The Kalash Valley, one of Pakistan’s most lonely and stunning valleys in the Hindu Kush, is located 40 kilometres from Chitral along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, at a height of 1,670 metres. In respect to the rest of Pakistan, the traditions, customs, and culture of the Kalash Valley are in stark contrast.
It is often referred to as “Kafiristan” (Country of Unbelievers) because the predominant religion in the valley is not Islam but rather an ancient mix of Hinduism and Animism.
The largest and most developed village in the Kalash Valley is Bumbret. Rumbur is the second village, and Birir is the third and least developed.least developed hamlet. Bumbret is the village that receives the most tourists, although, it is said that to truly experience the culture of Kalash valley visiting the smaller villages is advisable as they are less commercialized.
The average climate of Kalash Valley is moderate. The average temperature being 15 Degree Celsius..
If you want to get to Kalash Valley, you can either take a flight from Islamabad or Peshawar to Chitral and then drive there, or you can start driving from Islamabad. As you leave the highway, the roads leading to the valleys are rocky.
What to do in Kalash: The Kalash Valleys provide a wealth of activities. Views of various lofty peaks, including Rakaposhi, are available in the vicinity.
One place that offers helpful information about the history of the valley is the Kalasha Dur Museum. The colourful culture of the Kalash valley is the main draw for visitors, who come from both local and international destinations.
Visitors will have a special experience thanks to the Kalash Valley’s rich culture, which is celebrated at a number of festivals throughout the year.
What Takes Place in Kalash: The Kalash Valley hosts three major festivities each year (Khawsangaw):
In the middle of May, Chillam Joshi is observed to signal the start of spring. The activities feature people gathering dancing to the beat of their local drums. People embellish all of their clothing, and the homes are decorated. They serve milk that they have been conserving for 10 days prior to Chillam Joshi. The Kalashi people thank their Gods and purify one-year-old infants at this festival. August sees the celebration of Uchau, during which freshly made cheese is served. The majority of the festival is made up of singing and dancing.
The most significant festival of the year, Chawmos, is dedicated to their God Balimain and is held at the winter solstice (7th – 22nd December). They think that Balimain travels to Kalash for the event from his fabled home country Tsyam. The purpose of this event, which commemorates the year’s end, is to give thanks to their God for the crop that year. Some festival customs involve purifying previously impure people by having a shaman wave a band of fire over their heads. While their God Balimain is viewed as both a man and a woman, the pure men participate in a rite that requires some of them to dress as ladies and perform traditional melodies. The hymns of fertility are sung at this time.
The Kalashi also hold a Chikik Gal intervillage baseball competition every year, which takes place in the winter.
The friendliness of the locals and their culture:
The Kalash people regard themselves as descendants of ancient Asian people who travelled to Chitral and stayed there. The most well-known and pervasive myth regarding the Kalashi people’s ancestry is that they are the offspring of Alexander the Great’s army. Another legend holds that their ancestors came to Chitral from the land of Tsiyam, the Kalashi people’s ancestral homeland, which they frequently mention in their folk songs.
The smallest ethnic and religious minority in Pakistan is the Kalashi people. They are polytheists, and there were once over 200,000 of them. Throughout the years, however, forced conversions and persecution have reduced their numbers to between 3000 and 4000. Several people have chosen to convert to Islam, and once they do, they are no longer permitted to live in the neighbourhood.
In general, Kalash residents are amicable and a source of fascination for visitors, although it’s crucial to remember to get permission before taking photographs. or interviewing.
History Of Kalash
The history of Kalashas is obscured by a lot of ideas, puzzles, and conflicts, leaving its origins still a mystery. Three of these several theories are thought to be the most significant and realistic.
The Kalashas’ romanticised claim to be Alexander the Great’s ancestors is the biggest of them. On the other hand, many historians concur that they are a native tribe from the Nuristan region, also known as Kafiristan (the land of Kafirs). According to legend, the Afghan ruler Amir Abdul Rahman seized the Nursitan region in 1895 and ordered the locals to convert to Islam. Many people migrated to Chitral at that time in order to avoid conversion.
According to the third hypothesis, the Kalasha people originated in a remote region of South Asia called Tsiam. The Tsiam is regarded as these peoples’ traditional home. The folk songs and legends of the Kalasha people allude to Tsiam’s existence and the fact that those people had roots there.
