ISLAMABAD In the midst of the desert music tunes, dancing men and camels, and artisans-at-work, a three-day long Cholistan Cultural Festival, arranged by the Lok Virsa - National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage in collaboration with the Royal Norwegian Embassy kicked off here at the Lok Virsa Complex on Saturday. The inaugural ceremony began with a chadarposhi of a female craftswoman Malookan Mai who belongs to Hindu minority in the Cholistan. She is a bona-fide artisan in the tradition patchwork of cloths from Cholistan termed as rilli. She has dedicated 30 years of her life to this craft. The concept of chaddarposhi - putting on someone a shawl is traditional denoted to respect and honour and it is quite common in the sub-continent especially in Pakistan. It is the tradition at Lok Virsa that the women artisans are honoured with chaddarposhi while the men with dastarbandi - putting on a turban on their heads. All the Lok Virsa festivals open with a colourful ceremony in which dastarbandi or chadarposhi of an established master artisan takes place. This ceremony is a way of proclaiming Lok Virsas commitment to the high stature that craftspeople have in cultural mainstream of the nation. The chadarposhi followed by brilliant cultural performances presented by the Cholistani authentic folk singers including Krishan Lal Bheel, Mai Noori and Moon Bhagat who is the son of renowned folk artist Faqir Bhagat, the recipient of Presidents Medal for Pride of Performance. Speaking on the occasion, the Royal Norwegian Ambassador to Pakistan Robert Kvile said that Norway attached high importance to the development of Pakistan because five percent of its population belonged to the people from this beautiful country. Both the countries differ in many respects including politics, history and culture, and geographically far apart, he said adding, but there are many bonds that have been created during the four decades of cooperation between the two countries. The Ambassador was of the view that culture was one of their priority areas to help Pakistan preserve and strengthen its rich cultural heritage as no society can thrive without culture - the main fabric of the society and the basis for its stability. Later the distinguished Ambassador formally opened the Cholistani Diorama at the Heritage Museum. A new three-dimensional cultural diorama depicting the living and wedding traditions in Cholistan created at the Heritage Museum under financial support from Royal Norwegian Government was also inaugurated on this occasion. In his welcoming speech, Executive Director Lok Virsa, Khalid Javaid, apprised that the creation of Cholistan Diorama has been possible under Joint Institutional Cooperation Programme between Pakistan and Norway. He thanked the Norwegian donors, in particular Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and their mission to Pakistan for this generous support. Giving background for holding such regional festivals, the Lok Virsa chief informed that in July 2010 a meeting was called by Federal Minister for Culture Pir Aftab Hussain Shah Jilani wherein he directed all component organisations of the Ministry including Lok Virsa to take concrete measures to create maximum cultural and entertainment activities for the people who are suffering from extremism, giving equal opportunity of cultural projection to all federating units. While informing about Cholistan, Khalid Javaid said the Cholistan desert, also locally known as Rohi, sprawls 30 kilometres from Bahawalpur and covers an area of 16,000 kilometres. It adjoins the Thar Desert extending over to Sindh. The word Cholistan is derived from the Turkish word Chol, which means desert. Cholistan thus means Land of the Desert. Cholistan desert is located in central Indus plain area, which is well connected by the road and railway network to the rest of the country. The area offers a beauty of its own kind. The desert is sandy in nature. One of the very important places, which are a tourist attraction of this zone is Derawar Fort. Most of the people in Cholistan live their lives in nomadic ways, roaming here and there in search of water in summer. They usually sleep with a lamp burning in the houses. Snake charmers - the Jogis are the real travellers of this lovely desert. Women in Cholistan mostly work in houses, however sometimes they do work in the fields too.