Emerging KPK: Tourists From Around The World Rush To Experience Colorful Chilam Joshi Festival

Northern Pakistan is abundant in the natural beauty that is unmatchable in the world. One such place there is the Kalash valley. The thought of Kalash Valley brings a mystical, magical place in one’s mind which exists in the 21st century as a rare splendour. It constitutes of three valleys situated in Chitral district. Chitral town is on the western side of Chitral river in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Chitral town is positioned at the foot of Tirich Mir which is the highest peak of Hindukush at a height of 25,290 ft.

Location

Three valleys of Kalash are:

The largest and most populous valley is Mumuret (Bumburet), reached by a road from Ayun in the Kunar Valley. Rumbur and Acholgah are side valleys north of Bumburet. The third valley, Biriu (Birir), is s side valley of the Kunar Valley south of Bumburet.

History & Lives

Kalash people are unique in their living, culture, traditions and cuisine compared to rest of Pakistan. They are the smallest minority living in the country. It is estimated that approximately four thousand of them live in these beautiful valleys. They have a very interesting history about them. Fair skinned, coloured eyes & brown/blonde hair Kalasha it is said to have a history which is associated to ancient Greeks. Their historians say that when Alexander the Great came with his army to this region some of his men loved this valley and thus refused to return to Greece.

Their religion is animism involving a pantheon of gods. It is associated with spirituality, nature, sacred goats, & an adoration for river sources, mountaintops, weather systems and plants.
Kalasha men have adopted the shalwar Kamiz whereas women wear long black robes with vibrant colours of thread embroidery, embellished with cowrie shells. Their long caps are also embellished with beads, threadwork of bold vibrant colours. The women have long hair which are braided into small and large plaits tied in a distinct way.

Culturally & religiously Kalasha people are very different from the rest of the inhabitants of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where Islamic values and traditions are widely practised. Kalasha follow the old traditions their ancestors left for them, which is evident from their songs, dances, religious festivals and the type of cuisine they have. Through the centuries they have sustained these customs.  An interesting fact about Kalasha people is that they do not mourn for their dead. Their dead are not put in a grave like Abrahamic religions, instead, they are put in wooden box casket & stood upright or vertically over the ground.

Festivals

In this society, there are two types of religious events, one where rituals are practised along with festivity and other being rituals only where singing & dancing are not practised. Their festivals constitute of:

Chilam Joshi, which is celebrated in the month of May that welcomes the spring/summer season.

Uchaw, which is celebrated in the month of August to ensure good harvest of wheat

Pul/Poh, which is celebrated in September to ensure good harvest of grapes & walnuts.

Chaumos, which is celebrated in December is a grand festival of the entire Kalasha tribe to welcome the New year, its lasts two weeks.

Chilam Joshi Starts:

Kalasha religious leaders inaugurated the start of Chilam Joshi festival.

Chilam Joshi is being celebrated for four days in the Kalash Valley these days. In this festival, a special message of peace is given to the world. Prayers are held for the safety of their animals and fields, womenfolk look for their spouses, there are singing, dancing on the beat of the drums. Special arrangements are made to spread milk on their gods. Overall it’s an experience and feeling of sheer jubilation.

In a joint collaboration with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial government and Tourism Corporation of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (TCKP) special arrangements have been made for this festival as it is very famous throughout the world. Tourists from far off lands international and local visit Chitral for this festival only. The provincial government ensured safety and smooth arrangements for tourists. With this in view, Tourism Corporation Khyber Pakhtunkhwa arranged a tent village for tourists since all the local hotels were fully booked.

Dry fruits of that area were distributed among the visitors who came specially to attend this festival. French, Italian and Australian tourist families stayed in Chitral for several days to enjoy this local culture, traditions, tourist attractions & festival in these scenic valleys. A group of motorcyclists also participated in adventure tourism activities at the festival.

Such jubilant festivities have returned to KP after a silence of militancy in this region. For the first time in almost a decade, senior government officials attended this festival. The Kalash women warmly welcomed all foreign and local tourists who attended this festival. Peace time has returned to KPK so the provincial government is doing all it can to enhance the special attractions of this beautiful province.

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