Kafir Kalash – a people of the lost civilization

Obscured by high mountains and across the treacherous muddy tracks, there live a people up in the north of Pakistan, who do not even know who they are or from where they came to live a life of isolation – yet maintain and protect their beliefs, their ideology and way of living. Their ancestry is enveloped in mystery and has always remained a subject of controversy. A legend says that five soldiers of the legions of Alexander of Macedonia settled in Chitral and are the progenitors of the Kafir-Kalash.
Between the town of Drosh and Chitral city, a track turn to the left from village of Ayun on Kunar river to the Kalash Valley, where these strange yet attractive people live in three villages of Rukmu, Mumret and Biriu (called Rambur, Bumburet and Birir in local Kalashi language). The present population of the Kafir Kalash is approximately 3,000. However, after living in obscurity for long, their children are now studying in local schools, but do not move out to seek other avenues of livelihood and continue to cling to their age old traditions and customs.
The villages are situated on the southern face of the hillside about 50-100 meters above the river. This protects them from invaders and the floods in summer, and at the same time helps to get sunshine during the winter. The snow that lies on the bottom of the ravine and in the shade do not melt until spring. In summer to avoid the sun, some people live in a second house built on the opposite side of the river. The Kalash Valleys have extensive forests of Holly-Oak and Himalayan cedar. Walnut, Apricot, Apple, Pear and Mulberry trees abound near the villages.

While Kalash men wear ordinary shalwar kameez (the loose long shirt and trousers) as do most of the Pakistanis, the Kalash women wear five large braids of and the ‘Cheo’, a black woolen homespun dress, red-beaded necklaces by the dozen, and an exceptional head piece (shaped differently in each valley) covered in cowry shells, beads and trinkets that flow down their back. For their black robes, the Kalash are sometimes referred to as the “Wearers of the Black Robes”. Kalash means black in their language.

Herein under is a pictorial representation of Kalash people, their fetivals and music.
Cheelim Jusht Festival 2010 - Kalash
Cheelim Jusht Festival 2010 – Kalash by Iqbal Khatri (Bumburet Valley of Kalash, Chitral, Pakistan)
Spring is welcomed to the valleys with girls singing and dancing on the roofs for the Kirik Pushik, the festival of the first flower blooming. In spring women are allowed to enter the restricted upper valleys, with the Siu Wajik rite, in which a girl crushes three walnuts as an offering on the boundary bridge. Joshi, the main spring festival, is held in May. All the houses and the temple of the goddess Jeshtak are decorated with walnut branches and flowers, and milk is distributed to all the villagers.
Colours of Kalash Valley
Colours of Kalash Valley by Iqbal Khatri
Kalashi Girl
Kalashi Girl by Max Loxton
Kalash Girls in Rumbur, Chitral, Pakistan - June 2006
Kalash Girls in Rumbur, Chitral, Pakistan – June 2006 by SaffyH – Minsmere
A Kalash Cherub, Hindukush, Kalash valleys
A Kalash Cherub, Hindukush, Kalash valleys by imranthetrekker
Kalasha. (people with black robe).
Kalasha. (people with black robe). by Nadeem Khawar
How is my Baby now ?
How is my Baby now ? by Iqbal Khatri
Uncle of the deceased guy
Uncle of the deceased guy by imranthetrekker
Traditional Hip Hop
Traditional Hip Hop by ?§m?
Kalash sisters - Pakistan
Kalash sisters – Pakistan by hongkiu
Kalash Girls, Chitral (Pakistan)
Kalash Girls, Chitral (Pakistan) by Amir Mukhtar Mughal
azChitral3kalashatrio1AAA
Three Kalash girls by jitenshaman
Very Old Women in Kalash
Very Old Women in Kalash by Gulraiz Ghori
Kalash Spring festival in Hindukush by imranthetrekker
dark green eyes pakistan kalash girl
dark green eyes Pakistan kalash girl by Blue_agava
Kalash
Kalash by Jonny Cash Money
The music of Kalash, Hindukush, Chitral
This footage is shot while a Kalash woman was playing flute and it is so sweet, when one looks at the ambience around her and the music.
Read more about Kafir Kalash and their customs and traditions at: Kalash Valley where fairies dance and sing (Pakistanpaedia)

Scaling Everest without oxygen

When I wrote a post about two Pakistanis’ desire to scale the Mt Everest or the Mt Chomolungma as the Chinese call it, I was rather skeptical. And then when as days went by and there was no news, I thought my fears to be right. But that was not to be so. On 11th May, the dream of one of the two Pakistanis came true when he finally stood at the top of the world.

