The Joshi Spring Festival: A Kalash Ritual

The Joshi Festival is held at the end of the long winter to celebrate the arrival of spring. Locals dress up in new clothes made during the winter and pray for the safety of livestock going out to pasture in the summer after the festival. The festival also serves as a place where young men and women can meet.

It has been a while since I last attended the Joshi festival. In the past few years, Pakistan’s frontier has been experiencing overtourism, with tourists from not only Europe and the United States but also Thailand, Malaysia, and other Southeast Asian countries now flocking to the area. In contrast, the Kalash Valley is dominated by Western tourists.

I was surprised to see the changes in the Chilam Joshi Festival via photos which recent Pakistani tourists upload on social media—for those who knew Kalash in the past, it may be an unfortunate sight to behold. I would like to share with you some of the rituals of the Joshi Festival that I experienced in the spring of 2024. The names, spellings, etc., were provided by the local people who guided me, and may differ from those found in official literature on the matter: I am merely presenting them as I saw and heard them in the field.

 To the Kalash Valley

Although the suspension bridge across the Kunar River has been replaced by a concrete bridge, the traditional Ayun “villagescape” remains. Continuing on the road, there is a place where you can see the highest peak of Hindu Kush, Tirich Mir (7,708m), and if you keep going, you will drive along the river off-road with some overhanging cliffs. Then, starting from a suspension bridge, the road leads to the Bumburet valley on the left and the Rumbur valley on the right.

The road to Kalash valley

The Joshi festival of Kalash includes several rituals.

Picking Bisha Flowers (Pushen Parik)

Children go into the mountains to pick bisha flowers for temple decorations and, in the case of the Bumburet valley, for the Chirik Pipi ceremony. The bisha is a member of the bean family Piptanthus Nepalensis, and blooms earlier than other flowers. For the Kalash people, it is considered the flower that heralds the arrival of spring.

Girl heading home after picking bisha flowers

Temple Decorations (Pushi Behak)

Decorating a house or temple with bisha flowers is called pushi behak. In the Rumbur Valley, people were gathering flowers until evening, and at around 8:00 p.m., children gathered together until the start of the decorating ceremony. Around 9:00 p.m., someone banged a drum and the children all began to dance. After about 30 minutes of dancing, the children moved to their sleeping places. Early in the morning around 3:00 a.m., children carrying bisha flowers amd walnut branches started walking to the Temple of Jestak Han. At the entrance of the temple, last year’s flowers were removed and everyone decorated the temple with new flowers and walnut branches. After the outside was finished, they went inside to the altars of the four clans of the village, situated in the corner of the temple. One child went up as a representative, took down the old flowers, and decorated the altars with new ones. Then they went out to the square and danced for about half an hour.

Children heading to the Temple with bisha flowers and walnut branches
Women adorn the outer walls of the Temple of Jestak Han. Jestak is the goddess of family life, family, and marriage; the residence in which this goddess lives is called Jestak Han.
Inside the Temple of Jestak Han. When last year’s flowers are taken down, the altars of the village’s four clans are revealed
Altars covered with new bisha flowers and walnut branches

Baby Purification Ceremony (Gul Parik) in the Rumbur Valley

Gul Parik in the Rumbur Valley is performed on babies born during the period between festivals. For the Gul Parik ceremony performed during the Joshi festival, this includes babies born between the Chaumos festival in December and the Joshi festival in May. The mother and baby are considered “impure” before this ceremony, and Gul Parik purifies them both, while also acting as a prayer for the health of the baby.

The man who performs the ceremony purifies himself and the place where he bakes the ceremonial bread. He makes the sacred walnut bread from special flour that has been purified and prepared for this ceremony, using similarly purified tools. At least five pieces of bread are baked for the men and five for the women (each with a different flour), and about twenty pieces are baked, including those to be served.

Purified flour, walnuts and rock salt prepared for baking sacred bread for women and men
Man crushing walnuts and rock salt
Sacred Walnut Bread

After the sacred walnut bread is baked, the mother and baby appear in the temple and the ceremony begins.

Gul Parik, Baby Purification Ceremony

It was an amazing experience to be in such a divine space and to witness the unique “world” of Kalash prayer.

Milk Ceremony (Chirik Pipi)

The Chirik Pipi in the Bumburet valley in the morning,  girls gather with milk containers and bisha flowers collected the day before. When the ceremony begins, all the children and ladies go to the sacred livestock shed. According to the villagers, this is sacred goat’s milk that has been stored since May 1st. It is then given out to the women. Normally, the Chirik Pipi song (flower song) is sung here, but I did not get the chance to hear it. There are not one but several livestock sheds, and we visited two of them. Afterwards, we witnessed a beautiful scene of villagers dancing with the mountains in the background.

