LocationThe Kalash valleys of Chitral are located in the southern gorges of the Hindu Kush mountain range in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. The valleys share a 380 km border with Afghanistan in the north & west, and the Central Asian states of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kirghizstan are easily accessible from the area. To the east lies Gilgit, from where one can reach China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region along the legendary Karakoram Highway.
Origion of KalashThere are three theories about the origin of the Kalash. Some historians believe that the Kalash are descendants of the soldiers of Alexander the Great, while the second group believes that they are indigenous to Asia and came from what is now the Nuristan area of Afghanistan, and according to the third school of thought; the Kalash ancestors migrated to Afghanistan from a distant place in South Asia, which they call “Tsiyam” in their folk songs and epics. However, it is established that the Kalash migrated to Chitral from Afghanistan in the 2nd century B.C.
LanguageThe language of the Kalash is the Kalasha and is a Dardic language (sub group of Indo-Aryan languages spoken in Northern Pakistan , eastern Afghanistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir). The language is spoken by a handful of people approximately 5000 and is considered to be critically endangered by UNESCO. The Kalasha language has no proper script; however, there have been recent developments in introducing a formal script for the language.
- Joshi: It is celebrated in May and marks the arrival of spring. People wear new clothes and women accessorize heavily, girls are sent to the hill side for dancing and singing. Women decorate their houses and collect milk from the cattle, One year old babies and their mothers are also purified in this festival.
- Uchau: This festival takes place in mid August at the altar of Mahandeo where newly made cheese is brought from the pastures. Dancing and singing again forms an integral part of the festival.
- Caumus: It is the most important festival held in mid December.
- The people of Kalash have a rich culture and are very strong footed about their identity. These people stand out from the remaining tribes, cultures and communities of Pakistan due to their distinct culture, religious practices and festivals. The area known as Kalash Valley boosts serene beauty, lush green valleys and fruit farms making it an ideal tourist spot not only in terms of scenic beauty but also cultural diversity and religious spots. Despite all the pros the fact of the matter remains that nothing is being done to develop the area and to invest in its tourism industry. The Kalash valley faces discrimination on a number of fronts be it economic development or recognition as a separate religious entity. The area lacks proper infrastructure which cuts it off with the rest of the world and has resulted in the backwardness of the region.
- To tap the full potential of the Kalasha Valley we need to put in a combined effort to develop it and make it accessible so as to attract tourism and enhance the economy of this region.
Temples and Places for Special RespectThe Kalash holy places are widely respected by all. Tourists are requested to move around quietly while visiting these places.
MaloshThey are the Holy places where sacrifices are offered. These places are situated on the outskirts of a village. Some famous Malosh sites are in Batrik, Krakal, Birir, Rumbur and Gromun.
Jeshtak-HanThis is a large hall. Decorated with female paintings and animal figures. Jeshtak-Han are holy places where rituals are performed at the times of birth, death and festivals.
BashaliThe Kalash houses for secluded women are situated near watercourses in each village and are strictly off-limits for men.
Madaw-JawThis is a Kalash graveyard. In the past, dead bodies were put in wooden boxes and placed in open air, while in recent years; the Kalash have started burying coffins.
Famous Lakes in Kalash Valleyspan classtooltip-cn ref-link idref-link-10a hrefref-link-dt-10 sup10supaspan classtooltiptextFamous Lakes a hrefhttptourism.kp.gov.pkpage_typelocationpagekalashvalley classexternal-link target_blank in Kalashaspanspan
Bahuk the Sacred LakeBahuk, the sacred lake of the Kalash ancestors, lies between the two picturesque valleys of Bumburet and Rumbur. The turquoise-hued glacier lake is situated at 4000m amongst an amphitheatre of jagged peaks with a good view of Tirich Mir 7708m to the west. The Kalash believe that after the death, their souls go to this Lake. The area is famous amongst both the Kalash and the Muslim Kho community as the resting place of fairies. Reported sightings of a mythical Barmanu (yeti) have also been made here. Its surroundings are the summer pastures of the Kalash community and villagers from Ayun. It has some magnificent cedars, some 1,200 years old. There are lovely treks from both Bumburet and Rumbur linking different valleys in the region where you can see shepherd settlements and a variety of fauna and flora. A special trail has been developed to Bahuk Lake for trekkers. From Bumburet the journey to the lake and back takes five days.
Lake ShawalThis lake is south of Bumburet valley. High mountains surround the lake fed by a glacier nearby. From the lake, a route leads into the Nuristan area of Afghanistan. Shepherds bring their herds to the pasture around the lake.
Health Care FacilitiesThere is a Basic Health Unit (BHU) in Bumburet for secondary healthcare. First Aid Post/Designation are available in Rumbur and Birir. More adequate health facilities are available in nearby Ayun and Broz and in Chitral town. By the 10th century AD., the Kalash ruled a large part of present-day Chitral. Razhawai, Cheo, Bula-Sing and Nagar-Chao were famous Kalash rulers in the 12th through 14th centuries AD. Their fellow tribesmen in Afghanistan were known as Red Kafirs. The thriving Kalash culture began to fall in 1320 AD., when Shah Nadir Raees subjugated and converted the people to lslam. The villages of Drosh, Sweer, Kalkatak, Beori, Ashurate, Shishi, Jinjirate and adjacent valleys in southern Chitral were the last Kalash villages subjected to mass conversion in the 14th century. The Kalash were living in just three Chitral valleys, Bumburet, Rumbur and Birir, by the time Amir of Afghanistan forcefully converted to Islam the Red Kafirs on the other side of the border in 1893 renaming the area Nuristan. Villages of the converted Red Kafirs in Chitral are known as Sheikhanandeh – the villages of converted ones.
More Imformation About Kalash Valley
Kalash HandicraftsDue to their proximity to nature, the Kalash are fond of natural colours in handicrafts. Skills in spinning and weaving are exhibited in Palesk (rugs), Qalin (carpets), Chehari (belts) and Copesi (headgear).
Kalash ArchitectureKalash architecture is a unique mixture of ancient wooden craft and medieval traditions of figure art. Multi-storied Kalash buildings present a spectacular view of beautifully carved wooden pillars and beams decorated with unmatchable human and animal figures and effigies. Each one depicts certain myths and superstitions.
Kalash Culture CentreThe Kalash Culture Centre is in Brun, Bumburet valley, where folk history, culture and civilisation of the Kalash is preserved under one roof. It is an ethnological museum of the Kalash community, initiated and facilitated by the citizens of Greece. Nearby is a government-run archaeological museum.
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