Religion of Kalash Valley

The Kalash’s religion is considered to be closer to Vedic and Pre-Zoroastrian cultures, even though it has a valuable existence that retains the old form of the Indo-Aryan religion. There is a God of Creator “Dezau” and many gods. There are gods closely related to life and nature, such as “Balumain”, “Sajigor” and “Mahan Deva” which appear at the Chaumos Festival and the goddess “Jestak” who protects the house. The place of prayer is called Dewa, and in each village has small altar at temple of Jestak han and the outskirts of the village.

 

Temple of Jestak han

Jestak is a goddess who controls the family, housework, marriage and each clan has a temple, not every village.There is a sheep motif at the entrance, Laternendeke ceiling which is typical in Pamir architecture decorations. There is a wood carving on the back of the temple that shows “Balumain” and there is mural painting from the Chaumos Festival.


There are two clans living in Karakal village in Bomboret Valley, and Jastak han has two entrances for each clan in one building.
The picture is Jastak han of Anish village. Designs and decorations inspired by goats and sheep. Laternendeke ceilings of typical architectural styles specific to mountains of Pakistan, Tajikistan and the Wakhan Corridor area.

 

The Gandao – Wooden statue

A wooden image created to admire the memories of dead person, contributions, and achievements. The production and rituals of this Gandao are very expensive and require a lot of goats, cheese and ghee. Thus, it can only be created by the rich men who are influential. In Bomboret Valley, two sons made two Gandao for their father and uncle, who died more than 10 years ago in Brun village in 2008. (It can still be seen in the Brun village cemetery).
The Gandao is at the center of the ceremonial place. People dance around it and after the ritual is completed, the Gandao is transported to the graveyard.

 

Cemetery Mandawjaw

The original burial of Kalash was to only put body in a wooden coffin and place in a cemetery. But about 50 years ago, they started practicing burial like Muslims. At present, things that seem to be whitening are old things about 50 years ago. In the past, it was said that if not covering the coffin, it was easy for the soul to free and naturally weatherable.

 

“Pure” and “Impure” concept

The Kalasha has the strong concept for “Pure” and “Impure” in their life. Therefore, there are many rituals to purify the things that they believe are impure.
The representative one is Bashari. It is a hut where women during menstruation gather and live together. Delivery is also carried out here, and after the delivery it is possible to return to the house where the husband is eagerly waiting after the purification ceremony. There is one in each village, and women in Bashari who are under menstruation should not touch others. For example, to pass the things to other person, She can throw it but cannot hand it over.

In short, it’s not easy to understand just by talking. You must visit here and see it for yourself !

Photo & Text  : Mariko SAWADA
※  The photo was taken during the visit between 2006 and 2014.

Category : ◆Khyber Pakhtunkhwa > - Kalash Valley
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The Unexplored Kalasha Valley “Where did the Kalash people come from?”

Pakistan is a very diverse nation. The Kalasha people are the unique existence among the various ethnic groups in Pakistan. They are part of the Pakistan-Islamic Republic but even though they live in Pakistan, they are not of Muslim faith and worship independent gods in a polytheist faith.

 

They were encouraged to convert to Islam in the 1970’s  but there were many protections put in place by the government to protect the Kalash people so in the past 20 years the number of Kalash have actually increased. The identity of the Kalash people is quite strong now and very few are converting to Islam. There has been an increase in the number of children, as many as 7-8 per family, so despite older guidebooks saying there are only 3,000 Kalasha. It is possible that in recent years, that number has risen to 4,000 within the 3 valleys (Bumburet, Rumbur and Birir) according to the locals I spoke with.

 

Where did the Kalash people come from?

There are three theories on this. One is that their fair skin and lighter colored eyes come from the descendants of Alexander the Great’s army dating back to the 4th Century BC. There was no real evidence that King Alexander passed thru here. However, there have been many tourists from Greece and NGO’s that operate in the area.

According to the Kalash people’s own legends and folk songs, the ancestors called “Tsiyam” are from the south, perhaps South Asia then moved to Afghanistan. The other myth is that their ancestors emigrated from Afghanistan around 2nd Century BC to a region in central Chitral and by the 10th Century  had a very established presence through the region until the 14th Century when the kingdom flourished. Gradually the conversion to Islam progressed all around the area leaving the three remaining pockets in Kalash Valley.

 

The Kalash people live in three village of Bumburet, Rumbur and Birir located along the border area with Afghanistan, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Based on their language, there are hints of Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Pashto-based Kalasha which can all be found in their language. In the past, on the Afghan side of the boarder, there existed a “Kafiristan” where the same people lived, but in 1896, the conversion to Islam was mandated and it instead became “Nuristan” (the country of light or a country of the light of Islam). Due to this, the Pakistani side of Kalash people remained as a small minority.

The origins of the people remain shrouded in mystery, with their blue eyes and their beautifully decorative tribal clothing.
You are also sure to be captivated.