Kalash people gather to sing and dance before the ceremony
Children gathered with milk containers in hand
Distribution of milk from purified livestock. Chirik Pipi Ceremony
Women coming out of a livestock shed decorated with bisha flowers after receiving milk
Women dancing after the ceremony

Baby Purification Ceremony (Gul Parik) in Bumburet Valley

The Gul Parik in Bumburet is a different style of ceremony from that in Rumbur. All babies and mothers born since last year’s Joshi festival are purified, and prayers are made for the health of the babies. (There are actually several purification ceremonies—this is the final stage of the purification.)

A basket of walnuts and dried mulberries is delivered from the house where the baby is born to the village center. When signaled, the women of the village and the mothers and babies who are to undergo the ritual move to the area near the livestock shed. Then, a man from the village who has been assigned to perform the ritual throws milk at the gathered women and babies to purify them.

After the ceremony, the women gather again in the center of village, where baskets of walnuts and mulberries are distributed to everyone, including the tourists! Then, everyone returns to their homes to prepare for the “small Joshi (festival)” of Bumburet to be held on the same day.

Carry a basket of walnuts and dried mulberries. In some villages, it may be cheese
Mother and baby on their way to the purification ceremony
The man (chir histau) on the roof purifies the women and their babies with milk. This ritual is called Chirhistic
Walnuts and mulberries being distributed. The dog in the photo stayed with them throughout the ceremony. It seems that the people of Kalash and their dogs are very closely connected

 Joshi Festival in the Rumbur Valley

After a series of ceremonies, the small Joshi festival (Satak Joshi) and the big Joshi festival (Gonna Joshi) are held. The festival is held in a covered venue and attracts a large number of tourists.

The small Joshi consists of repeated drumming, singing, and dancing, including Cha (a fast tempo song), Dushak (a slow tempo song), and the more complex Dalaija-i-lak, while the big Joshi includes a ceremonial performance at the end.

Kalash songs consist of drumming and singing, with limited melodic repetition. The lyrics are said to vary from ritualistic, to those touching on the mythology and history of Kalash, to those about love, and so on. The basic purpose of this music is to pray for a good harvest of milk and for the Kalash people to reaffirm their common identity.

At the end of the Joshi Festival, the special songs “Gandori” and “Daginai” are performed.

”Gandori” Both women and men hold walnut branches in their hands and wait for the moment to throw them

Daginai is a song that concludes the Joshi. It is a tragic love song, sung in a Cha melody. During the song, people dance in a chain connected by a string or cloth (originally woven from willow branches). It is said that if this chain breaks, it will bring misfortune, so everyone desperately grips the string. At the end, the sound of the drums suddenly stops, and all throw this cloth at once, ending the Joshi.

”Daginai” a dance connected by strings

Lyrics of “Daginai.” (From article of “Kalash Symphony ‘Joshi’,” by Reiko Kojima, published by National Museum of Ethnology Japan in 1991)

 

Daginai, o’er the great valley
Some moons before the fest of Uchal, to the mountain pasture I took
O Daginai, O Daginai
With white-hilt blade, my bare stomach pierc’d
O Daginai

 

The background of this song is a tragic love story that is familiar to all Kalash people.

 

Once upon a time, a man fell in love with his wife’s sister.

Overwhelmed by jealousy, the wife killed her sister using snake poison, all while her husband was out on the pasture.

By the time he returned, the snake’s poison had already turned his lover yellow as a bisha flower; no life remained in her body.

In the throes of his sorrow, he sang the song “Daginai” and threw himself belly-first upon a blade, ending his life.

The man and his love were placed in separate coffins to rest, but when the next morning came, they were found together, sleeping peacefully beside each other.

Stunned by this, the village people separated them, returning them to their proper places. The next day, however, the couple’s bodies were found reunited in the same coffin once again.

So strong was their love, that not even death could part them.

 

Young people in Kalash today

The Joshi Festival is also significant because it acts as a meeting place for men and women. Traditionally, after the Joshi Festival, people go to their summer pastures, meaning the Uchaw Festival in late August (which is held after they return) is where the romance really happens. During the Uchaw Festival, the same stage as the Joshi is used, but this time only young men and women dance at night—in the hopes of finding a partner.

”Gandori”

A gentleman who has been attending the Kalash Spring Festival for more than 25 years told me that although the Kalash costumes and the lifestyle of the young people have changed, the rituals are still the same as they were 25 years ago.

 

Photo & Text: Mariko SAWADA

Reference :”Kalash Symphony ‘Joshi’,” by Reiko Kojima, published by National Museum of Ethnology Japan in 1991)

*Contact us, Indus Caravan for more information or to make arrangements for visiting Kalash valley.

*Please follow us on YoutubeInstagram & Facebook

Category : ◆Khyber Pakhtunkhwa > - Kalash Valley
Tag : , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Visiting the Rumbur Valley, Home of the Kalash

Visiting the Rumbur Valley, where the Kalash live. It has been a long time since my last visit. I was thrilled to meet these beautiful young ladies.

