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Customs and Traditions of Kalash Tribe

The Kalash tribe in Pakistan is perhaps the smallest but one of the most magnificent ethnic group of Pakistan in terms of their rich and distinguished cultural background.Kalash tribe is well known for their unique customs and traditions. Geographically their area is known as Kafiristan which is actually a splendid valley zone in the district of Chitral in Khyber Pakhtun Khuwah province.  The people of Kalash commonly known as Kalasha are so unique who belong to Indo Aryan community.  They speak Kalash language and are scattered in the three valleys namely Birir, Bumburet and Rumbur in Kafirastan.

Culture and People of Kalash

Kalash Kids, Photo by Jodi Hilton

The historians remain confused about determination of the true ancestry of Kalash people as some of them declare them to be the descendants of the soldiers of Alexander the Great. While the other opinion is that the ancestors of Kalash people actually migrated to Afghanistan from a far place in South Asia and they dwelled in the Nuristan area, a province in Afghanistan. However the consensus is about the period of their migration from Afghanistan to current region in the 2nd century B.C. by the 10th century A.D.

Apart from their mystic emanation the Kalash people possess loving, cordial and responsive character and they are famous for their dancing, music, and their religious traditions. In fact they have everything exclusive like their costumes, beliefs, traditions and festivals.  The Kalash people are polytheists and their religion has mythical feature having a strong connection of thriving the spirituality in their soils from the universe. There is eminent importance of the music and dance in their religious obligations. Many of the people from Kalash community have accepted Islam as, Islam being the dominant religion in this area yet the remaining Kalash community believes to maintain their strong identity. Even the people who have converted themselves as Muslims are also still living nearby in the Kalash villages and carry on their language and culture.

The Kalash women ( Image: Iqbal Khatri )

The Kalash people celebrate three main festivals: Joshi, Uchau and Chawmos. Joshi is a festival held in the month of May in which the gratitude is expressed to the spring season. Uchau is conducted in autumn. The most important festival is the Chawmos which is celebrated for two weeks when winter is at its peak in the month of December. Having much of music and dancing this festival marks the end of the year’s fieldwork and harvest. Sheep and goats are sacrificed on this occasion.

A teenage group of the Kalash girls ( Image : GULSHAN AZEEZ AZEEZ )

A teenage group of the Kalash girls ( Image : GULSHAN AZEEZ AZEEZ )

The traditional dressing of Kalash people also have a major attraction for the tourists coming to this area. The Kalash women wear a dress containing a black robe and an embellished cap with decorations of cowrie shells, ornaments and beads. Men usually use the Pakistani shalwar kameez, while Kalash children wear small versions of adult clothing after the age of four.

The government of Pakistan has always put efforts to preserve the Kalash tribe with their genuine customs, clothes, religion and beliefs. However their populations is continuously decreasing due to the most of them are embracing Islam and presently the Kalash people are deemed as one of the world’s endangered minority communities.

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