 

Photo & Text : Mariko SAWADA

Note: This blog was originally published in Feb 2011 on Saiyu Travel’s Blogsite “Salam Pakistan” but updated for this post. The photos were taken from 2006-2014 travel photos taken during my visits there.

Category : ◆Khyber Pakhtunkhwa > - Kalash Valley
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K1- Masherbrum from Hushe valley

The glorious K1 Masherbrum (7,821 m) seen from the Hushe valley. You can clearly see it from near the Hushe village, but we went towards the camp of Brumbruma a little further.

In June, a lush green beautiful village of Hushe. It is a village that is an another gateway to the Karakoram.

A camp of Brumbruma, 4,500 m above sea level. No doubt, it was a snowy year.

“The Snow Leopard’s trap”, I saw on the way to Brumbruma from the Hushe village. Unquestionably, Snow Leopards must be protected at any cost… This seems to be an old one, and there are a lot of Snow Leopard sightings in the Hushe valley. Villagers here proudly say, “Come in the winter, We will show you the Snow Leopard.”

Majestic figure of Masherbrum.

A series of beautiful and sublime ice walls.

From the camp of Brumbruma, Masherbrum in the golden colors of sunset.

 

Photo & Text : Mariko SAWADA
Visit : Jun 2010, Brumbruma Camp, Hushe Valley, Gilgit -Baltistan

Category : ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > - Karakorum Range > ◇ Mountain of Pakistan
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Gondogoro-la from Hushe side, K2 appeared from the clouds

It is a record of a long time ago. In June, when there was a lot of snow, I climbed the Gondogoro La from the Hushe side.
The climbing on the Hushe side was long and challenging. Nevertheless, I continued to climb in the midst of the falling snow, and I was assuring myself not to expect the view of the mighty K2, “I may not see the scenery even if I go up”.
Indeed, it was enveloped in the clouds when we reached. I wanted to wait for a while but we couldn’t relax too much because we were worried about the risk of avalanche on our way back.

Suddenly, a miracle happened. The clouds ahead of the staff who went to Ali camp direction broke and K2 emerged from within.

View of K2 from Gondogoro La.

It was for a really short time, and a scene that I felt resembled “Space”.
The camera settings were also crazy during the climbing and the colors were a little funny. Nonetheless, every minute was rewarding.

Ali Camp side from Gondogoro La.

The way down to Hushe side, Khuspan Camp.

Finally, I went downhill at once to reach to our camp. At the camp, cook prepared some succulent “Tempura” for me…  it was quite heavy after the climbing!

Photo & Text : Mariko SAWADA
Visit : Jun 2010, Gondogoro-la, Hushe Valley, Gilgit -Baltistan

Category : ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > - Karakorum Range > ◇ Mountain of Pakistan
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Snow Leopard observed in Morkhun Village -2

To begin with, when we were informed that the Snow Leopard hunted Ibex in the Morkhun village and sat on the other side of the river, we were near Gilgit. Thus, we changed the direction and headed towards Morkhun Village.

We had to drive slowly because it was dangerous and slippery on snowy roads, due to which, the chances of seeing the snow leopard decreased. It was a risky decision, as the snow leopard may not be there once we reach.
However, against all odds, we headed to the Morkhun village with a complex mind.

This is the Snow Leopard I saw when I just arrived. It was on the other side of the river and the distance was short. At first, I could not find it as it was camouflaged. But then I were able to see it, once it moved its tail.

It was already past 15 o’clock, and I was worried that the snow leopard would move before it became dark.

According to the villagers who have been observing it since morning, the Snow Leopard was hunting Ibex, eating it, hiding the rest of meat in the bush, entering the river, climbing up the rock, then it was sitting there for a while, and at last, went to sleep…till now. Villagers were showing us video clips of Snow Leopard they took through their mobile phone, while we were waiting for the movement of Snow Leopard.

The snow leopard has begun to move!
Villager screams in Wakhi saying, “Shou-bashi!”, meaning “Very good “/”Well Done”.
At this time, about 30 people from the village of Morkhun and the surrounding villages were witnessing the snow leopard.

Snow Leopard has jumped out. The villagers are delighted to say, “Shau-bashi! Shau-Bashi!”

Wild Snow Leopard is in front of us! I was really waiting for this perfect moment for a long time in Pakistan.

The villagers expected that Snow Leopard might go to the Ibex it hunted, but the Snow Leopard sat down again.

It was already dark, consequently limited chance to photograph the snow leopard. I followed the last figure of the snow leopard until I could not see it and left the place finally.

This is the place where we were observing in Morkhun village (drone shot)

Lastly, thanks a lot to the local people of Morkhun village.

Photo & Text : Mariko SAWADA
Observation: Jan 2019, Morkhun Village, Gojal, Gilgit-Baltistan
Special Thanks to Mr. Sultan Gohar (Khunjerab National Park)

Category : - Snow Leopard > ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > - Morkhun > ◇ Wildlife of Pakistan
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