The village scene at dusk. The valley’s steep slopes are used as a base for these lively dwellings.

Here is a Pashtun street merchant who was selling plates on the corner. The young lady is negotiating with the man, but instead of money, she placed some walnuts in the bowl she wanted to buy and handed it to him. They are bartering! The white bag behind him, to the left of the photo, is full of walnuts.

Going further into the village. The ditch full of trash caught my attention.

This lady was sewing on the terrace. She was using a sewing machine powered by her foot pedal. This is one of the beautiful sights of the Kalash Valley.

These young girls were playing a rock-kicking game. It is like an old Japanese children’s game! It really surprised me how similar it is.

The girls didn’t mind at all when the camera was pointed at them, and just continue to play their game. Some of the youngsters said proudly, “Foreigners take photos of us and publish them in books.” I really enjoyed spending time with these fairy-like girls, but the time came, and I needed to leave the valley.

This is the view of Tirich Mir (7,708m/25,288 feet), the highest peak in the Hindu Kush region. The view on the way through Ayun and Kalash Valleys, of this high peak, is one of the bonus scenes of this trip.

 

Photo & text : Mariko SAWADA

Visit : Nov 2021, Rumbur, Kalash Valley, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa

*Contact us, Indus Caravan for more information or to make arrangements for visiting Kalash valley.

*Please follow us on YoutubeInstagram & Facebook

Category : ◆Khyber Pakhtunkhwa > - Kalash Valley
Tag : , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Kalash Valley: November in the Bumburet Village

In early November, I visited the Bumburet Valley. If I had a chance to go a little earlier, I could have seen the Corn Harvest season, but instead I was there during the time of everyone preparing for the coming of winter.
In this time of the year, there are very few tourists and the village is pretty quiet.

We traveled through the town of Ayun to get to the Kalash Valley. This is the amazing view along the way. The towering Tirich Mir (7,708m/25,288 feet), the highest peak in the Hindu Kush, appears over the hills of Ayun. The massive form shines in the morning sunlight.

After crossing this suspension bridge, we come to the junction of the Bumburet and Rambur Valleys. We head west here and continue on to Bumburet.

The Kalash homes started to come into view. The wooden houses are built into the slopes, making efficient use of the terrace and roofs.

These young girls who were playing with a baby goat caught my attention. She has such a charming, fairy-like beauty.

I went up these stairs, made from a hollowed-out tree, to the shaman lady’s house.

This is the terrace of the shaman’s house. According to her, she has the power to foresee the future and find things people had lost, so the people asked her to become a shaman.

Inside the shaman’s house. With the light only coming in from the doorway, the traditional lifestyle of the Kalash people is simple.

These wooden statues stood in the village funeral parlour.

The handmade wine made by the Kalash people, I found it so good.

This woman is threshing crops on her roof. This is a scene that is unique to the harvest season.

It filled me with so much happiness to revisit a school teacher home in Anish village, I found daughter has now become a mother! I used to visit them often, so this is the best memory.

The last time I could visit Bumburet Village was 2 years ago. The Muslim population is increasing and the number of Kalash girls wearing hijabs was higher than before. The color of the handmade embroidery on the traditional folk clothing was quite popular and flashy.

Over the past 30 years, as a tour guide for Saiyu Travel, I have seen the decline of the traditional ethnic lifestyles and clothing in various parts of the world. For the people, the more things become more modernized, their life also becomes easier, so it means these traditional ways are lost voluntarily. But still, it makes me sad to see the sudden shift away from ancient traditions and beliefs. I send strong prayers that these precious ethnic minorities like the Kalash can hold on their culture and rich traditions as part of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

 

Photos & text: Mariko SAWADA
Visit: Nov 2021, Bumburet, Kalash Valley, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa

Category : ◆Khyber Pakhtunkhwa > - Kalash Valley
Tag : , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Kalash Valley’s Bumburet and Rumbur

This is a video that highlights the scenery of the Kalash Valley when we visited in October. In the past when we visited Bumburet village, it was during the tourist season and quite crowded with domestic tourists.

However, by the middle of October, there were very few visitors at this time of year and the village was quiet.

 

KALASH VALLEY Bumburet & Rumbur|カラーシャの谷(ボンボレット&ランブール)

 

Image : Mariko SAWADA

Visit : Oct 2021, Bomboret & Rambur, Kalash valley, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Category : = Video Clip KPK > ◆ Video Breathtaking Views of Pakistan > ◆Khyber Pakhtunkhwa > - Kalash Valley
Tag : , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

Category : ◆Khyber Pakhtunkhwa > - Kalash Valley
Tag : , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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
Tag : , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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
Tag : , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,