Kalash Heritage: The Pedigree of Alexander the Great:
By Sajjad Amin Bangash:
Alexander the great is said to be conquering and ruling all over the world as he was a keen determined to conquer almost every corner of the world. Whenever, he would go, along with his soldiers, he would also allow the soldiers to carry their wives and children along and during, his march over an uninhabited area, he would leave some of his army there so as to ‘maintain and keep the imprints of his Kingdom alive for the rest of future generations.’
Kalashi are the people who live in Kalash valley. They call themselves to be ‘remnants and descendants of Alexander the Great’. Possibly true, mainly because the physical, physiological contours, social and economical lifestyles of Kalashi people are exactly in resemblance to the ‘Greeks’. The people of Kalash are white skinned with golden brown hair and blue eyes.
According to the history of Kalash people and narratives of their lineage, during the march of conquest of Alexander the Great of the areas (which are now situated in northern areas of Pakistan, bordering China to its north and Afghanistan to its Western part), few of the pregnant women and their families had to stay for the delivery of children along with other injured soldiers stayed here thus, they preferred to live in these inhabited areas back in 337 B.C.
Kalashi inhabitants are those people who are the dwellers of soul-touching, landscapes, called ‘the paradise of east’ in Pakistan.
The Kalasha Valleys (Kalasha-mondr: Kaĺaśa Desh) are valleys in Chitral District in northern Pakistan. They are inhabited by the Kalash people, who have customs and language which are quite different from their neighbours, and historically have had a different religion.
So how did the word ‘Kalash’ came into existence?
According to the Richard Strand, the linguistic expert ‘ The word Kalash is originally derived from the Valley of Chitral and the Valley of ‘Kafiristan’. He also states that ‘The Kalashi people had also maintained the influential correlation with Chitral Valley as well. ‘
There are three main valleys. 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.
The Kalashas are polytheistic believing in 12 Gods and Goddesses. A renowned linguist Richard strand, is of the view that the people of Kalash practice an ancient form of Hinduism which gradually developed locally and got influenced by the neighboring areas of pre Islamic Nuristan.
They believe in a number of Gods e.g. Yama Raja also called Dezau and Khodai who is the creator deity. Another god is the Balumain who is the cultural hero and taught the people of Kalash how to celebrate the winter festival. Other gods include Destak, Munjem, Dezalik.
Customs & Rituals:
Like all the other religions, the Kalasha also have different religious rituals and practices. In Kalash the rituals are the means of generating economic activity and are gift giving festivals.
The numerous Gods and Goddesses have shrines and altars all over the valley where goat sacrifices are offered regularly. Crows that are considered to be their ancestors are frequently fed with their left hand at a number of places including tombs. Moreover, the people of Kalash do not bury their dead under the ground rather their coffins are left out in the open. They believe that the soul was excited to leave the human body and reunite with the already departed souls. It is for this reason that they celebrate the funeral of a dead person by singing and dancing rather than mourning over their bodies.
The people of Kalash differ from the people of the surrounding areas in a number of ways. There is no separation between males and females in Kalash and are allowed to keep contact and communicate without any fingers being raised at them. Moreover, the females of Kalash are sent to live in a bashaleni when they are considered to be impure for e.g. during the child birth period and other occasions. These women are only able to live this place after they regain their purity and have undergone the ritual of restoring purity.
The women of Kalash wear long black loose robes with colorful embroideries and cowrie shells. These women are also found wearing colorful beads and necklaces that further distinguish them from the other women of the Chitral region. They accessorize their black robes by making use of colorful long braided head wears. The males of the Kalash on the contrary have adopted the Pakistani national dress i.e. the shalwar kameez and are often found wearing waistcoats over them. They also wear hats common to the northern area of Pakistan.
The people of Kalash march to a different drummer. Their customs and traditions are as different as day and night, especially vis–à–vis the concept of marriage. Marriage by elopement is more frequent in the Kalash valley and is also common amongst women who are already married to another man. In fact, wife elopement is considered to be one of the great customs of the people of Kalash.
When a man and woman get married the man pays the woman’s family a certain amount in order to have her. When a woman wants to leave her current husband and marry some other man, she offers herself to that man and informs him of how much her current husband had paid for her. In order for the man to marry an already married woman he has to pay double the amount to have her.
The inhabitants of the Kalash valley celebrate a number of festivals all year round. The three predominant festivals are as follows:
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. Girls and women send gifts to each other and invite each other for lunch and dinners.
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.
It is the most important and oldest festival held in mid December. In this festival, men, women and children equally participate in this festival. This festival is basically, arranged in farewell of current year and Welcome to the New Year.
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.
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