The Kalash Valley, is one of Pakistan’s most stunning valleys in the Hindu Kush. With respect to the rest of Pakistan, the tradition, customs, and lifestyle of the Kalash Valley are in stark contrast.
It is often referred to as “Kafiristan” (Land of Unbelievers) because the predominant religion in the valley isn’t really Islamic but rather an ancient mix of Hinduism and Animism.
The secluded Kalash Valley (also known as Kalasha Valleys, which really comprises three different valleys) all along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border is where the Kalasha people call home. The Kalasha are thought to be descended from Alexander the Great’s army, making them quite unique from the rest of Pakistan’s population.
The Kalash Valleys have been isolated from other communities for a long time due to their remote location, and they have a completely different culture from Pakistan’s majority-Muslim population. The (literally) colorful Kalash are believed to follow a religion that is closely related to ancient Hinduism, which explains why they have a variety of distinctive customs and festivals that are unheard of in the rest of Pakistan.
The Kalash inhabitants, who have a distinctive culture, language, and religion connected to their natural surroundings, including mountains and rivers, are the locals of the valley. The largest and busiest valley is Bumburet, which is connected to Ayun in the Kunar Valley by a road. North of Bumburet is a side valley called Rumbur. South of Bumburet, in the Kunar Valley, is a side valley known as Biriu. Being one of the tiniest ethnic minorities in Pakistan, the Kalash people number only a few thousand people.
Among Pakistanis, they are regarded as being distinctive.
Additionally, they are regarded as the smallest ethnoreligious minority in Pakistan and have historically practiced what writers have referred to as an Animist kind of religion.
The Kalash culture was designated as a “Intangible Cultural Heritage” by UNESCO in November 2018. This choice was made in Mauritius during the 13th UNESCO session, which the intergovernmental committee arranged.
The Kalasha Valleys are valleys in northern Pakistan’s Chitral District. The Hindu Kush mountainous region encircles the valleys.
According to folk ballads and epics written by the Kalash, their ancestors migrated to Afghanistan from a remote region of South Asia they refer to as “Tsiyam.” In accordance with Morgenstierne, this location is reportedly close to Jalalabad and Lughman.
The Vai are refugees who, according to their traditions, left Kama after the Ghazanavid attack and moved to Waigal. The Gawar relocated to the Kunar Valley after the Vai stole their territory, according to their legends. Strand asserts that lower Waigal was likely the destination of a later migration of the Askun-speaking Kalash from Nakara in Laghman. The original inhabitants were displaced by the ima-niei people, who now inhabit those locations. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited the Kalash people in November 2019 as part of their trip to Pakistan, where they witnessed a traditional dance performance.
In many aspects of the several modern Muslim ethnic groups that surround them in northwest Pakistan, the lifestyle of the Kalash tribe is distinctive. They practice a form of ancient Hinduism and are polytheists. In their daily lives, nature is extremely important and spiritual. Offering sacrifices and holding festivals in thanksgiving for the plentiful resources of their three valleys are part of their religious practice. The valleys of Rumbur and Bumburet make up one unique cultural region, and Birir Valley, which is the more traditional of the two, makes up the other, making up Kalasha Desh (the three Kalash valleys).
Best way to reach
Chitral is the starting point for getting to the Kalasha Valleys. Regardless of which valley you want to visit, the way of getting there by public transport is generally the same.
Direct Jeeps from Chitral to the three different valleys leave around 13:00 from near Bank Alfalah in the center of the Chitral. These Jeeps charge 200–300 Rs per person. However, Jeeps go to Birir only when there is demand.
If you don’t want to travel during the middle of the day, there are shared cars going to the valleys in the early morning and late afternoon. To find a shared car, head to the Chitral central bus stand (the partially covered area with minibusses and shared cars), and get a shared car to Ayun. Ayun is about an hour from Chitral, and a seat costs 100 Rs or 600 Rs for the whole car.
The colorful dance celebration, which is held by the minority every year and is one of the most magnificent festivals in the Kalash valley, is a rare opportunity that travelers seize because it takes place during the region’s designated festival season. In the Kalash Valley, there are four main festivals: the spring, autumn, summer, and winter festival. Every festival has a purpose—the spring festival is held to protect the shepherds when they are ordered to leave the pastures, the summer fest is held in August to celebrate harvesting, the autumn festival is held in October to celebrate gathering grapes and walnuts, and the winter festival is held in December to celebrate the arrival of the New Year and neatness in the community.
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