Hassan Sidhpara had his dream of reaching at the top of the world. What makes his climb special and unique is that he did it without oxygen – something that requires extreme guts and very high standard of physical fitness as oxygen is so thin at Mt Everest that is is extremely difficult to breathe. He became the second Pakistani to have achieved this honour, Nazir Sabir being the first who scaled Everest on 17th May 2000.

The expedition was sponsored by the Alpine Club of Pakistan and had the patronage of the president of Pakistan. The team comprising of three climbers left for Nepal in the last week of March earlier this year and established their base camp III at 7,200 metres overlooked by the gigantic Everest.

The other two members of the team, Mohammad Sadiq and Ghulam Muhammad Faisal could not materialize their dream of scaling Everest. But a determined Hassan from Baltistan province of Pakistan continued despite all odds against him and finally scaled the highest peak of the world at stood at 8,848 metre. Standing by the Pakistani national flag he hoisted atop the peak, Hassan Sidhpara had created a world record for not using oxygen for his climb to the top of the world.

Related:
Hassan conquers Mount Everest with no oxygen kit
Conquering Everest – dream of two Pakistani brothers

Originally posted at JahoJalal

Lahore – the showcase of Mogul Architecture

I love Lahore not because I was born in Lahore, but for many other reasons as well. I love Lahore for the warmth of hospitality of its people, its richness in diverse architecture, culture and traditions. A city which has been seat of governments of the Moguls, Siks and the British. Located on the famous Grand Trunk Road, a city once skirted by the River Ravi and bordering India on the other end, stands and thrives majestically every second, minute, hour and day of the one’s life.

Talking of architecture, the city is rightly called the showcase of Mogul architecture as one finds remains of Mogul architecture wherever one tours in Lahore. The Badshahi Mosque, the Shahi Qilla (Lahore Fort), the Shalimar Gardens, the Mosque of Wazir Khan and Chouburji (building with four towers) are some of the major marvels of Mogul architecture. But beside these are countless number of small buildings that add to the galore and grandeur of the city of Lahore.

One has to be there in Lahore to enjoy and feel the richness of heritage that Lahore possesses since countless centuries.

View some glimpses of the Mogul architecture at JahoJalal. The details of these can be read in the Landmarks section of my website Pakistanpaedia.

Rehabilitation of the Flood Victims or….

When the floods hit Pakistan last year, everyone hoped that the government would cash on the window of the opportunity opened for it and go all out to rehabilitate those millions who lost their entire possessions when their mud houses crumbled and were swept away by those deadly muddy waves of flood water. The destruction started from the north, and continued down south over the next one month till it finally met the deep blue waters of the Arabian Sea.

As the water travelled down country, people watched helplessly as their possessions, their dreams and their aspirations were being swept away until lost forever. Young girls sobbed silently as their dowries so painstakingly prepared by their mothers were washed away along with their dreams of getting married one day. Little children lost their small fortunes, a few toys or the new shoes their parents bought them after years of savings.

All was gone forever and those “rich” people were forced into tent villages to live on as the government had other plans to make space for the “poor” who often have to go to the capital to attend the sessions of the National Assembly and the Senate. The Capital Development Authority had the land allocated for the brand new lodges for these “poor” representatives of the people, frequently “displaced” to attend the sessions while the PM inaugurates a Rs. 2,908 million project for the poor IDPs in Islamabad a few days back. The project entails construction of some 104 family suites, besides some 500 servant quarters on an area measuring 1.4 acres of land.

As per a rough estimate a simple house can be constructed for around Rs. 1 million and the funds allocated for the lodges could thus provide a shelter to some 290 people living helplessly at the mercy of the rigours of the weather and nature. But none of the people’s representatives have raised a voice about this since it concerns their welfare, not the welfare of the people they represent, a portion of which is rotting in the tents under open sky.

Strange are the ways the people of Pakistan are ruled. Had the same thing happened in a military dictator’s rule, politicians would have made an issue out of it. But now in a true democratic rule, everyone seems to be looking the other way, completely ignoring the promises they made when asking for the votes. Who should now the people of Pakistan turn to for help?