Language Of Kalash
The Kalasha language, which is a Dardic language, is the Kalasha (sub group of Indo-Aryan languages spoken in Northern Pakistan, eastern Afghanistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir). UNESCO considers the language, which is only spoken by a small number of people (around 5000), to be severely endangered. Although there is now no official script for the Kalasha language, there have been significant initiatives towards its introduction.
Customs Of Kalash
The residents of Kalash are fiercely devoted to their faith and severe all links with anyone among them who accepts Islam. Following the conversion, the converts are not permitted to participate in their community. They remain firmly themselves.
The inhabitants of Kalash are unique from those in the nearby places in a number of ways. In Kalash, men and women are not segregated from one another and are free to interact and speak without anyone pointing a finger in their direction. Furthermore, when they are deemed impure, such as during pregnancy and other times, the females of Kalash are sent to reside in a bashaleni. These women can only reside here once they have recovered their purity and gone through the process to do so.
The women of Kalash dress in long, flowy black robes that feature vibrant embroidery and cowrie shells. These women can also be seen sporting colourful necklaces and bracelets, which further sets them apart from the other female residents of the Chitral region. They utilise bright, long braided headwear to accent their black robes. On the other hand, the male Kalash have adapted the shalwar kameez, which is the national clothing of Pakistan, and are frequently seen wearing waistcoats over them. They also don caps that are typical of Pakistan’s northern region.
The residents of Kalash follow a different beatTheir traditions and rituals are diametrically opposed, particularly when it comes to marriage. Elopement marriages are more popular among women who are already married to another man and are more common in the Kalash valley. The elopement of a woman is actually regarded as one of the Kalash people’s greatest traditions.
A man pays a specified amount to the woman’s family before they allow him to marry her. When a woman wishes to divorce her spouse and wed another guy, she makes herself available to him while disclosing how much her previous husband had paid for her.In order for the man to marry an already married woman he has to pay double the amount to have her.
Religion Of Kalash
The polytheistic Kalashas revere 12 Gods and Goddesses. According to famous linguist Richard Strand, the Kalash people follow a traditional style of Hinduism that slowly evolved locally and was influenced by the nearby pre-Islamic Nuristan regions.
They worship a variety of deities, including Khodai, the creation deity, and Yama Raja, also known as Dezau. Another deity is Balumain, a cultural hero who showed the Kalash people how to observe the winter celebration. Other deities include Dezalik, Munjem, and Destak.
Rituals Of Kalash
The Kalasha follow a variety of religious ceremonies and traditions, much like all other faiths. In Kalash, rituals serve as occasions for exchanging gifts as a means of stimulating economic activity.
Goat sacrifices are frequently made at the temples and altars that the many Gods and Goddesses have built around the valley. In several locations, including tombs, people frequently feed crows that are thought of as their ancestors using their left hand. Also, the Kalash people don’t bury their deceased underground; instead, their coffins are left in the open. They think the soul was eager to leave the body and reconnect with the other souls who had already passed away. They don’t grieve over the bodies of the deceased, instead choosing to sing and dance at the funeral of the deceased.
Festivals In Kalash
The locals of the Kalash valley observe a number of festivals throughout the year. The following are the three most popular festivals:
• Joshi: This spring-heralding festival is observed in May. New clothing is worn by everyone, and women adorn a lot. Girls are brought up the hillside to dance and sing. One-year-old newborns and their mothers are also purified during this festival, and women also adorn their homes and gather milk from the cows.
• Uchau: This celebration, when freshly made cheese is brought from the pastures, is held in the middle of August at the altar of Mahandeo. Dancing and singing again forms an integral part of the festival.
- • Caumus: The biggest celebration is held in the middle of December.
- Conclusion The Kalash people have a rich culture and are very confident in who they are. Due to their distinctive culture, religious traditions, and seasonal celebrations, these people stand out among Pakistan’s other tribes, cultures, and communities. The Kalash Valley region boasts tranquil beauty, verdant valleys, and orchards, making it an ideal tourist destination for its visual splendour as well as its cultural diversity and religious sites. The fact is that little is being done to grow the area and invest in its tourism business, despite all the positives.
- • The Kalash valley experiences prejudice on a number of levels, both in terms of economic advancement and recognition as a distinct religious organisation. The area lacks adequate infrastructure, which isolates it from the rest of the world and contributes to its backwardness.
- We must work together to improve the Kalasha Valley and make it accessible in order to draw tourists and strengthen the local economy if we are to realise its full potential.