښتني هڅوب‎) is based on Islam and Pashtunwali, which is an ancient way of life, as well as speaking of the Pashto language and wearing Pashtun dress. The culture of the Pashtun people is highlighted since at least the time of Herodotus (484-425 BC) or Alexander the Great, when he explored the Afghanistan and Pakistan region in 330 BC. The Pashtun culture has little outside influence and, over the ages, has retained a great degree of purity.


  • Holidays and special events 1
    • Pashto poetry 1.1
  • Music and dances 2
    • Attan dance 2.1
    • Khattak dance 2.2
    • Mahsud Attan (Dance) 2.3
    • Waziri dance 2.4
  • Clothing 3
  • Cuisine 4
  • Sport 5
    • Cricket 5.1
    • Football 5.2
    • Buzkashi and polo 5.3
  • Gallery 6
  • See also 7
  • Notes and references 8

Holidays and special events

The biggest holidays for Pashtuns is the Islamic Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, followed by Afghan Independence Day (August 19) and Pakistan Independence Day (August 14). The arrival of Sparlay or Spring, known as Naw-Wraz (New Day), is also celebrated by some Pashtuns. It is an ancient annual Pashtun festival which celebrates both the beginning of spring and the New Year. Amongst some Pashtuns, Sheshbeeyeh, a prelude festival to Nava Wroz is also celebrated. This tradition still survives, mainly amongst the southerners; in Bannu and Waziristan[1] During these holidays, Pashtuns set up festivals in which they usually attend mosques to make special prayers, have cookouts in parks, and go to fairs.

Pashto poetry

Afghanistan was noted for its poetic language even before the Islamic conquest of Afghanistan. The Pata Khazana contains Pashto poetry written as far back as the 8th Century. Some notable poets from the region of Afghanistan-Pakistan include Amir Kror Suri, Khushal Khan Khattak, Rahman Baba, Nazo Tokhi, Ahmad Shah Durrani, Timur Shah Durrani, Shuja Shah Durrani, Ghulam Muhammad Tarzi, Khan Abdul Ghani Khan, and many others.[2]

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 channel in Pakistan with Amanullah Kakar as the presenter.

Music and dances

A man playing rubab in Farah, Afghanistan.

Traditional Pashto music is mostly harmonium, flute and several other musical instruments. Today's modern Pashto music is influenced by neighboring music such as Bollywood filmi as well as western or European.

Below are list of main and known styles of Attan in Pakistan and Afghanistan. All these different styles may be practiced and mixed by Pashtuns in other valleys, and its not uncommon to see Pashtuns of one province being better at a different regions' style[3][4] (Pashto: اتڼ‎; ALA-LC Romanization: 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 get lost is said 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

A group of dancers performing Khattak Dance in Pakistan

The Khattak Dance is performed by the Khattak tribe, mainly in Pakistan but also in some eastern parts of Afghanistan.

Mahsud Attan (Dance)

A unique dance routine using rifles performed by the Mahsud tribe of Pashtuns in South Waziristan. 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 a region of Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan 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 a Partūg-Kamees in Pashto [sometimes worn with a pakul or paṭkay]. In the Kandahar region young men usually wear different type of hat similar to a topi and in the Peshawar region they wear white kufis instead. Leaders or tribal chiefs sometimes wear a karakul hat, like Hamid Karzai and others. The Pashtun Lūngai (or Paṭkay) is the most worn headpiece in Afghanistan with different tribes having different styles and colours to indicate what tribe or region they come from.

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


Pashtun cuisine vary from different districts within Afghanistan. Many Pashtuns are well know for they're large varieties of dried fruit and yogurt based dishes. Yougurt called maste is usually made by the Pashtuns themselves in their own home. Chai (tea) plays a big role in Pashtun gathering and is served with dried fruits and kulcha (biscuit). Deserts such as firni (custard) are also very popular.




Buzkashi and polo

Some Pashtuns in Central Asia participate in buzkashi, which is a sport introduced in the region during the Mongol period from the 13th century and onward. The word "buz" means "goat" and "kashi" means "dragging" or "pulling" in the Persian language. 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.


See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ Lt. j.g. Keith Goodsell (March 7, 2011). "Key Afghan, US leadership plant trees for Farmer’s Day".  
  2. ^ Afghanistan Online, Classical Dari and Pashto Poets
  3. ^ [3]
  4. ^ [4]
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