Peace return to Malam Jabba – the Ski Resort

Malam Jabba – the biggest ski resort in Pakistan has seen its good days and bad days. Good days when it was a thriving ski resort for the skiing enthusiasts of Pakistan and even attracted enthusiast from abroad. Located in the Karakoram mountain range and some 40 km from the town of Saidu Sharif in the Swat Valley, the resort was established due to joint efforts of the governments of Pakistan and Austria. Besides ski slope of about 800m with the highest point of the slope 2804m (9200 ft) above sea level, the Malam Jabba Ski Resort was equipped with modern facilities including roller/ice-skating rinks, chair lifts, skiing platforms, telephones and snow clearing equipment. The Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation had a beautiful hotel constructed at the foot of the ski slopes.

The bad news came when the ski resort was badly damaged during 2008 when militants took control of the area. After Pakistan Army’s successful operation, and control over the area, the resort is under repair and renovation and is thus closed for the tourists for now.

And the good news again is that the resort has been restored and a 5-days peaceful skiing gala is being organized by the PaRRSA (the Provincial Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Settlement Authority) of the Khyber Pakhtunkwa province from 26-30 January 2011. It may be mentioned here that after cleansing the area from militancy by the Pakistan army, an “Aman Mela (Peace Fair)” was held in Swat in July last year, which attracted over 40,00 thousand tourists beside a huge participation by the locals.

Besides being a tourist and skiing resort, Malam Jabba also assumes significance from the fact that there are to Buddhists stupas and six monasteries that are located close by the resort. These monasteries dating back to some 2,000 years are also an added tourist attraction for the skiers and spectators.

Related Reading: Skiing in Pakistan (Hobby Shobby)
Originally posted at The Fire Within

25th December – birthday of the Christ and the Quaid

The last week of December is a week of celebrations – when the entire Christian World is engrossed in celebrating the birth of Prophet Isa (May peace be upon him) or the Christ. Yes I am talking of Christmas – falling on 25th December, the birthday of a prophet. Unlike the Christian world, for whom there is no prophet to revere after the Christ, we the Muslims have same respect as we have for any prophet that came to this world before Prophet Muhammad (May peace be upon him). For us, the birthday of a prophet is as respectful as it is for his followers.

So Happy Christmas to all Christians around the globe. And I wish everyone peace, love, prosperity and all the happiness in life. When I went to market today, I saw lot of rush on shops selling Christmas trees……

Chitramas – the Kalash Winter Festival

Although Christmas has some resemblance with the word Chitramas, but the latter is celebrated in a very remote area of the world in the Chitral Valley of Pakistan. Chitramas or Chaumos is the winter festival of the Kafir Kalash people living in three valleys of Bumburate, Birir and Rumbur in the Chitral. The festival is presently being celebrated by these indigenous people of unknown origin, which will terminate on 22 December. Chitramas festival is considered the most important festivals of Kalash people from their spiritual point of view.

The Chitramas festivities are held to mark the end of the previous year’s harvest and fieldwork. Thereafter, the month of Chawmos Mastruk of the New Year dawns. The festival thus is a sort of saying goodbye to the previous year and welcoming the new year. The festivities include dancing, lively music and sacrificing goats. The Kalash slaughter their goats, mostly one goat per adult man or woman, on the concluding day of the festival. The festival also gains importance for the reason that the Kalash believe that god Balimain visits its subjects during the festival. Besides the many festivities, food sacrifices are offered at the clans’ Jeshtak shrines, dedicated to the ancestors.

However, some men and women volunteer to seclude themselves from the others and remain confined in a cattle house for the duration of the weeklong festival. This tradition of seclusion is called Autik, which simply means “to get secluded.” These people eat the meat of the slaughtered goats, drink and pass time in merrymaking. While these people are celebrating in seclusion, care is taken that no outsiders sees them, lest they get polluted.

The Kalash children go up to the mountain, where they divide into boys and girls, and respectively make a big bonfire. After singing songs for some time the fire will be extinguished and then the two groups will compete with each other for the size of the smoke that rises up in the air. Then they all go down the mountain and return to the village singing ” songs of Sarazari” carrying branches cut down from the mountain top. The elders will be waiting chanting songs in the village.

The festivities don’t get mar by the heavy snowfall at this time of the year in the Chitral valley. However, in case the sun shines, it adds colours and joy to the Kalash people. If you happen to be visiting Pakistan next year, do plan to visit Chitral and join the Kalash people in their festival of Chitramas – which at least by its name won’t let you feel missing the Christmas celebrations.

Related Reading: The Kalash Valley – where fairies dance and sing (Pakistanpaedia)