Autumn in the Kalash Valley

After not having been able to visit in a few years, I was able to return to the valley of the Kalash people, to a village called Bumburet. Mid-October proved to be a truly beautiful time to visit with the fall colors and corn harvest taking place.

On October 16, 2019, the Royal Couple Prince William and his wife visited Kalasha Valley where they enjoyed seeing traditional dances. The social media and news was flooded with “The Royal Couple” and “Kalasha” where trending amongst the Pakistani people.

> Kalash Valley “Where did the Kalash people come from?”

>Religion of Kalash Valley

 

Taking a turn off the main road, and crossing the bridge brings you into Ayrun village. It is like traveling back in time. You will see as you enter into the village, narrow fields and the beautiful traditional Pakistan. You will eventually come to the intersection of Bumburet and Rumbur Villages.

 

The road into Bumburet village hasn’t changed. It is still the small dirt road that has pull-offs to allow two small cars to pass each other.
However, as we entered into the village, I was a little shocked at the changes I saw. The women we saw were dressed in the traditional Karasha clothing but about half of them were also wearing the shalwar kameez (national dress of Pakistan). And the number of guesthouses was a bit overwhelming.

Where did the traditional style houses go? In recent years, an increase in domestic tours and a shortage of lodges for the tourists to stay, naturally meant that the number of guesthouses increased suddenly. Most of the managers of these guesthouses are from the outside. I hoped they would build them in the traditional style to match the landscape and keep the flavor of the original village.

 

Walking on a path between the corn fields, I went to visit an acquaintance. The Kalasha children I met on the way.

 

This is the School  dress of the Kalasha young ladies. There seems to be more girls wearing scarves then before.

 

Just off the main road through the village I could see this beautiful figure taking a walk.

 

Children playing next to a cornfield where their parents are busy harvesting.

 

No on can stop change that comes with progress, but I hope that these beautiful sights can continue into the future.

 

On the way out from the Kalasha Valley, we could see the village of Ayun sitting at the base of Tirich Mir. The highest peak of Hindu Kush is Tirich Mir (or Terichmir stands at 7,708 meters) was bathed in the hues of the setting sun.

 

Photo & Text : Mariko SAWADA
Visit : Oct 2019, Bomboret Village, Kalash Valley, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

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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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