Kalash’s Enriched But Fading Culture Is At The Verge of Extinction
Among many other reasons that exist to cherish the Kalash valley, culture is most alluring.
Pakistan is blessed with some of the world’s most alluring landscapes —especially the northern areas — astonishing Himalayan peaks, deserts, the Arabian Sea, and historical forts. Many Poets have described the beauty of these areas in their work, and called them ‘heaven on earth’.
No comparison can be made among these places since all of them have their specialties. The Kalash valley, however, has something that makes it different from the others. Among many other reasons that exist to cherish the valley, culture is most alluring.
The origin of the Kalash tribe continues to remain uncertain. Many claim that these people are the descendants of the Macedonian conqueror Alexander the Great. Others claim that the Kalash migrated to Afghanistan from a distant place in South Asia called ‘Tsiyam,’ an area that also features in their folk songs.
The Kalash valley in Chitral includes three unique and striking valleys: Birir, Bumboret, and Rumbur. They are famous for celebrating the festivals of Joshi, Uchau, and Chawmos.
Joshi, also known as Chilim Jusht, is a four-day Kalash spring festival, held on the 13th of May in the three Kalash valleys every year. The Kalash people make different arrangements for this festival. People make various milk desserts and local wine.
During the festival, people dance to welcome the spring season. Bachelors of the valley also select their life partners at this festival.
Women usually wear traditional black robes with lucid embroidery and handicraft caps. Their attire also includes neck accessories, which give the Kalash women a unique look. Men wear Shalwar Qameez, while children wear smaller versions of adult clothing after the age of four. These people speak the language called Kalasha, which is believed to be a sub-branch of the Indo-Aryan group.
The funeral tradition is quite unique in the Kalash culture. Death is usually celebrated as a joyous event. It is believed that it is a union of the soul with the creator. Rather than mourning their dead, the Kalash gives a farewell to the departed person by paying tributes with music and drumming.
Some know the Kalash in Pakistan as the ‘black Kafirs,’ and their state is called Kafiristan. Razhawai, Cheo, Bala Sing, and Nagar Chao, were some of the famous Kalash rulers who ruled between the 12th and 14th centuries AD. Their fellow tribesmen in Afghanistan were known as ‘red kafirs.’
Threats and Challenges
People of Kalash are facing various religious, political, economic, and social challenges. Today, the ethnic group consists of only about 3,000 people. Their traditions are becoming extinct fast. One element is forced conversions to Islam.
Other factors that threaten the unique Kalash culture include illegal logging and land invasion. Many Kalash people are abandoning their traditions since the dominant cultures do not recognize them.
Civil society organizations have been campaigning to protect, preserve, and promote the Kalash culture. Moreover, the government of Pakistan has also been making efforts to protect and preserve the traditions of the old civilization.
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